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Should Pastoring Be THIS Hard? 4 Techniques to Survive and Thrive

Being a pastor is the fourth hardest job in America. That’s been the common wisdom floating around the Internet for a couple of years now.

It may be true. But it shouldn’t be true. It certainly doesn’t need to be true. I think it’s time to stop making it true.

There are two reasons people believe that statement to be true.

1. Pastoring is hard work. No doubt about it.

2. The person who is credited with making that assessment was a highly respected writer and author on leadership. He should know, right?

How hard is it?

Here’s the full list of the four hardest jobs in America, from a piece by Philip Wagner at churchleaders.com. This is the post most others have grabbed this quote from. Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:

  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital
  • A pastor

In most articles I’ve read on this, the author usually goes on to cite further stats about the abysmal dropout and burnout rates among pastors, and understandably so.

Maybe it’s just me, but in too many of the articles I’ve read on this, there seems to be an underlying masochistic pleasure that pastors take in it. At times, it feels as if we’re saying, “See! I told you! My job is hard! This is why I’m burned out, stressed and overworked. Now, you may pity me.” 

Pastoring a church is certainly hard work. And Drucker’s assessment may be right. But it shouldn’t be right.

In recent years, after suffering through my own mostly self-inflicted pastoral grief, I’ve come to this conclusion: If pastoring truly is the fourth hardest job in America, then we’re not doing it right.

It should be this hard.

Take a look in the Bible. The New Testament writers never sugar-coated the challenges of ministry, but even in Paul’s 2 Corinthians 11:24-28“>list of hardships he endured for the sake of the gospel, he chided himself, saying, “2 Corinthians 11:23“>I am out of my mind to talk like this.”

And that’s a man who was under Roman persecution! If a pastor in modern-day America (or Canada, or Europe, or … ) feels we’re under pressure equivalent to the Apostle Paul, a lot of it has to be self-inflicted.

Pastoring shouldn’t be as hard as we make it.

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Karl is the author of four books and has been in pastoral ministry for almost 40 years. He is the teaching pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, a healthy small church in Orange County, California, where he has ministered for over 27 years with his wife, Shelley. Karl’s heart is to help pastors of small churches find the resources to lead well and to capitalize on the unique advantages that come with pastoring a small church. Karl produces resources for Helping Small Churches Thrive at KarlVaters.com, and has created S.P.A.R.K. Online (Small-Church Pastors Adapt & Recover Kit), which is updated regularly with new resources to help small churches deal with issues related to the COVID-19 crisis and aftermath.