But maybe this storm cloud has a silver lining.
Today’s Christians may be less committed to their local church – but they’re also demanding less commitment from it. Churchgoers are becoming more realistic – especially when it comes to their pastors’ time. And this may, in a roundabout way, help pastors reach more men.
Of course, there are still plenty of demanding parishioners. But things have changed since the 1950s. That’s when my father-in-law began preaching. He quickly learned what his flock expected: he was to be at church every time the doors opened. He was to attend every meeting. He was supposed to do home visitation – paying a house call to each member at least once a year. He had to prepare two sermons each Sunday, and lead a Bible Study on Wednesday night.
If someone “took sick” my father-in-law was expected to visit him or her in the hospital daily (friends and relatives of members included). A 14-day hospital stay meant 14 visits. If that person died, Dad had to drop everything and prepare a funeral, while still attending to his other duties. Through it all, he was expected to keep regular office hours, door always open.
Pastors’ wives were like an extra unpaid church employee. They were expected to organize the nursery, sing in the choir and head up the ladies’ ministry. And of course my mother-in-law had to keep the parsonage spotless in case one of the deacons dropped by.
In Dad’s generation, pastors and their wives were on duty 24/7. My father-in-law rarely slept more than five hours a night. To this day, he cannot let a telephone ring without answering it – even during supper. It might be a person in need.
I’m sure there are still churches that treat their pastors this way, but their numbers are dwindling. It’s getting hard to find pastors who will put up with such ridiculous expectations – for so little money. No wonder young ministers are bypassing denominational work and striking out on their own, “planting” new churches, and setting realistic expectations from the start.
Pastors will always be busy. Crises will always pop up. It’s the nature of vocational ministry.
But I see a new generation of ministers setting healthier boundaries for themselves. They’re demanding time for family. Recreation. Meditation. Prayer. And graciously, their congregations are allowing it. From this perspective, today’s “self-absorbed” believers are being less selfish than their parents.
Why is this good for men?
- Pastors who take care of themselves are a living example to their men
- Men are drawn to a pastor who is emotionally healthy, but are repulsed by a stressed-out workaholic
- Pastors are more effective when they have ample time to pray and study
- If a pastor has margin in his schedule, he can spend actually spend time with his men.
After reading my latest book, The Map, my father-in-law told me he wished he’d discipled more men during his career. But it was impossible. He simply didn’t have the time. Here’s hoping that the upcoming generation of ministers will see the importance of investing in men – starting with themselves – and that their congregations will grant them the time to do it.
So pastor, how is your church treating you? Are people less demanding than they used to be? Feel free to post anonymously…