What I Miss and Don’t Miss About Being a Pastor

2021 was the first year I wasn’t a pastor since 1999. It was a good year. Here are the things I enjoyed the most about not being a pastor:

–I never spent a Sunday afternoon worried why someone wasn’t at church.

–I was not concerned with how many people were at church and I never once took it personally when hardly anyone showed up.

–I loved attending church and having no official responsibility for anything.

–Often I would enter church and just go sit down. I didn’t have to schmooze, or talk about all the problems people had with my sermon, or feel awkward when they bring up their weird political points in the hearing of someone else with opposite political points and the ensuing argument I’d have to referee. Lovely.

–Hardly anyone told me about their health problems. I am so grateful I don’t have to know all the details of old ladies’ bowel movements anymore. I can’t express to you how thankful I am for this.

–No one emails, calls, texts, Facebook messengers me with stupid excuses why they weren’t at church.

–I could go to the store after church on Sundays and not run into people who skipped church who would then get all weird and guilty-defensive around me.

–When people ask me what I do for a living I don’t say “pastor” anymore, which is great because people always got weird when they found that out.

Those were the things I was glad to not have to do anymore. But there were things I missed:

–No one calls me with theological questions anymore. It’s like once you’re not a pastor you forget knowing the Bible I guess.

–Preaching is gone. I loved preaching and studying. I miss preaching and studying.

–I miss getting paid.

–There were many confidential issues people would bring to me, a closeness and a desire to help, which again, now that I’m not an official pastor, people don’t think I can help anymore.

–As awkward as weddings, funerals, and hospital and death bed visits were, it was also nice to be in those personal moments with people. Those things developed friendships and closeness, a unity that is now missing. I’m not called anymore to comfort and console.

That’s about it. The things I miss, I miss much less than the things I don’t miss. I’m glad I got out when I did. Will I ever get back in? It’s possible, but it’d have to be the right situation at the right time in the right place and I have no idea how any of that would be determined.

I was always curious what life would look like outside of pastoral ministry. I’m pleased with it. I still go to church several times a week. I still read the Bible. I still check in with people. We still have people over to the house.

It’s pretty much the same minus all the unbelievably annoying aspects of pastoral ministry. I’m grateful for that. I’ve already gotten opportunities to preach and teach at our new church, so that’s been enjoyable.

So, it’s worked out well. Thanks for reading.

17 thoughts on “What I Miss and Don’t Miss About Being a Pastor

  1. Yup. I can see that.
    I’d miss preaching too. God has set me to preach, I’ll find it difficult when I no longer do. I guess it’s why Jonathan Edwards preached even when he could hardly stand.

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  2. Why were you ever in the ministry? When I read your posts I think you weren’t called to Pastor but rather just to sink into your own narcissism and miss your paycheck.

    Do you REALLY love people? You can’t have disdain for people and successfully pastor; that’s what the job is all about.

    A shepherd can’t have disdain for his sheep. That’s biblical.

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      1. That crazy- you were called and still are called. Our faith is in/of the Lord- Love and pray for you!!!

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    1. Ahh, the old “you’re the problem. You’re a lousy pastor” nonsense. You’re the kind of person that cause division and pain in churches. Keep your condescending opinion to yourself.

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      1. Just calling it like I see it. I believe that there are people who so desire a certain position – but aren’t truly called. If you are called – God will equip you to be in the ministry…if you’re not, will God not also not equip you? I don’t cause pain and division – this man wrote his own article…not me.

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      2. I do not think we can really know a pastor’s experiences and situation until we have walked in his/her shoes. I use to wonder why some clergy are so angry at the denomination? Then I was being bullied by certain council members who threatened me, and had me “fired” like an employee at a retail store. The denomination took the council bully’s side. I was told to “Be quiet and we will find you an interim position.” Had I not gone through this experience in having to move my wife and our 30 years of marriage belongings in two weeks, I could not empathize with people who are angered at their judicatory. I was age 62 and finding a full-time church at my age was very difficult. What is helpful is to be able to share such experiences, own them that they are real. Then the real challenge is to be able to heal and move forward with our lives, be they in congregational ministry or elsewhere. There is sin in every congregation. Martin Luther pointed out that we are all saint and sinner at the same time needing God’s grace.

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  3. I was ordained in 1987. Before that I was very active as a layperson in church, who enjoyed church immensely. My observation is that the church and the way they treat their clergy has changed much in this time period. Some of it has been due to impropriety on all levels of ministry. I was ordained the same year as the PTL scandal. I was trained to be the “Resident Rabbi” who studies God’s Word contained in Scripture, visits the homebound, teaches Bible studies and classes and supports the local small communities I have lived in. I fell in love with this “Resident Rabbi” model. Since, then my observation is that this is called “Maintenance Ministry.” it is not good enough for many congregation and judicatory leaders who demand the latest church growth trend. Unfortunately, the recent COVID pandemic has often brought out the worse in some church members. Many have been influenced to bring even more consumer demands to church leaders. I have had many colleagues and seminary classmates take early retirement, leave for a chaplain position, and some have left organized religions altogether–contributing to the growing number of “None and Done” members. Hence, I am not so quick to critique those on the “Failing Pastor” site. There, but for the grace of God–Go I. I do appreciate this site. Thanks for offering it.

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    1. It’s not an easy job and it will draw out all your weak spots for all to see. You will be judged constantly and be criticized by someone for everything. The Lord is the judge of a person’s ministry. I don’t even trust my own judgment of my ministry, such as it was. Life goes on. You do your best. Hopefully you can edify someone else along the way.

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  4. Enjoyed- thanks for writing. Remember if you ever want to be a supply pastor the ELCA pays $180 for one service Sunday morning. And they need pastors. I realize your not an ELCA type but if you believe in God’s Grace- you could do it!

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  5. [As I’m having problems with wordpress thinking that this is a duplicate comment, I’ve had to alter it and re-submit]. I’m not a regular reader of this blog, but one thing that strikes me is that the situation of the author shows the weakness of the one-man-ministry church. Maybe the author would find his niche as a teaching elder in a church with a plural eldership leadership model, so that his gift of preaching could still be used while not being the lead (or only) pastor. Also, as someone who believes in all-member ministry, pastoral care is something that should be shared among the members of the church to whom God has given that ability, not expected to be provided by the one-man-pastor. I apologise if I have misunderstood the situation that the author has been in up to now.

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    1. Pretty accurate! I agree. When I resigned I told my wife if I ever pastor again I will not do it alone. In the church I was at I was alone, not only the only pastor but very little involvement from anyone at the church taking an interest and I couldn’t figure out how to change that. If I didn’t do it, no one would. It was not healthy.

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  6. I welcome reading your thoughts. I’ve been in ministry for 37+ years, 23+ in the pastorate– some of it’s not been pretty. Some of it has been hurtful. Sometimes the Body of Christ has ministered to us greatly. Through it all, my faith in Christ and my ecclesiology has grown– sometimes only because I know Jesus loves His Church.

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    1. It’s a mixed bag, that’s for sure, but then everything on this fallen earth is: A mix of heaven and hell until eternity where it will be one or the other! Until then we fight the fight.

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