I was recently asked the following question on Premier Radio's Leadership Show: if you were to list what we might call ‘freshness busters’ (things which typically trip Christian leaders up) what would be included?
I have a LONG list in answer to that. Here are 5 of my top answers:
- There are no easy ways to measure success, because our success is measured spiritually and invisibly. Numbers are not a good measure. But in the absence of measures (and remember every other type of work has them), it can be easy to feel guilty or that we haven’t done enough. And nobody will tell us to stop. Indeed its possible to get to the point where people think that us doing 110% is the expected basic norm
- Connected to that nobody who isn’t in Christian leadership knows what it entails or how much time it takes. People don’t know how much time is taken confidentially in pastoring, how long it takes to prepare a sermon or how long it is appropriate for a leader to pray as work time. The result is that almost all leaders are doing many more work hours than anyone thinks they are. When a church appoints a leader the chuch will have certain expectations, but those expectations may not be achievable in a realistic time scale. I regularly look at job descriptions given by churches looking for leaders and wince, because they are looking for the impossible and I know a leader will try to live up to it. - and likely kill themselves. It is a brave leader who says “this simply isn’t doable.” Add to that the fact that many people assume that because they are in church during their time off on Sunday, that it should also be considered as time off for the vicar and you have a recipe for heavy over-work at the expense of spiritual freshness
- The expectation that the leader should do everything. Sadly there are still so many churches that assume that we pay a leader not to facilitate the ministry of everyone, but to do it all for us. Who think it isn’t a proper sick visit unless the pastor did it. Who assume that all meetings need to be led or attended by the pastor. Who assume that every sermon or service should be led by the vicar
- No fellowship of real spiritual depth and honesty. No places to be real. Nobody to whom you can say thing you would never say to your church. Nobody who takes a genuine deep interest in your spiritual welfare and growth when you do that for lots of others. Everyone in churches just assumes their leaders are being spiritually fed. Very few would dare ask. Its very normal for nobody to spot when it isn't happening until something goes badly wrong
- No opportunity for review. No definite time set aside to evaluate or change direction. Or review done badly by people who don't know how to evaluate the work of a pastoral worker
And that's without considering criticism, opposition, lack of friends, low incomes, disappointment.
The Bible says hope deferred makes the heart sick. It also says to labour to make leaders' work a joy because otherwise what good is it doing to the church?