Why Ministry is Difficult

This is from a lecture by Bob Russell called “The Top Ten Reasons Ministry is More Difficult Than Business.”

1. It is more difficult because it is so cumbersome. In church leadership, lines of authority are often blurred. There is a tug-of-war for power that I have discovered over the years has to do with one of three things: property, power, or personality. There’s always a question of who’s in charge. Is the pastor the leader, or only hired to work for the board? Is the board the leader, and how do they lead when their time is so focused on their real-world careers with not enough time to focus on the high demands of ministry?

2. Because of murky goals. Success in a local church is often a moving target. As Russell said, if you’re one step ahead of your folks you’re a leader. If you’re two steps ahead, you’re a target. And often pastors and church leaders never become a bigger target than when they try to figure out, what are the results that we’re looking for; what are the goals that we have? People are criticized for counting attendance, and yet attendance matters because people matter. What percentage of those who are attending are actually serving? What percentage are involved in small groups? What percentage are growing in their faith? There have to be goals. And in the church it is hard to get a consensus of what those measurements should be.

3. Because it attracts more than its share of kooky people. Let’s face it. The church is a hospital for the hurting, not a hotel for the holy. And oftentimes, hurting people hurt people. People with unrealistic expectations hurt from the past. People with hidden agendas come in and try to control and sometimes figuring out who’s who is a daunting task.

4. Because longtime members consider themselves experts in what the church ought to be. I’ve often thought this was an odd one. As a leader and a pastor I have the same level of technical training that a doctor does. And yet when it comes to leading and knowing my profession, I’m often second-guessed by people who have very little knowledge of the ministry leadership principles. And yet just because they come and give a little money, they think they have the same kind of voice and that their voice carries the same kind of weight as other people. That is not true.

5. Because the stakes are extremely high. When we’re talking about the church and the gospel, we’re talking about the hope in the future. We’re talking about people who are crying out for a reason to live, a reason to go on, for forgiveness, for the ability to find comfort in the midst of pain. The stakes are truly high because when we get it wrong, people suffer.

6. Because Christian people are notoriously poor at confronting. Oftentimes conflict in the church goes unnoticed until it erupts in some other place for some other reason and has nothing to do with the original problem. Christian people need to learn how to keep accounts current and not hide behind a smile and a glib “Jesus loves you.”

7. Because we are so dependent on volunteers. I’ve come to believe there is nothing stronger than a volunteer whose heart is on fire and whose mind is set on a mission from God. With that being said, it is true that volunteers do indeed volunteer. When they don’t show up, or don’t show up on time, or do what they say they will do, or meet up to the standards of the organization, you don’t have the same kind of power to reprimand or train that you do in other environments.

8. Because the moral standards are higher than in other professions. Moral standards are important. The ability to be trusted is at stake when marriage vows are broken and ethical boundaries are over-stepped. People expect leaders in a church to be honorable and that’s as it should be.

9. Because there are few acceptable ways to vent our anger. Pastors and church leaders are supposed to smile and just take it. But we’re people too. We get angry and frustrated. And there are very few places and safe people where that anger can be vented in a healthy way. I think one of our problems today is that we are into anger management when we should be into anger resolution. Anger management just tends to be stuffing your feelings and denying your emotions. While anger resolution is getting to the heart of the problem. It goes back to point number 6 and why it’s so difficult to confront.

10. Because of the high demands facing us week by week. In the ministry, you’re judged every seven days. Not every six months.

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