In many churches a lot of pressure can be put on pastors to do almost everything from preaching to counseling, visitation, administration, and more. Recently the question was posed on how the pastor, as a shepherd, can balance it all. What kind of limits should be established? The question needs to be answered with other questions.
Questions Pastors Should Ask in Seeking to Balance Pastoral Duties:
1) What is the biblical role of a pastor?
The term pastor means to shepherd. Hence, a pastor tends to sheep. Jesus told Peter to feed his sheep (Jn. 21:15-17). Certainly preaching and teaching the Word is a major responsibility. (For more read: Shepherding Ministry Priorities) But, sheep also need to be cared for, guided, and protected. (For more read: Duties of a Shepherd) The question, however, is whether the person in the position of pastor has to do it all. If so, how does this person juggle it all?
2) What are the pastor’s spiritual gifts?
Not all people in the position of pastor have the spiritual gift of pastor. Consequently, the person in this position may gravitate toward certain aspects of shepherding more than others depending on gifting. For a better understanding of how the different gifts might be reflected in someone in the role of pastor, read: Shepherding Ministry Venue – Pastors
3) What were the expectations when first hired to be the pastor?
A pastor’s priorities, in part, can be determined by the job description provided at hiring. If counseling, visitation, and the like were not emphasized in it but you find people expecting too much of you now, perhaps it is time to sit down with other church leaders and review your job description. Even if you believe the expectations originally provided to you do not reflect the biblical role of a pastor or if you have found that they do not fit your gifting, you need to be respectful and remember that you accepted the position under those conditions. Meet with church leaders to discuss it with them to see if any changes can be made but certainly do not divide the church over it.
4) What responsibilities should be priorities?
People do not always truly grasp that a pastor can’t do it all. They need to learn that the answer to the first three questions must guide the pastor’s priorities. But, regardless of the role the pastor takes, regardless of one’s gifting and job description, all the varying aspects of feeding, caring for, protecting, and guiding the sheep still need to be accomplished. This is where an understanding of the priesthood of all believers comes in, everybody doing their part so the Body grows (Eph. 4:16). Part of the pastor’s role needs to be to equip people to serve in these ways so the church has a network of shepherds and not one person trying to do it all. (For more read: Shepherding Venue – Equipping) For some churches, this might require a cultural shift which can take time and much patience.
5) Who can come alongside to assist in shepherding the flock and in what capacities?
If you currently have others who can share the counseling load, then as lead pastor, you can go lighter on that aspect in your shepherding role. If you don’t, while equipping others to fulfill that role, you may find yourself with a heavier counseling or visitation load or having to refer people to counselors outside of your church. People may not, however, have the money for professional counseling. Until others within your church are equipped in this way, can the church help people financially, if needed, to go outside of the church?
The needs of people are great. Pastors cannot meet all of those needs. If you try to do it all, other important responsibilities will not get accomplished, at least not as well as they could or should. Counseling, visitation, and other practical meeting of needs can take a lot of time.
Part of finding the balance is for the leadership of the church to determine what your church most needs in a pastor and then plan around those priorities. The less counseling, visitation, and the like the pastor does, however, the more you need to be sure to equip others to do so. That doesn’t mean the pastor has to do all the training but that you at least set a process in motion for them to be trained. Ephesians 4:11-12 says that God gave “… pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” The bottom line should be that needs are getting met, not who meets them.