For people outside of ministry, the perception can be that it must be pretty easy. After all, it’s 90 minutes on a Sunday, leaving the rest of the week free, right?
Not quite, and in Ministry Stinks, this revealing new book, author Melanie J. Saward helps those in ministry navigate the challenge of being a pastor or in a ministry position.
“Ministry has got to be one of the most mentally and emotionally grueling roles I’ve personally ever played in life,” states Melanie. “I was a counselor, so I know the weight of people’s pain and how to not let it get you down. But in ministry, you deal with people throughout some of the darkest moments of their life and you don’t have the option to opt-out, because they are your sheep.
“There are incredibly high expectations of leaders in the church these days. They are often being asked to do tasks and have people skills that are rare to find cohabiting in one person.”
Statistics show that 50% of people will exit the ministry within five years of employment, and in terms of current pastors, 89% are considering leaving their jobs, so there is a real need to help pastors perform their all-important role.
“It can often feel like you are frequently letting people down, and falling short in some way,” she continues. “Because people are often dissatisfied with their church experience, there is the subsequent disillusionment at realizing that it’s definitely not as glamorous as people have often made it out to be. There’s the risk of burnout that is high for most ministry leaders. There’s the constant challenge to not let ministry become your identity. And there’s the ongoing battle to keep a humble heart when you see fruit. I could go on, but probably the worst challenge is how terribly lonely and sometimes isolated you feel.”
The success of megachurches has placed even more pressure on pastors, as people make the comparison that a church must be large to be influential and successful.
“Most churches nowadays presume that success in ministry is being a megachurch,” states Melanie. “I can’t even begin to imagine what influence social media and viewing famous celebrity pastors (who often have a platform because of their megachurches) have on the psyche of the average leader and their own expectations on themselves.
“But there is hope, and with the right tools, a position in ministry is one of the richest and most rewarding vocations. “I deliberately go very deep in unpacking what each challenge looks like so that those in ministry can identify quickly if that difficulty applies to them.
“I am also very deliberate to give quite practical solutions, because I believe we need real and not conceptual tools to empower leaders to live out their calling.
“Because we don’t generally share the really hard stuff with those around us, I’ve put myself out there in this book, bringing solutions to the questions and challenges that need to be faced.”