If you were to peek your head into a pastor’s conference, one of the things you would find a common topic of conversation is all of the “non-pastoral” work that pastors end up doing. Things like shoveling the walk, mowing the grass, lights, fundraising, organizational administration, even (gasp!) working on the church computers. Pastors, being human, like to complain about all of the things that they do which don’t really seem a part of their call. “There’s nothing in my call document that says I’m supposed to do THAT!”
Now I don’t think pastors are unusual in this complaint. We all like to believe that we are important, and that the menial things that just need to get done are somehow not worth our effort. Who hasn’t complained about being overworked and underpaid or underutilized at work?
Now the pastor as steward and servant of the congregation is in an interesting place. On the one hand, there are certain things that are clearly pastoral duties that can’t be shirked or sidestepped, such as preaching, teaching, administering the Sacraments, ministering to the sick, the shut-in and the dying, and the like. That is why we have pastors, after all, and the further away the pastor gets from these basic purposes, the further he gets from his final purpose as a pastor.
However, there is a whole host of things that need to get done which are not so easy to keep clear. Judging doctrine, for instance. Sitting in a meeting, working with the youth, almost anything that has to do with people probably includes judging doctrine in some fashion or another.
In the same way a part of the pastor’s office and work is to oversee the worship life of the congregation. This is easy to understand when we’re talking about picking hymns and liturgy. But what about turning the lights on (and off)? What about putting a tape in the machine so the shut-ins can have a recording of the service, or posting it on the Internet so members away from home or in their car can listen to it?
I guess that my views on these things have changed over the years. It would be nice if I could spent 100% of my time doing clearly pastoral work. But we don’t live in heaven; we’re on earth. Here on earth the pastor gets done what needs to get done so that the work of the ministry may be carried out. Sometimes that means shoveling the walk.
So where does the congregation come into this picture? The congregation comes in to help the pastor be a pastor. While there are lots of non-pastoral works that the pastor may need to do on a regular basis, it doesn’t serve the congregation to have the pastor spending all or most of his time with these things. This means that the congregation, through its leadership or more directly, needs to work with the pastor to evaluate his use of time and energy on a regular basis. Nothing is perfect, but if we work together toward minimizing the non-pastoral work that the pastor does, everything will work more smoothly.