Pastors play a vital role in the lives of their congregants. They can be your mentors, heroes, counselors, friends and have those rock-steady shoulders to cry on. They teach you truth and help you through tough times. Indeed, pastors are the one person in your life you should be able to count on to be there in your time of need.
But being a pastor is becoming increasingly challenging in today’s world. The gospel may not change but communication does, people are getting busier, and many churches are experiencing high turnover rates. Here are a few modern challenges every pastor faces as they do the work of ministry.
1. ‘Sorry, Pastor, I Just Don’t Have the Time’ — Busy People
Never before in our culture have so many people had so little time on their hands. The clock still reads 24 hours but people have filled their days with activity, from school to work to sports to social groups — you name it and people are doing it. In the old days of church ministry, when a pastor asked to come over for a visit or to take you out to lunch, people cleared their schedules for him. But now? “Let me check my iPhone…”
Because of the time crunch, many pastors are choosing to keep in touch with congregants through multiple communication methods, such as social networking, quick coffee chats, and by joining them in their activities. They try to squeeze into people’s lives wherever they can.
2. “This Sermon is Way Too Boring” — Attention Spans
In the old days of church ministry, pastors could preach for 45 minutes, an hour, or longer and people would applaud them for their thoroughness and passion. But with our modern society’s focus on short news bites and rapid-paced programs, people just don’t have the listening endurance they used to possess. Even more, a whole new generation is growing up with communication coming through text messaging, the Internet and video programs.
Now pastors have to be creative in the way they deliver their content in order to teach an audience used to sound bites and visual stimulation. Some use art, like paintings, reflective music, and photography to add punch to their messages. Many keep their sermons to no longer than 20 minutes, choosing to fill the majority of worship services with music, videos, and other multimedia items.
3. “We Like This Pastor’s Preaching Better” — Consumerism and Division
The 21st Century continues the previous century’s emphasis on personal choice, in everything from fast food to oil changes to haircuts. This “consumerism” has also affected the church. People just aren’t staying with churches for very long anymore. One little misstep or one bad sermon can be enough to convince people to take their spiritual business elsewhere.
Getting people to think differently abut their church than they do about, say, fried chicken, is a challenge every modern pastor faces. Some ministers choose to focus solely on their shortcomings while others choose to blame everyone who leaves and change nothing about themselves. Finding a balance and staying true to oneself is critical to ministry success.
Pastors have difficult jobs since there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula of pastoral ministry any more. Every pastor has to be adaptable to their congregation and their culture. Next time you see your pastor, be sure to offer up a kind word of encouragement. They would probably appreciate it.