Who Has the Hardest Job?
Spoiler: Stop Comparing
I came across this article in which the writer, well, excoriates Ministers and Theologians who do not presently work in a secular workplace. I’m not sure who the author is. It appears he himself is a pastor. I had never before read anything by him. I literally just stumbled across the post. Most of his cultural references, I don’t even get.
As with many things, I agree with some of what he said, and some of it I disagree with. He comes out right at the beginning saying, “many ministry workers have little idea of the pressures people face in the modern workplace. They just don’t get it. Not that it stops them making big statements about it.”
This is sometimes true. I think there are perhaps some pastors who don’t understand the things their people face because maybe they’ve never been in the secular work force, or maybe it’s been a long time. I can see how that might cause a man to not fully understand the people he pastors to an extent. Though many are good at being understanding of church members by, you know, actually knowing them.
One of the original posters bigger points seems to be when ministers push evangelism on the people when they themselves are not is a position where they could lose their job for doing so. Honestly, I think that’s a fair point if a pastor is indeed not familiar with those pressures. Maybe such a pastor should be more understanding. He quotes his friend who says, “Far and away the worst pressure is from Christian leaders who want us all to be open about our faith and push us all to do so but they personally have no financial or social skin in the game”. He’s referring to the possibility of one losing their job for their beliefs, suggesting pastors don’t face this.
The writer describes the ministry as a “safe space” and a “sheltered workshop” because pastors can talk openly against common social issues and not face repercussions like getting fired. He presents ministers as people who have nothing to lose. This is not entirely true.
The writer then references an Allied Health Professional who possibly felt “called” to ministry but was hesitant because it is “the safe option, a place to hide.” This was of particular interest to me because I am in fact an Allied Health Professional! And I did go into the ministry! This is one point in which I have to diverge from the writers points. He paints with too broad a brush. Honestly, I had more job and financial security before ministry. That’s not a complaint. I’m just stating a fact. Let me explain.
I presently am in full-time ministry and I work per-diem in my Allied Health Profession as a Radiologic Technologist. The “pressure” the writer speaks of in the workplace, exists in the ministry too. I see it in both worlds, but it is colored a little differently in ministry.
My mentor once told be about his church where he is fully supported, “This can all be gone in one Sunday.” I used to think that was perhaps a bit of a superlative. Now, I don’t think so. I see what he meant. I’m grateful to have a small church of very faithful and dedicated believers who care about each other and get along, but in the few years I’ve been in ministry, I have seen twice as many people leave, causing trouble and acting petty and juvenile over our use of doctrines, words, and practices that they personally didn’t like. The pressure in ministry often feels like walking on egg shells because you’re always nervous about who might get offended next and then leave. In many cases, it doesn’t take much.
So, when the original poster says that pastors have a “safe space” and that they “have no skin in the game” he’s maybe not trying to be understanding, I think. It is totally possible that on any given Sunday, if a minister words something the wrong way, comes across too strong, too weak, too fast, too slow, too long-winded, not long enough, too deep, too shallow, too animated, to stiff, too theological, too practical, too preachy, too teachy, too funny, too serious, too stern, too gracious, and so on, that people can just up and go somewhere else! And not to state the obvious, but no church people equals no salary, possible loss of reputation, and possible loss of future employment anywhere else. Sometimes all of that happens unjustly. This is essentially the same scenario the original poster suggests is a possibility for a church member who evangelizes on the job and gets fired for having convictions against the “rainbow agenda”. Only, the reasons and people behind it are different. See my post on The Christian Outrage Mob or Christian Men Who Signal Their Virtue.
I get it, but perhaps saying a minister doesn’t understand your risks is not too well thought out. The preacher may not always have the job security and financial security you might think.
I’m not sure why some people get caught up in the game of trying to figure out whose job is more difficult. Do some men think that’s manly? Some full-time pastors try to act like bi-vocational ones don’t fully understand the spiritual depth of full-time ministry. Some bi-vocational men try to act like full-time ministers are spoiled, soft, golf-addicts (I may be guilty of this one in the past). Some church members try to act like pastors don’t face similar risks for evangelizing that they do. Some pastors try to act like church members have it easy because they get to punch out at the end of the day.
I’ve worked in the secular workforce more years than I’ve been in ministry.. I’ve also had the privilege of being “full-time” in the ministry before. And now I have to pick up per diem hours bi-vocationally. Three different scenarios. I can tell you that there are challenges in each work scenario, and risks. Why is it necessary for us to always argue about who has it the hardest? They’re all hard.
Can’t we all just agree that we all have aspects of our callings where we sometimes have to do things we don’t like, work in challenging ways, and live with risks we’d be more comfortable without?
I’m reminded of 2 Corinthians 10:12 “For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise”.