The most common follow up question I get asked when I tell people my profession is: what does a pastor do? After having practiced  my response many times, I have come to learn that the best way to answer is to say that a pastor is like being a teacher, a counselor, and the director of a nonprofit organization all wrapped up into one position.

Pastor as Teacher

Most people (myself included at one point) think that a pastor’s only job is to do rituals and preach a sermon on Sunday. The truth is to preach an engaging sermon that is relevant, almost every Sunday a year, does requires a lot of time and stamina. Also if the pastor is active, there will be Bible studies, articles, lectures, and many one on one discussions addressing people’s concerns throughout the week.

Pastor as Counselor 

Pastors have the privilege and responsibility of getting a front row seat to the high and lows of church member’s lives. From baptisms to funerals, to weddings and divorces, a pastor is there to provide comfort, wisdom, and prayer. They are there to help members accept their predicaments and point people to God in the midst of joy or sorrow.  Unlike preaching, this part of the job doesn’t get much publicity.

Pastor as Director of Nonprofit Organization 

Churches are the earliest forms of a nonprofit organization.  Pastors need to make sure that the office is running smoothly throughout the week. The majority of pastors serve smaller congregations, where there isn’t a staff to delegate administrative tasks which places the burden on the pastor to make sure all the little things are taken care of. Such tasks for example could include updating a website, answering an email, or writing a newsletter.

Pastors Can’t Do Their Job Alone

It is very rare to find one pastor who excels in all three of the roles of teacher, counselor, and director of a nonprofit organization. Usually from my observation and personal experience, the pastor is usually talented at one of the three, average at another and struggles with the third. Congregations where the pastor does all the work will lead to pastoral burnout. It also will lead to a toxic church where the congregation just watches the pastor play church. Ultimately a pastor needs to be a servant of the servants, who mobilizes and equips members to use their gifting’s to be the church described in Scripture.