The Incredible Inefficiency of Pastoral Ministry

How do you find satisfaction in pastoral ministry when the to-do list is never done?

People are not products, and as such no amount of time we spend working with (let’s avoid the temptation to say “working on”) people will ever complete them. Even more complicating is the fact that pastors are incomplete as well. While we might be a little further along the path than those we shepherd and have a clearer view of sins pitfalls, we have our own areas of need and improvement as well.

 

Long before I ever had aspirations of church planting I worked as a welder in a fabrication plant that made magnetic cores for MRI machines. It was nowhere near as exciting as it sounds, it was assembly line work.

One advantage of working in an assembly line is that your stats are tracked meticulously. You can always look up in real time exactly how productive you are (or aren’t) being.

A decade later when I found myself in pastoral ministry, the expectations of what could be accomplished in a workday didn’t translate. Often the to-do list I’d create on Monday was almost unchanged by the time the next Sunday arrived. Goals I wanted to accomplish with people and ministry I wanted to see finished inched along at a snail’s pace. How do you find satisfaction in pastoral ministry when the to-do list is never done?

Why Does Ministry Seem so Inefficient?

When Paul writes to encourage the church at Rome, he tells them that he’d often been prevented from coming to visit them despite his best intentions to do so (Rom. 1:13). The obstacles blocking him from visiting the church there were most certainly of the flesh and blood category, and herein is the reason pastoral ministry frustrates our to-do lists: When you work with people the work is never done. A church planter is above all a shepherd, and that job description is much different than that of the manufacturer on the assembly line.

People are not products, and as such no amount of time we spend working with (let’s avoid the temptation to say “working on”) people will ever complete them. Even more complicating is the fact that pastors are incomplete as well. While we might be a little further along the path than those we shepherd and have a clearer view of sins pitfalls, we have our own areas of need and improvement as well. When your to-do list consists of various meetings with people, you might be able to cross off the meeting, but you can never cross off the person.

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