Dear churchgoer,

You may not know it, but this is a significant month for your pastor. October is Pastor Appreciation Month, bringing with it a complex mix of conflicting thoughts and emotions for most pastors.

A few weeks ago, I spoke with a pastor friend about his recent day off. He was shopping at Home Depot, quickly grabbing a few items for a home project. After checking out, he bumped into a congregant in the parking lot. You can probably guess what happened—a short greeting turned into a much longer conversation. The congregant shared a number of difficult things happening in the church and in his own spiritual life. Each question from the pastor uncovered five new frustrations. Forty-five minutes later, they finally parted ways.

I asked the pastor how he felt in that moment. “It was my day off,” he said, “but I don’t really have a day off. I mean, when am I not a pastor?” This always-on, week-in, week-out grind takes a toll on pastors and their families. It’s why leadership guru Peter Drucker said this:

Over the years I have made a career out of studying the most challenging management roles out there. After all of that I am now convinced the two most difficult jobs in the world are these—one, to be President of the United States, and two, to be the leader a church.

Ministry is an amazing call, full of great joys and significant moments in people’s lives: officiating weddings, presiding over funerals, seeing first-hand how lives are changed for Christ. But it’s also full of tension: intense conflict, unrealistic expectations, relational strain, and, at times, soul-aching loneliness.

I know this firsthand. I served as a local church pastor for 15 years. Now that ...

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