The other day during the meeting of the A-Team (our student ministerial association at Anderson University), there was a presentation on ministry and marriage by our own administrative assistant Kelli Strickland and her husband, pastor Charles Strickland. As part of their presentation to the students, they shared some sobering statistics about the number of pastoral marriages that end in divorce and the number of pastors who abandon vocational ministry.
I don’t need to recount the stats, or even to tell you (if you are in ministry) that being a pastoral leader is hard. In fact, leadership expert Peter Drucker once said that the four hardest jobs in America – not necessarily in this order, he added – are the president of the United States, a university president, a CEO of a hospital and . . . a pastor.
With all the negatives relating to ministry, is there a positive word to be heard? Yes, and it is this: if God has called you to ministry, then it is the very best, most meaningful life you could ever experience. Are there problems? Of course, just as there are problems for surgeons, attorneys, entrepreneurs or anyone who has a tough job. But if God has called you, then the rewards are more than worth the challenges. It really is a wonderful life.
We built the Master of Ministry program to be a practical-ministry focused degree. One reason is that we are convinced many of the challenges pastors face stems from their lack of preparation for the rough-and-tumble of real life ministry. They learn about theology and biblical languages and lots of other valuable information, but they often don’t learn about the practical dimensions of ministry leadership until they are in over their heads in the pressure cooker of pastoral service – and many of them simply don’t survive.
If you are already in ministry – and you are convinced God put you there – then do whatever it takes to hang in there, knowing that it is worth the cost. And if you have sensed the call to ministry and are considering your preparation for service, think about the importance of training that will get you ready for the day-to-day challenges of ministry.
Michael Duduit is founding Dean of the College of Christian Studies and the Clamp Divinity School at Anderson University. He also serves as Professor of Christian Ministry. He is the founder and still serves as Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, one of the nation’s premier publications for pastors. His email newsletter, Preaching Now, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences. He is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching, Joy in Ministry: Messages from Second Corinthians, Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators and Communicate With Power.