“You didn’t visit Susan* in the hospital. You’re not doing your job. You’re not being a good pastor.”
Those words hung in the air for a few moments before I explained on the phone that Susan nor her family told me that she was in the hospital. It didn’t matter. The caller didn’t care. In the caller’s mind, I was responsible for information that I didn’t know about. It was very painful to be accused of not doing my “job”.
I’ve thought about that conversation many times in the years that have passed. So, I worked more hours and harder at being omnipresent. It didn’t work. A prior church, a prior ministry. The complaint of not visiting someone was almost always attributed to not telling the minister something was up. No matter how many times I talked with church leadership or any person in the pew, there were some people who think their minister can read minds, know the gossip on the street, or is omnipresent. I was burning out and still getting nasty comments.
As I explained my book, The Work of the Associate Pastor, people can easily triangulate others into church situations that can be solved between two people. Often, there isn’t a problem but people create problems. There will always be some in the church that feels empowered by crossing boundaries and telling people what they should be doing. Years have passed since I served that church, but I realized that there will always be antagonists in the church who attack without substantive information. I’ve embraced the reality that it is impossible to be omnipresent and to emotionally let go of those people who believe a minister should be omnipresent. Ministers should obviously be accessible, within reason. I wish years ago I created a list of situations of when you should call, email, or communicate with your pastor. Here’s a list I’ve been working on:
- You are facing a major health challenge or going to be hospitalized.
- You want to learn more about the church or want to join.
- You want to marry someone, divorce, or want to separate from your spouse.
- You have questions or struggle with your faith.
- You have concerns about the church.
- You need prayer.
- You need direction on a major life decision.
- You want to give a gift to the church.
- You have challenges with life, marriage, relationships, family, children, parents, pregnancy, or your job.
- You have a burning passion for a ministry in the church.
- You want to help in the church but don’t know how.
- You just heard some troubling news.
- You want to get to know the minister better.
- You are upset with the minister.
- You have a compliment.
We ministers may not be able to solve every problem in life, but chances are we can help with resources, ideas, or prayer. We pastors want to help and care, but we need to know. If you expect your minister to know something important, please reach out and make the call.
Did I miss something on the list? Let me know in the comment section.
*Not the person’s real name.