TOUGH MINISTRY QUESTIONS

I have a friend who preaches in a small congregation that doesn’t have any elders or deacons. A few Sunday’s ago, as everyone was leaving the building, one of the men of the church told him, “You needed to be spending more time out in the community and less time sitting in the office during the week.” Then, not 5 minutes later another person caught him on his way out and said, “Can I make a suggestion? You need to be spending less time out in the community and more time in the office during the week.” Needless to say my preacher friend left there that day very frustrated.

It’s an age old question ministers have always battled. So what do you think?

  • Would you like to see your minister spending more time during the week out in the community? Or, does your minister need to be spending more time in the office studying, etc?
  • And, what advise would you give my frustrated friend?

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
23 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Brandon Price says:

    The only “preachers” I see in the New Testament were the evangelistic type. I think we have done a disservice to the lost and our ministers when we make them think they belong in the office.

    I’d rather cut the lesson and sermon time in half if it meant going out into all the neighborhoods.

    I feel like going on, but I won’t. :o)

  2. laymond says:

    Take the advice of both add them together, then divide by two, and keep doing what you were doing in the first place. :) and smile a lot.

  3. brian says:

    since we have thrown out the God-given roles and ministers found in the NT,
    the preacher should work on balance but also realize he has gifts.

    the church needs to be clear about their expectations. little old ladies might scoff at preacher needing a job description–and we don’t as long the congregation realizes that doing the bulletin and keeping office hours are not in the Bible–but if a congregation doesn’t express what “type” of preacher they want, there will be confusion, frustration, and not a happy ending for both sides.

    that’s why congregations often alternate hiring an extrovert, active in the community and then a more studious type with deeper sermons. (these are generalizations, but you get the point)

    my ramblings

    i heard a similar thing happened to a former preacher here, the men encouraged involvement in the community then complained when it interfered too much with church stuff

    I disagree with brandon, whatever teaching is done, pulpit for 15 miutes or 40, classroom, or home, the preacher needs to spend some serious time in study.
    otherwise all those people in the community who are converted will never grow into a mature disciple.

  4. Matthew says:

    This is a great question. And to the friend, do not worry, they will never be happy anyway. There is no balancing the act when two different people are involved. As for the timing, everyone expects both. You need to be in the community, but you need to be in the study. If I was the friend, I would agree with both, and do what I have been doing.

  5. David Kirk says:

    The last church we went to, one of the reasons the preacher supposedly got fired was for not keeping office hours. Which meant he was not available to argue fine points of theology with these two elders at all hours of the day because they had nothing better to do. And yet the preacher was always available to those who really needed ministry. He always carried his cell phone with him and was never out of touch. In this age of cell phones and pagers, I don’t see the need for a preacher to sit in the office, as long as they remain accessible. The church we go to now doesn’t even have a real office, but we have never had any trouble finding our preacher when we need him.

  6. Philip Murphy says:

    It’s a shame Sunday morning services have become our concept of church. We rate our preachers by their sermons. We spend too much time worrying about the “worship” service.

    Most full time ministers spend too much time in preparation for Sunday. Of course, they’re just meeting our expectations. So it’s more the fault of our congregations and the leaderships thereof.

    As a youth minister, I spent WAY too much time in the office. Usually my days were spent studying and planning… staring at the computer screen most of the day. But in retrospect, I could have done so much more getting out of the church building doors.

    Your buddy probably needs to spend more time out of the office. But I agree that set office hours are usually a good practice.

  7. Monalea says:

    Daryl and I had this similar thing happen when we were working with a small congregation without elders.

    We find that if we keep our focus on God and remember it is for Him that we work and answer too it is ok. We learned you can never please everyone, but when you serve God and make Him the one you please it goes well, because of His abundance of Grace and Mercy.

    Monalea

  8. Jeremy Myers says:

    How about spending more time studying out in the community?

    Study for the sermon at the coffee shop, diner, cafe, or bar. Pick one spot, get to know the staff, become a regular, get to know the other regulars…

  9. Alan Gable says:

    I try not to give unwarranted advice. If “my” minister came to me and suggested a certain tax strategy, I would laugh at him.
    Preacher-bashing has become a favorite pasttime of the sheep. We should stop that.
    Tell your buddy, he’s doing a good job.

  10. TREY MORGAN says:

    Been out most of the day. Stopped back in to check email and the comments. Now I’m headed to the prison for a parenting class.

    Just wanted to say how much I’ve appreciated the comments and opinions on this subject. Looking forward to some more.

  11. Odgie says:

    The proper balance varies from situation to situation. I think that your friend should present his situation to the group (either the congregation as a whole or a “men’s business meeting”) and explain to them that performing his job requires office time and community time.

  12. john dobbs says:

    Lots of good comments. The disparity between the comments lets us know that this is a bigger confusion than it should be.

    Advice: Ask the guy who wants you to spend more time in the community to spend one morning per week with you in the community. Ask the lady who wants you in the office to spend two mornings a week answering phones and doors so you can study. When they both refuse, resist the urge to plant a foot on their bottoms and just do what you want to do. 10% of the people aren’t going to like you no matter what you do.

    I like Mike’s (odgie) idea, but this will just be a pooling of personal thoughts and no convergent idea will emerge.

    Another thing a friend of mine does is ask the critic how many people they have studied the gospel with recently. This usually resolves itself immediately.

  13. preacherman says:

    As a minister of a small congregation with no elders or deacons, I would say get done what needs to get done. Plan and simple. Manager your time. Work on your sermon and spend time in the community as I do. It is important that you feed and minister to the flock as well as out reach to the community when needed or you can. Mananging time is so important. I have been in churches with elders and deacons and this is the best church I have been at. I love this church. Wonderful people. So, if your near Rocksprings, and hunting we love to have you worship with us. Attention hunters the deer are out in number this year. We had 40 in our house between the parsonage and the church. But gettin back on track,
    time management. Do what needs to be done and don’t worry about what people think. You can’t please everyone. No even Jesus did that and he was the Son of God. Right, Trey?

  14. Monalea says:

    Trey are you taking a parenting class at the prison or teaching a parenting class at the prison?????? And if you are teaching a parenting class at the prison, do you teach out there because your class cannot escape???

    mm aka www (always and forever)

  15. Anonymous says:

    As a former preacher that had to deal with this, the only thing I can suggest is that he meet with both parties at the same time and let them know the dilema they have created. Doing this will let both parties know you care about their oppinions and are willing to listen to suggestions. Maybe this way the parties will understand better the life of a minister. This might be the only way to help both parties understand how their expectations might only opinions of selfishness. By not doing this it could lead to continual inmature attitudes of both complainers and more that will jump on the band wagon. Even with elders in an assembly this happens because elders won’t tell the sheep the preacher is serving as God expects. My advice is to do the Barney Fife thing……..NIP IT…….NIP IT IN THE BUD!(LOL)

    Eddie

  16. One Observationist says:

    I would say we (American Christians) are focused on a lot of the wrong things. The comments to your preacher friend solidify my thoughts. The minute we start thinking that we need to control our ministers is the minute we lose what it means to spread the Word.

    Honestly, it saddens me that crap like this goes on in one of the freest countries in the world. Here we sit, able to feed ourselves, live comfortable lifestyles, worship in the comfort of air conditioned and heated buildings (some with padded seats) and we find time to complain. Gotta love it; not. Kind of makes me sick.

    Jeremy

  17. lightening says:

    Isn’t it sad how we’re often so quick to point out what OTHERS *should* or shouldn’t be doing.

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer to the dilemma because

    a) every preacher has their own gifts, abilities and strengths

    b) you can never keep everyone happy no matter how hard you try

    Growing up as a PK (preacher’s kid) I know only too well how hard it is to fit everything in to a week (including spending time with your own family). There is so much that happens that most of the congregation don’t see.

  18. TREY MORGAN says:

    I think it all depends on the situation you’re in. If the congregation expects a certain amount of office hours, you need to give that. If you need more time to get done the things you need done do it, if not, ask them for less time in the office. It is a tough balancing act.

    As for myself, I do keep office hours … some. I do what I need to do and then get out. Sometimes that means I’m there from sun up till sun down, while other days I’m in and out very quickly.

    This is the age of the cell phone, so I can be found very quickly and easily if I’m needed. I have found that when I get done what I need to do in the office, I then can get out and spend time in the community. Both are extremely important.

    And I do think you can go to the extreme on both. I think it’s unhealthy to spend all your time in the community and never study, at the same time it’s unhealthy to spend all your time in the office and never get out among the people.

    Too little time in the office = poor preparation on sermons and bible classes.

    Too little time in the community = the inability to reach out to the community around you.

  19. Falantedios says:

    I think I tend to agree with Jeremy. Congregations treat the minister like their “hired man” who they can boss around and control, who is there to serve at THEIR whim.

    A congregation should be interested in finding a minister they can support in order to give him the opportunity to do what he’s meant to do. Let GOD control him.

    Many of these complaints come from the spirit of vicarious ministry – ie, We pay you to do our ministry for us, so you need to do it our way so that we feel like we are doing our duty.

    Nick

  20. Tucker says:

    This issue is as difficult as sending a package to missionaries in Russia. However, this is an issue dear to my heart right now. Having my best friend (our preacher) leave a few months ago for another line of work, it forced all the men to step up. Who do you complain too when all your members are the minister/evangelist/preacher? Oh, there’s a biblical concept, WE all get to do the work. Maybe we all are to blame to allow the preacher to be the only worker of the church. (please understand this is a generalization, not an indictment on everyone)

    The church has become lazy! I love paying a preacher so that all I have to do is fill a pew, then I can criticize his sermon, or his lack of activity. My last sermon that I gave, I said, if you are criticizing, then you must have too much time and are definitely not doing what you should be. We have developed an overall attitude of “You go do it” instead of “Let’s go do it”. We are studying in our adult bible class all the verses that pertain to the preacher. Alot like a study of elders or deacons except a whole lot shorter. Seems when you study this subject, you find out the duty of each member of the body.

    I hate to say it, but, not having a preacher has been a blessing in our church. I hate to say it because I know several preachers visit here and would lose their job if everyone agreed with me. I love to say it because it makes the church look more like it was when it was started.
    I leave with this question…are paid preachers traditions, customs from society, or a command from God? I don’t mind having a preacher, it just changes the dynamics and mindset of the organization that he is the only one that can do something.

  21. Zach Detwiler says:

    Trey –
    I cant not say thank you enough for the phone call the other day. Your a great guy and look forward to getting to know you better. It’s been a hard road but we are focused and we claim Psalm 34:18 If you heart is broken you’ll find God right there! …Wow what a place to be.. This was a good post today. Pastors live in a glass fish bowl it seems, you can not please everyone.. You serve to the best of your ability and manage things the way the Lord leads you…thats all I ask as a believer! Once again thanks for the phone call.. I need to get you my number that away you have that..

  22. TREY MORGAN says:

    Zach,

    Just wanted you to know we were thinking about you and praying for you. Lea and I have been through the same thing and wanted you to know “we understand.”

  23. David Kirk says:

    preacherman:
    To misquote Elmer Fudd, “Be vewy vewy quiet. I’m hunting pweachers.”

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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