This is a tough one. One great advantage of having a fulltime preacher is that they are fulltime. Of course. But this is also a disadvantage because it gives the members the opportunity to rationalize away the preacher’s demands. After all, the member’s lives are often radically different from the life led by the preacher.
How many members can spend the first two hours of their work day in prayer? Not any. Not all preachers have this privilege, but many do.
If the preacher asks the members to show up for Tuesday night visitation or to volunteer for any number of good works, many members will complain that the preacher doesn’t appreciate the demands on their time — because he doesn’t have the same structured job where you have to punch a clock every day.
In fact, most church members work a 40+ hour job, spend time with spouse and children, and still volunteer for church work on top of all that. A lawyer who teaches Bible class has to do his Bible study and lesson preparation after his 50 or 60 hour job is done, after he’s invested in his family, and after he’s done his client relationship building.
Some ministers work just as hard or even harder. I think most do. But many work far less and yet demand more from the members than they are willing to give themselves. It’s a problem.
Even when the minister is very hard working and disciplined, the members rarely know it. And their lack of appreciation for the minister’s work ethic often allows them to rationalize ignoring his teachings. He doesn’t have the credibility needed to call them to Tuesday night visitation unless they think he’s just as committed to work and church as they are.
When I began my law firm many long years ago, a much older, very wise client came to me and said, “I’ll tell you who is successful in this life: the person who works harder than the next person.” And he’s right. The old Protestant work ethic remains a key to success, whether it’s financial, professional, or ministerial success. The churches with the hardest-working ministers are the churches that thrive the most …
* … if the ministers aren’t coddling the members. The ministers should be working hard, but working at things the members can’t do.
* … if the ministers don’t burn out. We’ll consider burning out in some detail later. For now, suffice to say: it happens, but the cases of burn out usually have causes beyond hard work. Hard work is a virtue and should be treated as such. Hard work should be honored and encouraged — within sensible limits.
So how does the wise minister gain enough credibility within the church to be able to call the members to volunteer, contribute, and serve? What gives him the credibility necessary for the job? How do the members know that he’s a hard worker?