Proposition: An SBC pastor is in a unique position. He is on duty 24/7/365. He can never relax. He has to be in pastor mode constantly. He has to respond to every need. The duty of sermon preparation, delivery, meetings, church administration; the cares of the congregation in an onerous burden that leaves him exhausted and spent physically, mentally, and emotionally.
The pastorate has certain demands. Sometimes these can be overwhelming if allowed to be. Some churches can be pastor-killers. Some people can be burdensome. GuideStone tells us that depression is a costly component of our health care costs and I recall some surveys saying that clergy are more depressed than the average American.
Woe is us?
But do we labor with unique responsibilities, extraordinary burdens, and job stresses that are far greater than the people we see each Sunday in the pews?
I think not, and frankly, I think it unhealthy for the brethren to constantly gravitate to the conversations, articles, and blogs that might be categorized as the "Woe is us" genre.
A couple of times a year, we get articles singing the praises of pastoral sabbaticals, as if that is really an option or even a remote possibility for any other than a few large/mega church pastors. The anonymous 'Bill' on the pretty good blog SBC Voices (who apparently eschewed any opposing views on this issue and closed comments) says:
For me, I think that the pastor should get the normal 15 days vacation that other people receive.
I also think that they should get the month of June or July off. Yes, OFF. I think they ought to be encouraged to travel, take a class, fish, spend this time with their family, anything but come into the office. They should also be paid for this time as well.
Go for it, Bill, but I'd speculate that the average SBC pastor would be laughed out of a deacon's meeting or search committee interview if that is put on the table. A pastor with a long tenure in a church may have sufficient credibility that his congregation gives him such, but not annually.
I once listened increduously to a pastor talk of how he expected to take the first month off from his new church (a church plant). When I shared that item with a layman, he just shook his head.
When I am with some of my lay friends, ones who are mostly not in my congregation, folks who are comfortable enough not to worry about offending the "Rev" they will quickly respond that pastors seem to be, well, uninformed about real life. Many occupations have stressful job responsibilities. Many jobs require availability around the clock. Many have long hours that are simply part of the job. And many other jobs have intense moments like delivering a sermon to a crowd. One doesn't hear these people whining about sabbaticals.
Sure, Johnny Hunt gets every July off. He certainly deserves it, academics get sabbaticals, and, thankfully, many churches work with their pastor when he has prolonged health issues, but only the rare pastor gets an extra month off.
Pastor pay may be suffering with the economy as of late but has steadily risen over the years and less of the brethren are required to live in a pastorium next to the church (although with plummeting housing values, some may wish that they did). In many ways life has improved immensely for the pastor (and his family, with the pastor's wife often having her own career and not available for any expectation of the two-for-one deal).
So, let the brethren have an occasional gripe session and whinefest, but then be done with that. And by all means don't do it in front of a layperson.
OK, my dozen or so readers may now start tossing the hymnals or pew Bibles at me.