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Why Pastoring is More Difficult Than Running a Successful Business

For Diana Keough Story -- Left, Rev. Otis Moss, III preaches during the annual revival at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland while his father, Pastor Otis Moss, Jr. sits behind him. March 21, 2007 (Lonnie Timmons III/Plain Dealer)

It’s much easier to start or run a successful business than to plant or pastor a successful church. So, why is pastoring harder than running a business? Here are six reasons:

1. The Church Is a Family, Not a Business. There are many business principles involved in pastoring. And most pastors need to be better at them. Running a church like a business is similar to running a family like a business. It’s not possible. That’s why the biblical requirements for pastors, bishops, overseers and other church leaders are drawn from family life, not business life.

2. Working with Volunteers Is Very Different than Working with Employees. It’s hard to hire, train and manage employees. Imagine doing all of that without the incentive of a pay check. That’s what pastors have to do with volunteers. Some people can literally attend a church for decades, receive everything the church has to offer and never give anything back – either monetarily or in volunteerism. It’s inconceivable that any business could run that way. But that’s how churches do it.

3. Churches are Much More Complex than Businesses. There are a lot of moving parts to a healthy business. There are infinitely more to a healthy church. Even the most narrowly-focused church touches every aspect of people’s lives at the best and worst times of their lives — spiritually, emotionally, financially and socially. We’re there from the joy of birth to the sorrow of death. Pastors are expected to master it all. No wonder so many quit in frustration.

4. Pastoring Requires a Call, Not Just Skill. There are skills and gifts that are needed to be a good pastor of a good church. But all the skill in the world means nothing if you’re not called by God to do it.

5. We Make It Harder Than It Should Be. We tell pastors of healthy churches that if the church isn’t hitting certain numerical growth goals, they’re doing it wrong. It’s like telling the parents of healthy, happy children that their family is a failure because they didn’t have more kids or aren’t making enough money. Yet we do it all the time with pastors and churches.

6. We’re Not Running the Church. Jesus said He’d build his church. He runs it, not us. We make pastoring harder than it should be when we try to do the job that belongs to Jesus alone.

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