For three years, I was a college campus pastor. That trying and rewarding experience gave me a deep appreciation for the commitments, passions, and challenges of pastoral ministry.
As a campus pastor, I wanted those under my care to mature, grow in their knowledge of Christ, and base their lives on the firm foundation of Jesus. I wanted nothing more than to press them closer to Jesus. During my stint on campus, I devoted myself to the study of Scripture and applying God’s truth to students’ lives. I saw those under my care grow deeper in their understanding and knowledge of God. I saw still others fall away from the faith altogether.
You probably know the word we translate as “pastor” can also be rendered as “shepherd.” That word conjures vivid images for me. I imagine the classic image of a man sitting on a rock holding a lamb, or someone standing in a field, staff in hand.
But I know from experience: pastoral ministry involves very little standing around.
- A shepherd is constantly moving—leading, guiding, protecting the sheep.
- A shepherd’s mind is on his flock, even as he drifts off to sleep.
- A shepherd is never off the clock.
A shepherd crosses treacherous terrain for the sake of his flock. He binds the wounds of those in his care.
Though I experienced many successes in ministry, there were also a lot of struggles. I would spend countless hours investing in ministry with few measurable results. Many pastors, especially at new church plants, will work for years with little to show for it in terms of numbers or finances.
It’s not surprising that so many burn out.
When I was in ministry, I had to learn to lean on the Lord for strength. And he provided it, time and again. But often, he provided it through his people. A well-timed thank you note. An encouraging verse at just the right moment.
A small reminder from someone I served: “What you’re doing matters, and we appreciate it.”
That simple encouragement gave me the strength I needed to continue the work. Those times filled me with a deeper passion and a reminder of why I was doing what I was doing.