Yes, Pastoring is Hard, but Some Pastors Make It Harder Than What it Is


by Karl Vaters

Being a pastor is the fourth hardest job in America. That’s been the common wisdom floating around the Internet for a couple of years now.

It may be true. But it shouldn’t be true. It certainly doesn’t need to be true. I think it’s time to stop making it true.

There are two reasons people believe that statement to be true.

1. Pastoring is hard work. No doubt about it.

2. The person who is credited with making that assessment was a highly respected writer and author on leadership. He should know, right?

How hard is it?

Here’s the full list of the four hardest jobs in America, from a piece by Philip Wagner at This is the post most others have grabbed this quote from. Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said that the four hardest jobs in America (and not necessarily in order, he added) are:

  • The President of the United States
  • A university president
  • A CEO of a hospital
  • A pastor

In most articles I’ve read on this, the author usually goes on to cite further stats about the abysmal dropout and burnout rates among pastors, and understandably so.

Maybe it’s just me, but in too many of the articles I’ve read on this, there seems to be an underlying masochistic pleasure that pastors take in it. At times, it feels as if we’re saying, “See! I told you! My job is hard! This is why I’m burned out, stressed and overworked. Now, you may pity me.”

Pastoring a church is certainly hard work. And Drucker’s assessment may be right. But it shouldn’t be right.

In recent years, after suffering through my own mostly self-inflicted pastoral grief, I’ve come to this conclusion: If pastoring truly is the fourth hardest job in America, then we’re not doing it right.

It should be this hard.

Take a look in the Bible. The New Testament writers never sugar-coated the challenges of ministry, but even in Paul’s list of hardships he endured for the sake of the gospel, he chided himself, saying, “I am out of my mind to talk like this.”

And that’s a man who was under Roman persecution! If a pastor in modern-day America (or Canada, or Europe, or … ) feels we’re under pressure equivalent to the Apostle Paul, a lot of it has to be self-inflicted.

Pastoring shouldn’t be as hard as we make it.

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Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors

More from Karl Vaters or visit Karl at

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