Mike, a friend of mine that I’ve known for over 25 years, is a mechanic. He has owned his own shop since the 90s and recently he mentioned how similar his job is to mine. At first I thought he was way off base until I heard his reasoning. That conversation got me thinking about how often I hear pastors say things like, “Unless they’ve been one, no one knows what it’s like to be a pastor”. While there is some truth to that statement, there is also a lot wrong with it. If a pastor believes no one can relate to him/her, then that pastor is much more vulnerable to loneliness, discouragement and even depression. So today I’m starting a series of posts that are meant to encourage pastors. If you are a pastor, you are not as alone as you might think. There are people in your community and most likely in your church who understand more about your personal struggles than you might imagine.
Pastors, here’s how your job is like that of an auto-mechanic:
1.) The majority of feedback that a mechanic receives is negative. Think about it for a minute, when was the last time your mechanic did a great job and you went out of your way to say so? Sure you said, “Thanks” before you left the shop, but it’s likely that you were more focused on the money you just spent than you were focused on the quality workmanship your mechanic provided. Sure, you noticed how well your car was running on the way home, but you probably didn’t turn around and go back to the mechanic to rave about it. Most people who give their mechanics feedback do so when they are disappointed. You know how that feels don’t you, pastor? Your mechanic must be tired of having several similar conversations with grumpy people day-in-and-day-out. Mechanics probably get’s worn out by constant negative feedback that makes them feel that them is not doing a very good job.
2.) Most people only go to a mechanic when they have problems. Do you ever pop in on your mechanic just to say, “Hey, everything’s great and the old Buick is running just fine”? Probably not. It’s no wonder, pastor, that you don’t get many church members calling just to tell you how wonderful things are going. They are too busy to give you happy updates. Rather, most people tend to contact you when they have something broken in their lives. So it’s easy for you to become apprehensive every time you get a Facebook message, an email, a text or a phone call. Your mechanic knows exactly how you feel.
3.) Your mechanic’s business comes in waves. For most mechanics, it’s either feast or famine. When things are busy, they are really busy, but when things are slow, they can be ponderously slow. Yet what the mechanic does in the downtime is almost as important as the uptime. The same goes for pastors. There are seasons of planting and seasons of reaping. There are times when you preach your guts out and see little fruit. Then there are times when you feel like Billy Graham 2.0! Yet what you do when people aren’t responding is just as important as what you do when they are. An active prayer and devotional life coupled with strategic planning, marketing and preparation will get you ready for the seasons of growth that are coming. It’s common for pastors to feel frustrated by the seasons where there is a seeming lack of results in their ministry, and their mechanics can certainly relate.
So there you have it, pastors: your mechanic has quite a bit in common with you. Next time you feel badly about your job, take your mechanic to breakfast. Ask your mechanic how he/she feels about the three items listed above. I think you’ll suddenly find a new friendship budding.
Are there any other similarities between pastors and mechanics that you would add to the list?