A pastor is called by God to serve, but the manner of that service is diverse. Pastors usually start out leading congregations, but also serve as chaplains, teachers, professors, bishops and in many other ministries. No matter the place, a pastor's primary job is to be a spiritual caregiver for a group of people.
The Path to Becoming a Pastor
Lutheran pastors are highly educated, holding at minimum a Master of Divinity degree from a seminary. Pastors are also subjected to psychological evaluations and other screening methods. In the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, pastors must be male, but in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest denomination in the United States, pastors can be male or female. The ELCA ordains homosexuals, but the Missouri Synod does not.
In Martin Luther's Small Catechism, he recommends that pastors, if they need a job description, read 1 Timothy Chapter 3, Verses 2 through 4 and 6. Verses 2 through 3 read: "Now a bishop must be above reproach, married only once, temperate, sensible, respectable, hospitable, an apt teacher, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, and not a lover of money." A genuine, deep and mature faith is a must for what can be a trying but fulfilling profession.
This is the most obvious responsibility for pastors – you have to be there on Sunday. Pastors need to lead weekly worship as well as attend to special occasions such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. These responsibilities can sometimes require travel as well. Pastors are also expected to have fresh sermons every week, and most churches have multiple services on Sundays and other days of the week.
A pastor is responsible for the well-being of his congregation, and this often means unscheduled counseling and crisis management. This responsibility also comes with a need to maintain confidentiality. A pastor can often find a side job, should it be desired, as a chaplain at hospitals, fire houses and similar places where pastoral care is needed.
Politics and Management
The Augsburg Confession clearly states that a congregation is supposed to obey its pastor, but Lutherans, being imperfect people, don't always treat the pastor well. Managing personalities, conflict and petty church politics is part of the territory. A pastor also needs to manage a church in non-spiritual ways, such as budgets and building upkeep. It is not taught in seminary, but pastors need to be effective administrators as well.
According to a 2011 survey, the average salary of ELCA pastors was just under $56,000. Professor Mark Granquist of Luther Seminary recently stated in the Journal of Lutheran Ethics that American Lutheran clergy are doing well compared to past generations, but still face situations that could cause financial strain. He wrote that one of the major issues going forward will be an "alarming rise in student debt load and financial issues for younger clergy."
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