Why would a church pastor be one of the hardest jobs?

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Forbes has released a list of the toughest leadership roles - and a church pastor ranks among them.

Among the nine most challenging jobs are a university president, football coach and corporate CEO.   A church pastor comes in at number five but the number one spot, however, is reserved for stay-at-home parents.

Though the pros of such an occupation are noted as "comfortable, stretchy sweat-pant uniforms" and the fact that washing daily becomes "optional", the article also underlines just how mammoth the task actually is, with a calculated value of $100,000 a year.

And, the author points out, "Even if you do your job right, the little ingrates move on and leave you with an empty nest".

So how has "Pastor, Rabbi, Mullah or Other Holy Leader" come to make the top five?

"Being a pastor is like death by a thousand paper cuts," Reverend Dr Ken Fong of Evergreen Baptist Church, in California, tells Forbes.

"You're scrutinised and criticised from top to bottom, stem to stern. You work for an invisible, perfect Boss, and you're supposed to lead a ragtag gaggle of volunteers towards God's coming future.

"It's like herding cats, but harder," he adds.

Though this response is slightly tongue in cheek, the hardships of leadership are often forgotten or played down. Those given a degree of authority, or even just a microphone and a platform, are somehow considered to be above the petty fears and failures of us 'normal' folk below.

This makes leadership a lonely place to be, and while some top corporate positions have a corresponding wage level in an attempt to balance things out, the same can't usually be said of a church leader, and besides – money doesn't get you anywhere in the Kingdom of heaven.

In addition, managing people who are offering their time for free is no easy task. "Most of the workers in a church are volunteers who will not do something just because it's their job," explains Rob Jackson, interim pastor at a Presbyterian church in Ohio.

"Managers of volunteers must always lead by demonstrating a vision for our mission and how their work fits into it."

Those in ministry are often expected to excel at everything - being pastoral, prophetic, a natural evangelist and a fantastic teacher. Decisions are often left to them to make alone, and the life of the church can often appear to rest solely on those with a few letters in front of their name.

Perhaps it's no wonder, therefore, that people hide from leadership positions in a church context, and those that take it on often struggle silently. A vicar from Carlisle recently told me of a friend he had trained at college with who quit just one week after taking on his first role as an ordained priest - the pressure was too much for him to handle.

Last year several US pastors took their lives - including Isaac Hunter, the son of megachurch leader Joel Hunter - and Bradford Methodist minister Paul Flowers caused controversy when his drug addiction came to light here in the UK.

The cost of church leadership is huge, so perhaps it's no surprise that it's been recognised as one of the most difficult tasks. The implications of this mean that congregations have a responsibility to support those in authority and cheer them on, encourage them in their personal walk with God and express gratitude for their service.

It's not all bad though, as Forbes that at least as a pastor, "You're seen as a man or woman of God, and what you say gets taken seriously, [if only] momentarily."

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