Duties and Responsibilities of Pastors

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Your pastor might be a counselor, preacher, wedding officiant, teacher or youth group leader -- or all of those and more. In many Protestant denominations, the pastor is the primary spiritual leader in the church, shepherding his congregation in all aspects of religious practices and church life. In the Catholic church, on the other hand, the pastor may be just one of several who assist a more senior priest. In every case, the pastor is expected to be a person of good character and integrity, firm in his beliefs, and available to his congregants far beyond a regular nine-to-five workday.

Spiritual Leadership

  • One of the primary roles of most pastors, particularly those serving in Protestant churches, is that of the congregation's ministerial leader. This includes preaching at church services, ministering to church members needing counseling or advice, and officiating at communion, weddings, baptisms and funerals. In large churches, the pastor may be assisted by an associate pastor, but he is the primary preacher, leader and officiant in the church. He might also be called on to supervise religious education in the church, and lead classes or Bible studies.

Administrative and Managerial Functions

  • A church pastor is typically the nominal head of all the church's administrative activities and committees, including budgeting and finance, strategic planning, outreach and mission work and religious education. In reality, much of this work is conducted by church members active on the various committees, but the pastor is ultimately responsible to both the congregation and the denomination's regional hierarchy for the smooth functioning of all aspects of church life. He also plays a key role in selecting and managing the church staff, from the church secretary to the choir director to the children's ministry coordinator.

Counselling and Guidance

  • A challenging but essential aspect of being a pastor is creating and maintaining personal connections with members of his congregation. This may include participating in social events with church groups, hosting newcomers in his home or visiting ill or home-bound congregants. Pastors often provide premarital and marriage counseling, work with church members facing health, financial or personal crises, and offer guidance to individuals and families facing end-of-life issues. A further, key aspect of the counseling aspect of any pastor's job is working with those who are facing a crisis of faith or questioning the tenets of the church.

Catholic Pastors

  • In the Catholic church, pastors are priests who typically serve as assistants to the bishop or monsignor who carries out most of the leadership and administrative duties for the parish. A parish pastor can assist the priest with the sacraments, perform home and hospital visits, participate in the church's religious education programs and hear confession. According to Canon Law, he is authorized to carry out some supervisory functions and provide "light correction." In smaller, or geographically remote parishes, the pastor often assumes the full range of duties normally performed by a more senior priest, particularly when there are an insufficient number of priests to go around.

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