More Pastor Expectations: Episode V (What does a pastor look like?)
"Why, you don't look like a pastor!" I'm not sure how to take that. I think it's meant as a compliment, which means what? That pastors are supposed to conform to a certain look?
Perhaps if I looked a little more like this guy, I'd be all set. They would believe I'm a pastor then, wouldn't they? One of my colleagues (I'll call him PD because that's what I always call him) wears a clerical collar when he's out and about and always wears a robe when he's preaching - that way, he "looks like a pastor."
Another friend likens the pastor's wear a robe to a judge - nobody questions a judge who wears a robe in the courtroom, so why would anyone question a pastor wearing a robe in church? I think this is why I don't wear a robe, however. I don't want to be seen as a "judge" or as set apart from the congregation. Believe me, I'm set apart enough just by not being from here and by having the title "Pastor" - I don't need to do more by what I wear. In fact, I find that I am much more approachable than people seem to expect of their pastor.
Usually, it seems that people expect the pastor to be (or at least look) older than I am (or look). Our conference has a dearth of clergy under age 35 (and as of my birthday, I am no longer one of those pastors).
I'm not sure how to respond to the "you don't look old enough to be a pastor" comments. The responses that come to mind aren't usually very appropriate. And then there was the time when I was visiting with a family who had just lost a loved one, and one of the female family members said something along the lines of "you're too good looking to be a pastor." Yikes.
But to be honest, I think the perception is generally true. At least in the UMC, pastors are older than I am, and many, many of them aren't nearly in the same kind of shape as I am in. W-A-Y too many pastors tell bad jokes about putting an addition on 'the temple' or I'm in shape - round is a shape and so forth. If you've ever attended our Annual Conference gathering, there are several categories of minorities. There are racial minorities, there are the non-gray-haired minorities, and there are the skinny minorities. It's pretty obvious why our health care costs are skyrocketing.
I understand what causes many pastors to be out of shape - it's hard to set aside time to eat healthy and to exercise. We spend so much time sitting and driving, and we have a lot of duties to perform (and still preach an invigorating, original sermon each Sunday), so what gets cut? Often exercise. And we're stressed out most of the time, which isn't good on our physique either. And to top it all off, many of us don't have anyone keeping us accountable. But just because those reasons are there doesn't make us have to fall victim to them again and again.