Ten Things Pastors Wish They Knew Before They Became Pastors

In an informal survey of pastors, I asked a simple question:

What do you wish you had been told before you became a pastor?

Some of the responses were obvious. For me, a few were surprises.

I note them in order of frequency of response, not necessarily in order of importance. After each item, I offer a representative quote from a pastor.

  1. I wish someone had taught me basic leadership skills. “I was well grounded in theology and Bible exegesis, but seminary did not prepare me for the real world of real people. It would have been great to have someone walk alongside me before my first church.”
  2. I needed to know a lot more about personal financial issues. “No one ever told me about minister’s housing, social security, automobile reimbursement, and the difference between a package and a salary. I got burned in my first church.”
  3. I wish I had been given advice on how to deal with power groups and power people in the church. “I got it all wrong in my first two churches. I was fired outright from the first one and pressured out in the second one. Someone finally and courageously pointed out how I was messing things up almost from the moment I began in a new church. I am so thankful that I am in the ninth year of a happy pastorate in my third church.”
  4. Don’t give up your time in prayer and the Word. “I really don’t ever remember anyone pointing me in that direction. The busier I became at the church, the more I neglected my primary calling. It was a subtle process; I wish I had been forewarned.”
  5. I wish someone had told me I needed some business training. “I felt inadequate and embarrassed in the first budget meetings. And it really hit home when we looked at a building program that involved fund raising and debt. I had no clue what the bankers were saying.”
  6. Someone should have told me that there are mean people in the church. “Look, I was prepared to deal with critics. That’s the reality of any leadership position. But I never expected a few of the members to be so mean and cruel. One church member wrote something really cruel on my Facebook wall. Both my wife and children cried when they read it.”
  7. Show me how to help my kids grow up like normal kids. “I really worry about the glass house syndrome with my wife and kids. I’m particularly worried that my children will see so much of the negative that they will grow up hating the church. I’ve seen it happen too many times.”
  8. I wish I had been told to continue to date my wife. “I was diligent in dating my wife before I became a pastor. I then got so busy helping others with their needs that I neglected her. I almost lost my marriage. She felt so alone as I tried to meet everyone’s needs but hers.”
  9. Someone needed to tell me about the expectation of being omnipresent. “I had no idea that people would expect me to be at so many meetings, so many church socials, and so many sports and civic functions. It is impossible to meet all those expectations, so I left some folks disappointed or mad.”
  10. I really needed help knowing how to minister to dying people. “Some of those who have terminal illnesses have such a strong faith that they minister to me. But many of them are scared and have questions I never anticipated. I was totally unprepared for these pastoral care issues when I first became a pastor.”

How do you respond to this list? What would you add?

Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog series at Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.


  1. says

    I wish someone would have told me that dealing with dying parishioners will cause me to have to work through issues of my own mortality on a regular basis.

    (Not a bad thing, but one for which I was unprepared)

      • Greg Hyche says

        I am not trying to impress anyone but it should be of no surprise, but I learned more about practical real world ministry from Dr. Rainer Dr. Kevin Ezell and Dr. Chuck Lawless than from anyone during my studies at SBTS. All three men have walked and are walking the road we as pastors travel. I have learned to listen and follow those who understand the world of practical ministry. I also pastored 2 churches while in seminary. Sometimes you can’t learn until you get out of the classroom and shepherd. It helps to make your mistakes in a small church during seminary.

        • Eva Marie Wolfe says

          You seem to be implying that it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes in a small church, as if somehow those people don’t matter because there are less of them. I’m sure that couldn’t be what you meant. Could you explain your last sentence?

          • Pat says

            Eva Marie – Notice how no one has responded to your comment? Writing off small congregations is all too common as pastors have their eyes focused on the tall steeple church. Wee Kirks are considered stepping stones… and yet they have loved and equipped many for highly effective ministry in congregations of all sizes. I have spent almost 30 years with small membership churches – 12 years in my current call. What a blessing.

          • Sue says

            Hi Pat,

            I responded earlier with an issue that I wish I had known as a new pastor; however, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t moved by the conversation about the smaller churches or ignoring their plight. My career has involved serving a variety of sizes of congregations. Currently I co-pastor with my husband and we serve both a 350 member and a 27 member church. We love them both and there is much to appreciate about each of them. We have served other small congregations as well and recognize that they often fall through the cracks. I don’t; however, think it’s fair to cast judgment on pastors and suggest they’re looking for tall steeple positions and don’t care about small congregations. I have known a number of clergy who have preferred small churches. We can’t overlook the fact that many small churches cannot afford to pay a full time pastor, and so clergy simply have to look for a place to serve that can. That is particularly true when both spouses are clergy, and/or have children. With the level of debt most seminary graduates have, the salaries offered by many small churches just aren’t enough.

            As to the question about making mistakes in a smaller church before moving to a larger. Perhaps this is pastor who did aspire to a tall steeple setting. Perhaps not. It isn’t fair to suggest that pastors think they can go to small churches so they can “work the kinks out” of their ministry skills and nobody will care about their mistakes. No pastor wants to make mistakes, and no pastor could honestly believe it’s okay to dump on the little churches as if they don’t matter. It’s about serving God and God’s people, not the size of the church. That said, I will say that I have personally found that smaller congregations have a different atmosphere about them and some even see themselves as a place to train new pastors, or they have been through a spiral of decline and are more open to new ideas and a few more mistakes than in the past. This pastor may have been blessed to serve such a congregation and thus learned valuable lessons without being cast out by an angry mob. Tall steeple churches often operate in a more “corporate” style, following the models of the business world where expectations of clergy can be about producing results that if aren’t met, spells certain doom. (Granted this can also be true in smaller churches, but perhaps the fact that they have a harder time finding a pastor makes them a bit more patient.) Some of the ugliest pastor/church dissolutions I have seen have happened in larger churches.

            It may be that those commenting on the small church are overlooking one of the gifts that smaller congregations may offer a pastor, and that’s a more relaxed spirit or a slower pace that affords a pastor a chance to learn together with the congregation in a way that can’t happen in larger churches. This may be true simply because there are not as many members, or it may be a very special kind of community that can be a blessing in helping a new pastor develop skills. I would also say that the opposite may be true for some pastors, that the larger church has been the place where it was best to make mistakes on their way to gaining more experience. I was disappointed to see assumptions made about the pastor who wrote his/her comment and about the aspirations of clergy. I would prefer to believe that if all are being called by God, the right sized church is there for every pastor – and that location is about gifts and talents more than top dollar paychecks. I pray for the day when all congregations have the resources to call the pastor they believe God wants for them; if that were true today, I am certain there would be many more pastors seeking smaller congregations.

          • Marshall Larson says

            As a Seminary student, I have served in small churches as a student pastor. Many of these small churches see themselves as a teaching church that equip new pastors in their first steps in ministry. It is their mission. It is good to make mistakes in a loving, nurturing environment.

          • C Porter says

            I started outside of seminary. As a new person in Christ I found a calling to the streets. It’s funny to read this. In the last 15 yrs preaching on the street. Most problems I have dealt with, was preachers coming out of schools and learning in small churchs pushing people away from our Christ Jesus. Only to leave the church looking for there next preacher JOB for more money. If our Lord truly calls you to the ministry, people get saved and there life changes for the good. If not you need to rethink what you do. If our Lord sends you in to battle, no matter what or where it is, you will prevail. So my wife and I minister to save and teach the way of Christ to the lost. Not for a business in financial gain.

          • Tracy says

            I want to second the concern about small churches. I have been on ordination committees in which we have seen marginal candidates, and inevitably some kind-hearted person will say, “but they’ll be fine somewhere, they’ll find a small loving congregation who’ll just be glad to have him/her.” The trouble is, small congregations are not merely cuddly old folks (such romanticism!) who are already strong in their own faith. Now I work with professional young adults, and I’m growing weary of hearing the stories about incompetent clergy who turned them off. You see, they were sitting in the pews in those small towns right next to their grandparents. We treat small churches as if they are churches with training wheels. How much harm can a young incompetent pastor do? –we think. I’m here to say, plenty.

        • Mike Bodnyk says

          Within the ELCA, students are required to do a one-year internship before ordination. Many of those original ten ” I wish’s” are dealt with, or at least begun to be dealt with, during the internship. Then, following internship, most ELCA students go back for a final year of seminary prior to ordination. During the final year, they can take elective subjects, based upon their internship experiences.

    • JW Johnson says

      I can completely understand where those questions would be at the forefront of Pastors minds (after) getting in to full-time Ministry. I’ve seen so many situations in various churches that would be enough to drive even the most devout of Ministers to re-think there profession! I’m interested in Pastoring a church, yet I am in the process of evaluating whether I would be better off planting a church, or taking over an existing ministry! I’m willing to do whatever God would lead me to! The world is a very (what can you do for me) society. I have this odd, yet hopeful belief that I can make a difference in people’s lives by showing how important it is to believe in Gods desire to have salvation for all! I do firmly believe that the Word of God has to be presented, and taught by people that are firm in their dedication and belief that Jesus will return, and that he wants everyone, not just a chosen few to be ready to join him for eternity! I hate to use this term, but because of how the world operates today, it’s a hard sale. And what’s sad is, it’s the best decision anyone could ever make, if they could just see through all of the nonsense and garbage that the world has to entice them with!

  2. Steve Drake says

    I can raise my hand to say I have experienced all 10 of these statements. Seminaries often fail to train students in the very important area of practical ministry. They are rightly concerned with teaching Bible and theology. We can’t preach what is right if we don’t know what’s right. But for those who are called to shepherd the sheep, we need training in “sheepology.” For pastors who did not get that kind of training or for pastors who entered the pastorate with no formal ministry training, I encourage them to find a group of pastors with whom they can fellowship routinely. It will be a place where less is discussed about soteriology and more is discussed about sheepology.

    • says

      I agree with you Dr. Drake. I took The Practice of Ministry class when I was at SBTS but we never touched on these “where the rubber meets the road” issues. I would be great to be able to have a more experienced pastor as a mentor in addition to having a small group of pastors to meet with on a regular basis.

      • Steve Drake says

        Todd, I agree. The Practice of Ministry class is exactly where these topics should be discussed. So sorry your class “never touched on these issues.” Hopefully now you will be able to join a group of pastors or start a group. Coming your way is a young pastor who also didn’t get to study “rubber hits the road” issues. Be ready when he moves into the pastorate down the road from you, to be the source of wisdom he will need to succeed in the sheep pen.

  3. Brian Prucey says

    I wish someone had told me that some churches don’t want a visionary pastor-leader. Some churches only want a pastor-caretaker to help them maintain the status quo.

      • riley says

        Why is that sad? What exactly is wrong with maintaining the status quo? Why does every group need a “vision? What’s wrong with the vision that brought them to their “status quo”?

        • Paul says

          I’d like to suggest that every church should be interested in discerning and following God’s vision and not being satisfied until He calls us Home. We can watch in awe of God as He maintains the status quo of awesome perfection in heaven, but until then, I suggest we still have a ways to go and should be open to the ongoing work of sanctification and transformation that God has for His Church.

    • says

      Man is that true!!! You’re in for a painful time if those expectations aren’t clear from the get-go…and they usually aren’t. What folks say they want and what they actually want are two different things.

    • Michael Mays says

      This is true for us music ministers, too. Really frustrating when a church brings you in with the stated expectation to “take our worship to the ‘next level'” and then complain when you do so. I’ve also found it doesn’t really help to point this out. Apparently people don’t like being reminded of what they’ve said.

      • Travis Prince says

        I could not agree more. A lot of churches(especially aging churches) see the positives of changing worship styles, but when the “rubber meets the road,” they are unable to step out of their comfort zone. It’s difficult to make even small changes. Often, these are the churches that are closing… not, I believe, because of their worship style, but because their inflexibility is only demonstrated in their reluctance to change worship style. The problem is deeper and often goes unaddressed. We, as worship leaders and music ministers, are just the low-hanging fruit.

    • Dean B says

      I have seen pastors advertise themselves as a “visionary pastor-leader”, but what does that mean? Of all the qualifications in the Bible for an elders I do not see anything about being a visionary. Preach – keep on keeping on (status quo); Administer the Sacraments – keep on keeping on (status quo); Disciple people – keep on keeping on (status quo); Pray with and for the sheep – keep on keeping on (status quo); Evanglize the lost – keep on keeping on (status quo); …

      Why would a church need a “visionary”? We need faithful pastors who pass down the Gospel to the next generation.

      • Michael Mays says

        Dean, it may seem to be a semantic argument, but “keep on keeping on” is not status quo. Besides the fact that for most church laymen, “status quo” means “don’t ask any more of us than we’re doing,” the admonition of pastors to keep on preaching, keep on administering the sacraments, keep on discipling people, etc., is not status quo behavior. Just because our commission doesn’t change, it does not follow that our communication styles need not adapt nor our skills be refined. As in physics, there is no such thing as true, self-sustaining balance. We are always regressing or progressing–and the latter only ever comes, I believe, with your “keep on keeping on” encouragement.

        That having been said, the idea of being “visionary” is kind of a moving target–it could mean anything. In that context, the prospective minister would need to vet out what kind of “visionary” the church expects. And even then he’ll be wise to assume that the church may not really MEAN they want all that “visionary” after all.

        But I would contend that any “keep on keeping on” is, by nature, pressing forward (which we’re commanded to do–“toward the prize of the high calling”); anything else is, inevitably, regression. Status quo is a euphemism–we’re either moving forward or backward.

  4. says

    Thank you for this post. I am now beginning my third month as Lead Pastor. Reading this post caused my heart to overflow with gratitude to God for the preparation he allowed me to have prior to taking this role. As you know, I served as Associate Pastor for almost 10 years under Dr. Bill Bowyer at Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church. Because of that time of observing, and learning from, Bill (and other men who invested in me and my ministry), I would say that I felt at least somewhat prepared in all of the areas you noted above. I still see much room for personal growth in all of the areas. But, none of them have been overwhelming. I would encourage anyone who believes God is calling them to serve as pastor to look for an opportunity to serve alongside a seasoned, godly pastor (whether formally in a staff role, or even as an unpaid volunteer/intern). I do believe the seminaries must do a better job in the practical training of would-be pastors, given that their charters say they are to equip God-called men and women to serve local SBC churches (which means making sure they are “equipped” both theologically AND practically). There is simply no substitute, however, for learning practical ministry through first-hand observation and practice. Thank you for all of your posts. As a new Lead Pastor, I glean helpful information from them all.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thank you Randy. You were indeed blessed to serve alongside Bill. Blessings to you as you continue to grow in your new role.

  5. says

    Great post – dead on. Only thing I would add is: I wish someone would have told me about the importance of taking regular breaks, if only for a few days, every couple of months. The demands on a pastor spiritually, emotionally & physically are often overwhelming. I’m thankful I’m now in a place where I can take a 2 week break between most sermon series and can take the month of July off each summer. These breaks are refreshing and give me time to refocus. My personal physician, who is a committed Christian, told me when we first met to take at least one week off every three months. His father was a pastor who left the ministry to drive a truck because of the constant stress with no relief.

    • Thom Rainer says

      I hope all pastors read your comment BJ; and I wish more churches would allow pastors to take this time off.

      • says

        There are some churches that would just about fire a pastor for even asking for such a thing. For those who get some kind of sabbatical or break time between series count it a major blessing. One thing I would add to the list is some kind of training in how to determine the health of a church up front during the interview process. I think a lot of heartache, for pastors and churches, could be avoided if there were a better way to get to the root of a church’s health and intentions. Some churches are content in ignoring the great commission and are happy with their exclusive country club atmosphere. I learned the hard way…

    • says

      Our Presbytery put in a requirement a few years ago that all Pastors are required to take one “Holiday Day” each month outside of Vacation Days. Some months the holiday will be defined already (Christmas, Thanksgiving, July 4); in months without one of the major holidays the Pastor gets to pick. He just needs to notify the leadership (session, board?) about that day. It has been a huge blessing both to Pastors and congregations, since their Pastors are de-stressed a bit.

  6. says

    The problem of time management, as much when there is nothing pressing as when there is. Basically, how to take a Monday when you serve a rural church and there’s no one in the hospital, no events, and you have to sit down in your study and start working on the next sermon, get the mail, process the information from the day before. There are several things to do but no real order they have to be done in, and no one to really work through them with.

  7. Kent Hackathorn says

    Great list – What format would you use to communicate the needed info (actual Training) to the young future pastors within the context of the local church. What is one resource per category you recommend – Thanks

    • Thom Rainer says

      Kent –

      I wish I knew of such a resource. Maybe the readers can help. I do think all of this information can be taught in a mentoring relationship.

  8. says

    What I most wish is that I’d been apprenticed to a faithful pastor. Which is a more directly Biblical model, strictly speaking, than any seminary can manage.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thanks Dan. You are spot on. I would love to hear a discussion how we could make this need a wider reality.

      • says

        Thanks. And let me add that your list has many good items. But (as you requested) I was personalizing it and thinking the difference being told something would have made.

        Telling is important; but it needs to be mixed with doing, as Paul did. Some of us are, by turns, both slow-witted and stubborn. Or sometimes in combination. In such cases, merely hearing won’t do it.

        What’s best I think is instruction along with apprenticeship. That gives the info, then the freedom to test it out and fail in the context of a patient, loving, longsuffering experienced brother who will lift us back up and kick our butts as needed.

        For instance, when a pastor said “If you can do anything else, do it,” I thought he was just being sour. Experience taught me the truth to what he said. But merely hearing it didn’t do it.

        And so forth. (c:

  9. says

    Thanks Thom! I’ve encountered all 10 of those concerns directly or indirectly. I recieved a great theological education that focused on the practical application of what was learned. But as good as my education was, there are three factors that have been integral to my success as a Lead Pastor.

    First, I intentionally chose schools that sought to prepare leaders for where the church is headed tomorrow, not for where the church has been. This took time and might require some to choose schools outside their denominational framework.

    Second, I recieved my education while also gaining practical experience. This took a little longer, but it taught me to contextualize, process, and evaluate how to apply what I learned. As a coach, I spend a lot of time helping ministers navigate the gap between their education and its application to a the real world of ministry.

    Third, I served in youth ministry first. I’m a bit biased here, but There are elements, factors, and skills required in youth ministry that effective pastors desperately need. The best pastors I worked under were youth pastors first. In my research on the most effective emerging pastors, the same holds true. The best training I recieved for Senior Adult ministry? 20+ years of working with Jr. High students…they are very similar!

    Pastor search committees that put aside resumes from applicants who have been veteran youth ministers are passing on the best candidates. At a conference recently, Reggie Joiner shared that churches should not consider a pastoral candidate that has not had at least 5 years experience as a youth minister.

    Get a future-focused education, combine education with experience, and serve as a youth minister. You’ll be well prepared you’ll be to lead through all 10 of the concerns above.

  10. Danny Gilliam says

    This is probably covered in some of the other comments, but I wish someone would have explained to me the difference between formal duties and perceived expectations. I fill like in earlier pastorates I spent most of my time trying to fulfill people’s perceived expectations of a pastor.

  11. says

    Those points are heart-breaking brother. I feel for these men. Thanks for posting this. Hopefully, those who are considering the ministry will read this list so they will know what to expect in the ministry; both positive and negative.

  12. John Newland says

    I wish someone had told me that the ministry doesn’t have to be so serious that you cannot stop to celebrate victories and laugh.

    When you’re always serious, it burdens your family and leaves you uninvited when people want to just have some fun fellowship.

    • Thom Rainer says

      I love that perspective John. We are always to take our ministries seriously without taking ourselves too seriously.

  13. Patrick says

    I was blessed to have Dr. Drake in my first on-campus class at SBTS. He did train us in his experiences along these lines and I am better for it today as a pastor who is still clueless! I think sheepology was definitely taught well as we studied the Word and ministry together. Also sat by a guy you may know named Sam Rainer in that class. Thank you men for ministering to us pastors out here.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Patrick –

      I have heard countless positive comments about Dr. Drake and how so many got so much out of his practical teaching. And, yes, one of those students who still sings his praises was a guy I know named Sam Rainer.

    • Steve Drake says

      Patrick, Great to hear from you and I’ll bet you’re not “clueless.” If I remember correctly you were in an evening class. I miss you and Sam and all the students who took Formation for Christian Ministry.

  14. Rick says

    Spot on with this list. I attended a small school of preaching under the oversight of a local church of Christ. The downside academically is that it is not accredited (though course work can be transferred to college or university). The smaller setting, combined with studying under preachers who not only have academic degrees, but have many years of ministry experience, lends itself to biblical and practical balance. We were blessed tremendously in this way. I have served the same congregation since graduating 9 years ago, and have dealt with all these matters, and more. I cannot imagine having been better equipped for the downside of ministry in just two years. Thank you for the post.

  15. Drew Dabbs says

    I wish someone had told me that trying to lead a traditional, established church through necessary changes that will help reach lost and/or unchurched people is like trying to teach a snail how to run.

    Okay, so that’s not entirely true, but it is slow, painstaking, deliberate, and tedious work that will require much patience, persistence, caution, and wisdom.

    How long does it take?

    Dr. Rainer, you’re absolutely right.

    A lot longer than you think!

  16. Robby RIkard says

    I wish someone would have really stressed to me the value of patience and waiting for direction from God. Only after making a lot of mistakes have I come to realize that many times God delivers a vision over months even years.

  17. says

    I wish someone told me planting a church wouldn’t be difficult regarding the hard south Bronx community we’re trying to reach, but about the challenges of lethargic people who came to help. Just being real.

  18. Bert Ross says

    I wish I understood more of the undeclared vs the declared culture and values of the church. My heart is heavy that no one in our SBC convention wil stand up and own the number issue we face in our churches, that is practical leadership development for pastors and church staff.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Bert –

      This blog has a lot of readers, including those of us who could do something. At least your voice has been heard.

  19. Don Matthews says

    I wish someone would have helped me understand the importance of lifelong friendships and networks in the ministry. So many of my early friends in the ministry are no longer in the ministry. At the “latter days” of my ministry these friendships have become very important to me.

  20. Rodney Hall says

    Thom, can you nutshell the principles in “Eating The Elephant”? Given the fact that there seem to be so many established churches that are being ground to dust or just being given up on, I am assuming the principles would be very timely! And for my two cents, long before I was called into ministry Dr. Bob Willey at Lancaster Bible College told us that in any ministry your first ministry is to your family. I wish someone had told me that persistence in pursuing that principle would definitely pay off, and that it would be a life long pursuit. For, by the grace of God alone, I listened, and have found it to be true. Thank-you for your ministry!

  21. says

    Thanks, Rick. I’ve got 137 pastors that I am the DOM for and they need this kind of reminder, encouragement, and check-up. I’ll be “stealing” this for my April meetings! Thanks, bunches!

    • says

      Check out “Church Conflict: The Hidden Systems Behind the Fights.” It is a basic primer about Family Systems Theory and how to diagnose the power groups within the church. Very biblical. Very practical. Helped me alot.

  22. Derek Downer says

    This is sad to me! I am amazed these are the top ten. Hello churches have been teaching dating your wife, training up your children and having your own personal prayer time and Bible Study time as HUGE importance in your personal walk. As for the mean people in church– are you kidding me? Where have these guys been? Business and financial classes should be taught at seminary. You can even use the Bible!!!! I am amazed these are the top ten. Now I know why so many Baptist churches are dead and so many others are dying!!!!!!!

  23. says

    I agree with the list. Thankfully I served under men of God that taught me how to deal with some of these issues. Im on my third year leading a church and do I have to grow! Sadly, I have been helping many new and old pastors deal with administration issues at their churches. My school didnt teach me these things that are so important and can cause a pastor to fail in ministry, but glad my family did. We teach basic accounting principles to small churches and it has been a blessing to all.

  24. says

    I am not a pastor yet. But I must say that I am aware of, and believe that with God’s help I could handle, each of these issues. Many mention that seminary did not prepare them for that. I praise God that my seminary has taken the time to do just that. I know it’s far different learning about it than actually going through it. But at least I will not be blindsided and I know God is my strength.

    I graduate in May. My wife and I are missionaries and hope to be on the field by next summer.

  25. says

    My problem with so much “leadership” is it’s too worldly. To power and personality oriented. I think practical servantship is where we should start. Not ruling out “Leading” altogether, just saying it needs a New Testament context. Jesus came to seek and save, He came to serve, He washed feet, but he was an effective leader, too. I haven’t got this all figured out, I’m still flailing at times like an octopus out of water. But, I know enough to love and serve and then try to figure out how to lead.

  26. David Highfield says

    This is an excellent piece and should be sent to the student pastor program of every seminary. Regarding children, I think it helped mine to never live next-door to the church building. Regarding finances, I once followed a pastor who was lacking in this area and often ask the church for An advance on his salary. They thought I was also incompetent financially and were surprised when that was not the case.

      • says

        Dr. Rainer (or any others),
        Are you aware of any printed or electronic resources that deal with the pros & cons of living in a church parsonage vs. living in your own home that’s not next door to the church? Virtually everything I’ve heard/seen is anecdotal and would like to see something with a bit more substance to it. Additionally, are you aware of any resources, apart from direct consultation with state-level denominational leaders, that might assist in helping a church transition from the church-owned parsonage paradigm to the minister-owned home paradigm?

        I’m not necessarily looking to push the envelope that way, but I want to be able to offer resources should those conversations begin to take place, something other than my own thoughts and opinions.

        • Margrit says

          As a church leader, I’d be very interested in what you come up with. My church used to have a lovely home available to the pastor, which was not next to the church, but in the same community. When the pastor retired after over 25 years of faithful service, he did not own his own home and had no equity, etc. I feel that his retirement assets do not reflect his faithfulness in ministry. My church has had to sell the parsonage in the meantime, but I wonder if there might be a better model of compensation, that helps a pastor move toward owning his own home so he has a better retirement?

  27. Simon Mawdsley says

    It’s good to know that when a group of sinners (albeit forgiven) are grouped together in a Church and commanded to love one another, sparks will fly. It’s inevitable and to be expected. No one ever told me that. I so wish they had!

  28. Patrick Heeney says

    Thank you for your post. I found it due to a friend posting on Facebook. I have spent 20 years in ministry in the background, without positions or titles. Just helping. Last July, 2012 I took my first pastorate. I believe working in the background, but with my eyes and ears open, helped me learn many things on your list. One other thing, not on your list, is how much more we need Holy Spirit leading, and less calculated planning. Paul planned out his missionary journeys just to be forbade. The Holy Spirit sent him in a different direction and opened up all of Europe to the Gospel when he headed up towards Phillipi. We can plan and calculate all we want, but God knows the big picture. We need to be so familiar with God’s leading we can hear the slightest whisper. Not need a loud voice. He knows who needs us most, when and where. We need to be more fluid, allowing God to minister through us, not just decide what we are going to do “for Him”.

  29. David F. Bays says

    I felt sorry reading about the Pastor and realized that these are real issues that Pastor’s really deal with. I am in agreement before a man takes his first Church, he should be an associate Pastor to an older Pastor who has been through many of these experiences. Age gives you the opportunity to help the young Pastors. We need to be praying for our Pastors and Churches more. I had the opportunity to work under a couple older men and I watched how they handled those type problems. Young Pastors need to seek the advice of some older Pastors on how to hanle problems.

  30. says

    I just finished reading Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp and this book will prevent a couple of those. I wish that it were a requirement for every Pastor and minister.

  31. says

    This is a great article, but it brings up a point that I’ve been wrestling with that really grinds me, and that is – You can’t really learn these things until you’re hit by them a few times. I think that some of the best learning I had for ministry was when I was doing full time work at both Seminary at GordonConwell and doing Youth Work in Lexington MA – it was good to learn in two different ways. But for those who are more deep into the books and putting the lessons to the grind during school didn’t happen – it is important to have a few older, wiser pastors who can mentor you while you go through the process. With modern communication, having a mentor and holding onto them throughout your life is a good goal to have. Some of the brokeness happens in the midst of isolation, and feeling you have no one who cares about the craziness in your own life. Shepherds need shepherding and that’s a good thing. I like the concept of Sandwiching. Being mentored while mentoring someone else. It gives and gets and all of it brings growth and can help relieve the feeling of aloneness that occurs periodically in ministry. Oh, and you don’t feel as ignorant of dumb after hearing stories that retired ministers can sometimes laugh about.

  32. Teri Summers-Minette says

    Haven’t seen this one yet . . . maybe it’s just the part of the country I serve. But I really wish someone had told me what to do when congregation members wear their guns to church. I’m serious. Open carry laws are making for some strange situations.

  33. Sue says

    Thanks for this article, if for no other reason than the affirmation that we don’t go through these things alone. I am thankful that many aspects of the Marriage and Family Therapy program at LPTS influenced their practical theology. The one thing I wish I’d known before entering the ministry is that no matter how much training and knowledge you acquire, there will always be surprises. I have served congregations with reputations for their conflict and clergy killing. (That probably says something about my sanity since I went into them with eyes open.) I took classes on conflict management in Seminary, took the Healthy Congregations training, and even got to work with Speed Leas of the Alban Institute as he consulted with the church where I was employed. I began ministry thinking I was prepared. What I learned is that all the training in the world can help you see when it’s time to put on your crash helmet; but once you’re the target, you can’t do much to work on conflicted situations anymore. AND, if you are diligent about dealing with unhealthy patterns there’s a good chance you’re going to become the target. Sometimes the best you can do is model grace under fire. You learn to celebrate the times when conflict is resolved and healthier behavior is practiced – but it sure is hard work.

  34. Rev. Susan Wallace Moriarty says

    I can honestly say that I too have experienced all 10 at one time or another in the last almost 25 years of ministry. And ministry has given me some of the best and most painful experiences of my life. I was so not prepared for the mean spirited, unhealthy personalities of so many in the church. I have come close to leaving ministry more than once, I did leave parish ministry for the last 8 years doing hospice ministry. What I can say I learned in Hospice that I wish had been taught in Seminary or at least that I would have learned it earlier, was the maintenance of healthy boundaries. Had I learned that early on, I think things would have been less painful. But, there is a need to teach the church members again that although they do pay our paycheck, they do not OWN us.

  35. says

    I am thankful that I was taught all of these things or exposed to the issues in seminary at NOBTS 1998-2001. Can’t speak for now…been a lot of changes. However, most of these things are common sense or they are really things that can’t truly be taught by a seminary. In many instances, it is the pride of “I got this” of youth that rejects the need for mentorship or wisdom of older pastors and church members that hinder leaders. With the available resources in our modern age, there is really simply no excuse to be so blindsided by so many of these issues raised. I served in LA, MS, and TN and I don’t know if I’ve ever been to a convention event that didn’t offer resources for issues dealing with finances and business issues for the church and minister. I am no longer SBC. But not having the resources and helps to navigate all of these issues is simply not an SBC problem. They might not be utilized by young pastors…but they are certainly available, easy to access, and sufficiently promoted. My convictions may have changed and I had many frustrations with SBC leaders….but the support for the ministry is simply unmatched by other groups.

  36. Fran Lane-Lawrence says

    I attended LPTS and feel the seminary addressed each of these issues the best that it was able in the time set aside for formal theological education. What I haven’t seen addressed in the comments or the article is the local congregation’s responsibility to help theologically educate pastors. Theological education does not just take place in seminary – if it does then we are in REALLY big trouble. Theological education is a partnership between seminaries, churches, parents, and other sisters and brothers in Christ. Theological education should start when we first bring our children through the doors of the church and last until we join the Church Triumphant. There are flaws and gaps in the system of theologically educating our pastors and those who serve Christ’s church in ministries beyond the church walls. I don’t think all those flaws can be placed squarely on the shoulders of our seminaries. We need to realize the ways each of us, elders and church members, have failed to be good partners with our seminaries.

  37. Dan Narva says

    First time commenter, not a pastor. I did lose a very faithful pastor a couple of years ago who did all that he could to pastor according to a biblical model. Reflecting on this, being savvy to a church’s ethos, “identity”, culture, soil – whatever you want to call it – would seem to be critical. When the pastor fulfills his role as a prophet, he will be loved by some but hated by others. Reform according to Scripture’s authority and sufficiency can be very painful if not deadly; teaching Scriptural truth that hasn’t been taught in a few years serves as a good “soil test”.

  38. says

    This is a wonderful piece! Thanks for bringing these issues to the forefront. As I read through these issues, I can see area of weakness for me, but there was also another thought that I had in my mind – one of gratitude. After graduating, I was a pastor of student ministries for 8 years. During the first 5 1/2 years, the senior pastor shepherded me beyond what I could have expected. It hurt at times, but it was a very helpful hurting. Looking back, I can see that he was doing “shephardology” with me.

    Now, I still know I have blind spots and there are areas where “I don’t know what I don’t know,” but I also see so many more things because God used a very godly lead pastor to shape and sharpen me in ministry.

  39. Margrit says

    I am not a pastor, but do have a fair bit of theological training, both formal and informal from many years in the church. Your article is interesting to me as a church leader. I feel for our pastors, as I know churches have so many expectations that we put on them, especially so in small churches where there is only one pastor. Similar expectations are also often had for the volunteer church leaders, who may or may not have theological and/or leadership training. Pastors supposedly have training on how to lead/pastor churches… but who teaches the congregation how to work with the pastor and other leaders? Modern congregations are not even remotely homogenous, in that some people are mature in faith and long-time participants in the church, while others are new and have no idea what’s even in the Bible. So the expectations toward those in leadership will be all over the place. It occurs to me that maybe we need to work on what it means to live together in community. It’s not just about leadership, whether your perspective is “top-down” or “servant” leadership — but how do we live together when we hurt each other because we’re all imperfect beings, regardless of our spiritual maturity or title. I’ve found Henri Nouwen’s book, “In the Name of Jesus” to be very insightful. I think the reality of living in community is very difficult for us, but a worthy one to consider.

  40. says

    todays church has gotten to be an organization , a business . that was not Gods intention. we need to get back to reaching the lost not socials and pleasing man. all these pastors seemed to start off with all the zeal that the apostles had. but all seem to have been sorely let down by their churches.

  41. James Briggs says

    I wish someone had told me how psychologically damaged smaller churches are primarily because of the constant regular turnover in the pastorates. I have had to deal constantly with gun shy and mistrusting sheep that are always waiting for the other shoe to drop and their pastor to leave them for a church that pays more or is in a more advantageous area. All three churches I have served on staff at as a youth pastor and now as a pastor at my first pastorate have shown signs of this because every 3-4 years their young pastors have left them for something better.

    • gloia Bonds says

      people don’t believe in staying in small churches to me it’s all about Money. or making self look good
      Not the one who Die on the cross JESUS

  42. says

    I found several wise older pastors in the community to help me when I started facing some of these issues. Max, Brian, and Robert really helped me when I had people and leadership problems. They were faithful prayer partners and our friendship is probably what kept me in the ministry. No one ever told me that “sheep bite”!

  43. says

    I have experienced each and every one of these. Sometimes I wish I had been forewarned. Other times I think, “Even if I was told, I’m not sure it would have prepared me.” Maybe not completely. But it sure would have dulled the blow of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in ministry.
    Thank you for the post!

  44. Jeremy says

    While I am not a Senior Pastor I have seen it multiple times. I wish someone would teach how to prepare a church for SUCCESSFUL transition after a pastor has been in place for decades and decides to retire/move on.

    • Michael says

      Mostly that is because the leader has done it all and not properly taught/imparted and released people into their ministries/callings.
      In short Churchianity based around a building and others of the flock.

  45. says

    I wish I would have knew how easy it is to get subtly sucked into the sub-culture of the church office, having Christian-only friends and lose ongoing relationships and valuable insight from non-Christians. Without that, we can easily forget how we come across, language, what are the questions we need to respond to and more importantly how to respond because our approach of responding will likely be different to those inside the church and already Christian than aren’t. Same end answer, but how we get there differs and I think we forget that. —- Thanks for this post and love your blog and your incredible research and insight you bring. – Dan

  46. Lindy says

    Great article. You can tell by the number of posts that you hit a nerve! For me, in addition to the point about “dealing with power people,” I think another key thing that I wish I had learned before becoming a pastor is how to deal with DISAPPOINTMENT. People leave the church. Trusted friends in the church betray you. Some people refuse to change no matter how Biblical a suggested change may be. Unmet expectations–for the pastor, as well as for those he seeks to lead. I have heard it said that for pastors, disappointment just goes with the territory. That may be true. But it doesn’t mean it’s easy. Wouldn’t it have been nice to have had a greater measure of coping skills before you walked into the fire?!

    • Thom Rainer says

      Thanks so much Lindy. Your comments are excellent! There are still a lot of people reading this post, so they will benefit from your contribution.

      • Michael says

        All your comments both yours and others are to do with Churchianity, not Christianity.
        Jesus came to do 3 things.
        1. undoing the works of the devil.
        2. model a true relationship with our Father.
        3. model planting a church planting movement of discipleship, spiritual warfare and love.

        the first one we can’t do, for He has done it and we do it, in and through Him.
        But the 2nd and 3rd we can do and should.
        The church was never meant or planned to be a standing army, maneuvering in fixed geographic sites and areas, but a guerrilla army led of the Holy Spirit to move into and out of Lives, places and spaces as He led.
        a virus that cannot be contained if you like.
        Buildings are not the key but hearts.
        We become less and He becomes more and we love one another so that they know we are his disciples….
        Sound like most churches you know?
        Keep on keeping on.

  47. Shayne says

    As a young man training for pastoral ministry, thank you so much for this list and for the attending comments. As one who has struggled with the practical outworkings of the local church, but has a pastor who loves the Lord and seeks to be a faithful minister of the Word… I would encourage other young men who desire a good thing (ie – elder/pastoral ministry) to patiently sit under those who God has placed you under. Learn from them, seek to be a blessing to them and their families, seek to edify the body and see Christ glorified as you humbly submit to God’s providential opportunity for you to learn, serve, and grow. (obviously – there may be situations where this is not advisable theologically… but hear my heart)

    As one who is blessed to have fellowship with and is being mentored by a pastoral staff, who meets regularly with a group of pastors and learns from their experiences and what God has done, is doing, and even to see their hearts for what God is leading them toward…. I would encourage you who have commented above… who have expressed the desire that someone would have done this for you… to endeavor to be faithful in mentoring those who God is raising up even in your fellowship (or the new pastor in town or the next town over). Please do not let the opportunity to train up faithful men slip through your hands. Meet with them once a week or every couple of weeks…. meet with a group of men even… pour into them… and I promise that it will be an encouragement to you.

    One of my dear friends, a pastor who meets with our group, told me once that this is one of the most valuable things that he has done in his 20+ years of ministry… and what I can’t express is how much it means to me and my dear brothers who seek only to be faithful to the calling we have received.

  48. says

    As a Pastor/Planter in a high impoverished community, I wish I would’ve had more relevant training and mentors that understood generationsl poverty, addiction, poor education, and cultural bondage. I look back at so many missed opportunities due to not having tangible mentors and training that dealt with my specific ministry context.

  49. says

    I’m really late to this topic, but the one thing I wish people had told me before I became a pastor, was that I was likely to spend some, if not most or all of my time pastoring a Small Church. After all, 90% of churches in America are under 250 people, which means that’s where 90% of lead pastorates are.

    I also wish they’d told me how to pastor a Small Church well. I was taught how to break the 200 barrier, for instance, but was never taught how to pastor a church well under 200. And I was never taught what to do if the church never broke the 200 barrier, either.

    • Michael says

      Good Point Karl.
      The reality Jesus did teach how to pastor 12 people.
      Remember He came to –
      1. undo the work of the devil.
      2. model a relationship with our Father.
      3. model planting a church planting movement for us to see and do whilst we are in this world.
      If you’re re-imaging what you have or got, then you aren’t modeling what Jesus did, are you?
      Get on with it, you did not choose Him, He chose you and chose you to bear fruit, fruit that would last.
      That means people doing exactly what He did, you are the model, coach, trainer, brother, friend, “real” leader so that they can be better than you if they choose.

  50. kimron kaganda says

    My neighbors some people in this world we are living in now have lost faith.What i do believe is things never changed. it will always be the God’s call for one to become a pastor.PASTORS,RABBI,PREACHERS AND BAPTISTS are anointed by GOD through Jesus.Therefore my neighbors follow what you’ve been dreaming and visions you get, sometimes try to write them down they might be God’s messages for u.

  51. phillip says

    I’m a Pastor in a small township, I’m so glad to read about u comment, i love u guys to visit our assembly
    Keep it up

  52. says

    Really helpful! Both the post and indeed the comments. I was looking for something to this effect. I am grateful for this as I am preparing amm.. going into ministry. Prayers folks.
    With love,
    Muhozya, A.G.
    Dar es Salaam.

  53. Tony Macklin says

    Hi Thom, over my many years I have been to many churches and many denominations and its been my experience that the biggest mistake that most ministers make is simply not being a real person. Many get so entrenched in the church that they become insular and lose touch. Many of the 10 things relate to those issues. Nearly every church sermon is preaching items fom the gospels but the ministers have forgotten to translate them into relevant topics for people today and as such most of the sermons become boring and useless. Try finding a reading in scripture that tells parents how to deal with drugs and sex and teenagers or how the pressures of modern-day workplaces impact on relationships and so on. Nearly all ministers I have met have their heart in the right place but organised religions maintain such influence that they are hamstrung. All we need to do is keep it real and remember two things – first the golden rule “do unto other as you would have them do unto you”. Take this to heart and nearly all other teachings and or commandments are no longer necessary and to help apply it to today my second point – “people were meant to loved and things meant to be used not the other way around” Good luck in your future endeavours.
    Tony Macklin

    • Ellen says

      Great point on how sermons are often preached from the Gospel, but with no relevance. I am not a minister, or any kind of church leader. but a member of a church. I used to go a few different Protestant Churches, and later converted to the Catholic faith. In my eyes, there is a world of difference in how sermons/homilies are preached. In the Catholic Churches, a majority of the homilies are preached with everyday topics and tied really well into the Gospels and the other readings. No church is perfect. In the past, I have felt alienated by the past churches that I have gone to. They focused more social activities and obligations, and less on God and loving one another.

      In reading this article, numbers 3, 6, and 7 really hit home. What I would like to add may tie more to #7 teach your kids to grow up like normal kids. I think that it is important to remember that this needs to apply to the entire congregation. Yes, people should find time in church, but they also need time to live their own lives and carry out their real responsibilities outside of church, i.e. family, jobs, health/wellness, friends, recreation. The list goes on. If the members of a congregation are supposed to connect with one another, then there should be a true interest in other people, not just the obligation of seeing someone on Sunday. Do people in churches make real friends, or are they just mere relationships. It brings up another point of whether it is appropriate or not to share too much information in a church, such as personal problems. I think that is a big reason why there is so much gossip in churches. If a person does confide in someone, there should be a valid mutual trust so that it is kept between them, and not spread like wildfire. I don’t know if that makes sense or not. This brings up how some of the priests in the Catholic Churches have directed people in homilies on how to serve. We have three or four levels on how we are to serve, God, Family, and whatever we choose as our #3.our job (service to others), and #4 something leisurely or recreational so that we have time for ourselves.

      I would also like to add church congregations need to understand that they are not the only group of believers. My experience with some churches is that they believe that they are the only “true believers”. They were particularly harsh about non-Christian believers, such as Jewish, Muslims, etc. That is the wrong way to guide people. If people would just learn to listen to others, they would grow more in their faith. That is the main reason why I joined the Catholic Church because I think that they do a better job than other churches.

      I think with the last point you made, you really hit it on the head, to live by the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. My church always finds a way to stick that in just about every homily. In looking at the 10 Commandments, it is said that the first two are the most important, but it has been added that if we break any of the other commandments, we are also breaking the first and second commandment along with the others. I also like your last point, the people were meant to be loved and things were to meant to be used and not the other way around. I think, right there, is a very important piece to remind people on because we have become a materialistic society, with all the technology. Just observe in services, when you are presiding at a church service. You will probably notice that there are at least two or three people who insist on texting when they should be attentive in church. Honestly, in my church it apparently has become a problem that it is a norm to remind people to turn off cell phones. One of the parishes even has a sign that says “unless you are expecting a call from God, please turn off your cell phones”.

      Good luck in your endeavors. We are in a world were we are continuously growing and learning.

  54. Drew says

    I wish someone would have prepared me to find a job after college. I feel like I’ve joined some serious competition for any position. I knew it was brutal for secular jobs, but now churches are bombarded with hundreds of resumes. Where are all the churches that need an under-shepherd?

    • Michael says

      where is the calling, what God calls He pays for surely.
      Why does it have to be F/T pastorate?
      Start a business.
      See what he does…..
      properly disciple those He puts (already has) in your life.
      you are on an adventure now university can prepare you for>>>>>>

  55. says

    Hello, What an awesome post! I am just beginning in ministry. I was always taught to respect pastors and leaders in the church and even when I was in the world there was a certain etiquette I learned when it came to pastors and those in leadership. So I’m really surprised to hear how mean and bold people can be!

    My question is sort of related to the post. When it came to family members and long-term friends in the beginning did they take you seriously? Maybe you’ve lived in such a way that people have always known what an awesome man of God you are. I’ve found that because I was so lost for so long that when I accepted the Lord and changed my life and now I’ve started my ministry people know that and still treat me like I haven’t changed at all. Like I still want to hear profanity, gossip, etc. What am I doing wrong? I’m not trying to sound self-righteous please tell me if I am because I just want to know. I pray daily because the enemy is always trying to throw that in my face for example: Who do you think you are?” “Nobody cares about your ministry this is just a phase.”

    I’m not who I was and I still have my struggles, but I don’t want to hear gossip anymore. I don’t want to hear cursing anymore I don’t want those things anymore but I’m thinking maybe because I’m not a “pastor” or in an official leadership position they don’t take me seriously. I’ve tried changing the subject, I’ve tried directing them to my podcast. It’s difficult to be honest to say “Can’t you see I’m not the same person!” because to me that sounds self-righteous. I feel like although they hear my messages, read my manuscripts i’m trying to publish, see my blogs, know me personally they still feel like it’s just “Amber” and don’t respect the fact that I love them, but I almost want to ignore their calls because I feel convicted just listening. Can you give me some advice? I’m praying for a mentor and because I’m not ashamed to say I don’t know everything LOL I’m using my name. I hope I’m making sense.

    Thank you and God bless you!

    • says

      Amber, a couple of thoughts:

      Jesus took junk from His brothers (well, step/half-brothers) who knew him growing up. We believe Jesus was perfect and sinless even as a child, but just as natural children have no mental framework for perfection or sinlessness, his brothers remembered only the animosity they felt about their “goody-goody” brother when they were grown. Is all this childhood history in the Bible? No, but the fact of this sibling rivalry is (Matthew 13:53-58, John 7:3-5). Jesus Himself handled these episodes in different ways, but in all cases He spoke directly to their unbelief rather than any insecurity in His own identity or in His mission.

      Feeling defensive is normal, but that’s not really what you’re asking. At least, you can’t really do anything about your feelings (they sort of happen on their own). Some will counsel you to be meek and mild, and “pray for those who persecute you.” Well, for certain, you should pray for them. But if Jesus’ example means anything to us, it is that the authenticity and presence of the message is more significant than the audience’s esteem of the messenger. The Gospel is good news, whether your drowning friends & relatives will take it that way or not. But it is the Gospel that is the offense, not your conversion, per se. This is why (a) your feelings of insecurity are just that–feelings; and (b) your friends & family need the Gospel even more, even though it is precisely the call of Christ that really offends them.

      This is not to say you should beat them over the head with a Bible when they’re “running off at the mouth,” but there is no reason at all to be insecure or taciturn when confronted with your past or having to listen to things contrary to what Paul told us to think about (Philippians 4:8). We all have a past, all of us are sinners, all of us are as guilty of offending the whole law as any one part of it. Their throwing your past in your face has no more to do with you than it does with them. Be motivated rather by the notion that they need Jesus.

      As to bad behavior in your presence, if you feel uncomfortable with it, there’s no need to feel self-aggrandizing to walk out on it (there IS that whole “abstain from all appearance of evil” bit) or to speak truth to it, and doing so in love. Whether it is RECEIVED “in love” is not your responsibility; people got mad at Jesus’ words all the time, and walked out on Him. The purpose isn’t to make friends for this earth, it’s to present truth that leads to salvation and make saints for heaven.

      I don’t know if any of that makes sense, but I’ll be praying for you. The Holy Spirit producing holiness and righteousness in your life is nothing to be ashamed of, or to worry if it will be received poorly. If Jesus’ example teaches us anything, it’s that it WILL be received poorly. This is not about you, but worrying about how you’ll come across sure would be. So DON’T worry–be honest, and love them the way Jesus would: He did it with a call to self-sacrifice. If your family members don’t “straighten out” right away, take solace in the fact that neither did His. 😉

      • Amber says

        Michael, I really appreciate your response and your prayers! If you’re looking for someone to mentor “Here I am!” I agree with you 110% and it makes PERFECT sense. Thanks again it really helps! Copying and pasting!

        • says

          Amber, I would be glad to help you, but I always feel mentoring is best done face-to-face, and preferably between people of the same gender (saves lots of confusion… and other stuff. 😉 ). If you click on my image, you should be able to find some contact info for me so we can communicate without sagging down Dr. Rainer’s blog. Then I can try to be more helpful hooking you up with someone near you.

          Something I failed to mention in my previous post may give you some further comfort, and are some of the “Christianity 101″ basic assignments: if you haven’t already, memorize Galatians 2:20 and 2 Corinthians 5:17. About every way you can turn these verse, they will speak directly to your situation.

  56. John says

    Got any advice or book recommendations on how to deal with power groups and power people in the church… I hadn’t thought about that one.

  57. says

    I’m not in the SBC and so I have no idea of how your seminary system works, but it sounds like your seminaries don’t have an internship year? Really? I just can’t conceive of a seminary that wouldn’t build this into its curriculum. In my denomination (ELCA), newer seminarians get practical experience first in parishes near the seminary, then in a chaplaincy placement, and finally in a one-year internship, at a church that’s applied for and been accepted as an internship site, prior to their last year of academic study. There are some problems with this system, cost being a primary one — both the cost of an extended MDiv degree, something I think perhaps the SBC doesn’t expect of prospective pastors, and the cost incurred by internship-site churches, which usually means that only large, fairly affluent suburban congregations — atypical churches in our church body — can afford to take on an intern. This means that some graduates may not be prepared for the experience of pastoring a small rural church with a far different set of resources and expectations. But I think it’s a better way of educating pastors than having no internship experience at all.

    • says

      Ellen, SBC churches are very autonomous organizations; it’s built into Baptist theology that the churches are all much more independent than in most of the other mainstream denominations. There is usually an agreed-upon perspective (we call it the Baptist Faith & Message; most other denominations would refer to this as a creed, which for practical purposes it is, though some Baptists bristle when that observation is made), and among SBC churches there is an agreed-upon mission (the Cooperative Program, which allocates monetary gifts from churches designated to CP among administrative, missionary, and seminary needs). But the churches aren’t in any way beholden to the SBC to function as a “training ground” for seminary grads. Many larger churches are glad to bring on interns for this purpose, but it would be challenging for the seminaries to REQUIRE it of their graduate candidates when there is no guaranteed system of assignment.

      Speaking for the seminary I graduated from (Southwestern), graduates from the Master’s level programs were strongly encouraged (read: practically required) to do at least a year in ministry before being permitted to enroll in doctoral work. This isn’t quite the same as the internship you’re talking about, and I don’t know how this is fleshed out in other seminaries (I’m not even 100% SWBTS still does it, it’s been almost 10 years since I graduated), but it’s not across-the-board true that we’re just thrown out to sink or swim.

  58. Doug says

    At my first call I was caring for a young man who was very depressed; he was also an abuser of alcohol. I told him if he ever felt he was losing the battle to come to my house at any time, and he did arrive, sometimes at 3 A.M. Sadly he committed suicide by placing a shotgun to his mouth. Nobody prepared me for what I was about to see and certainly there was no preparation for how to deal with such a moment. I would say that, plus the fact we had no financial or leadership training, made ministry quite difficult.

    Also, what does a pastor do for a small congregation that only wants visits, sermons and funerals? I had to come up with things to do, because there was no presented need.


  59. says


  60. Rev Melissa says

    I wish somebody told me how to minister to a “palliative care” church.
    I got out of seminary and was so excited about my first Parish and the new adventures I would be on. Sadly, my excitement was met with trepidation and a firm stance that the parish’s only existence is to maintain the church so that when the parishioners died they would have their funeral service in “their” church done by a priest. I had to leave that parish because my vision wasn’t their vision. :(

  61. Rev Deb says

    I was fortunate to be required to do at least one unit of CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) as part if my coursework. I learned so much about ministry to the ill and dying, but more importantly, I learned how to manage the strains of home and ministry.

    I also appreciate the mentor I had for my first year out. He was a blessing. I observed first-hand how he dealt with difficult people, managed the budget, studied for his sermon prep, and took REAL time off. (And no, our being opposite genders was not an issue. There aren’t many women in church leadership in my area.) when he died of pancreatic cancer, I mourned his loss with his family.

    While I appreciate this post, I would appreciate even more if you remembered that there are women serving as pastors for the Glory of God. I realize you’re probably not going to ever invite a woman as your lead pastor, but we are out here, preaching the Gospel, baptizing the converted and celebrating the gifts of God.


  62. Michael says

    Yes I support that learning in a small church whilst at sementary.
    1. they are more likely to be a family than a business like a big church can be.
    2. as a student you are more likely to listen to “older” people and get the guidance you need.
    3. you will quickly know that your “misconceptions” about your calling or ministry are clearer as a consequence.
    4. discipleship is about quality of relationship with Jesus not numbers through the courses and that will be seen better at a micro level with real relationships in a small church.
    5. your journey with God is more important than theirs – for if He becomes more and you less, then you will fulfill your purpose and destiny in Him.
    Shalom MikeNZ

  63. Susan Gabbard says

    Being a woman, and a straight woman at that, I will not be dating a wife anytime soon! However, #3 about dealing with power people in the church would be helpful. Most of the other items I learned through experience in my first career. My seminary taught a lot about dealing with problem people, thankfully.

  64. Paul Y. Thomas says

    I wish someone would have told me that church floks get upset when the pastor that lives over an hour away from their members and church and cannot get to them as soon as they want them to.

  65. D Cottingham says

    I don’t know where or when you went to seminary, but I DID learn most of this stuff at PLTS in the last 2 years. CPE taught me how to deal with crises of faith and health. Internship taught me how to deal with members. Every seminary class prepares you for real ministry, if you actually pay attention. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but the learning is YOUR responsibility, all of the information is presented in seminary.

    • carolyn says

      Not really. There’s A LOT they don’t teach in seminary. I went to a very well respected seminary with an excellent faculty and I came out of seminary with a thorough grounding in theology, biblical history, Christian history, doctrine & polity, preaching, and the bible, all of which are important. But my seminary education did not include conflict management, volunteer management, mediation skills, time management, or very much at all on pastoral counseling, spiritual formation and how to maintain one’s practice of spiritual disciplines in the face of all the pressures of ministry. All of which would have been very helpful, practical knowledge.

  66. Julian Stevens says

    Ever since i was a child i felt God’s pull to be a pastor. even in times i didnt wanna look in that direction. But because of that desire he wanted i did try and look around other churches, other denominations, i wanted a full understanding of how everyone thought, what everyone believed in. in 1 week i attended 3 different churches youth groups to observe. and what i found made me want to cry.

    other then my home church there was 2 other churches i visited. and to make a long story short. one youth group did so well the whole church was starting to acknowledge and become proud of them. the other one fell so hard you literal got to watch the pastor get more and more corrupt each day. so i looked at both groups and i found what i thought was the reason why one fell so hard.

    Apparently no one told him that he cant do this alone. the other youth group wasn’t ran by the senior pastor, and it thrived. but this one was, and each week he would show more and more stress. he started doing things that was unusual for a pastor to say or do. i finally left when he started to insult the kids and forcing them to come to charity dinners or he will hunt them down. It wasn’t that nobody was there to tell him that he is starting to go down a rough trail. he just didn’t wanna listen and now he dose not run that church no more.

    i hate seeing a good church go down in flames like that. i really hope this helps in any sort of way.

  67. Dan says

    This seems to be a great place for pastors and church goers to be wining.
    Actually, I was doing some research about becoming a pastor and I stumbled over this.
    For some reasons these readings cause nerve racking, head aches and vomiting symptoms.
    So… if you are not called to preach the Gospel and rely on and reveal the Grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ our Savior and righteousness I would say don’t bother. This country is full of lifeless religious pastors and feel good churches and it does need pastors to reveal Christ and lead the people to the Tree Of Life (Christ)- the way is open again. Stop feeding the flocks from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil .

    • RevDon says

      If you had to do research about being a pastor, I wonder if you’re really called. You comments about churches and their “feel-good” preaching are right. Those are the churches that are dying off, hopefully to be replaced by churches that are Spirit-led and Gospel-centered. I worry about you. I sense some anger here. Yeah, the church can sure make you and me angry! On the other hand, if you’re upset enough that you’re getting ill, that says to me you do have a heart for God, and you’re unwilling to set that aside. If you’re near a seminary, I’d suggest you go talk to them. They can help you think through career tracks. I pray that you can get some relief on this.

  68. Dan says

    This seems to be a great place for pastors and church goers to cry on someones shoulder.
    For some reasons these readings cause nerve racking, head aches and vomiting symptoms.
    So… if you are not called to preach the Gospel and rely on and reveal the Grace of God through our Lord Jesus Christ our Savior and righteousness I would say don’t bother. This country is full of lifeless religious pastors and feel good churches and it does need pastors to reveal Christ and lead the people to the Tree Of Life (Christ)- the way is open again. Stop feeding the flocks from the ‘Tree of knowledge of good and evil’.

  69. says

    Speaking as a minister’s daughter and wife too…# 1 would be a minister should put his wife right under God before the church. I went into labor on Sunday morning and my husband told me I had to go to church and play the piano first…..I did not. But I did have to find someone to play for me and my sister had to find someone to play for her at her church while she took me to the hospital. My minister husband came to hospital on Monday morning! After 45 years and living with me, and I don’t think I am too hard to live with, ha, he has learned that God created the family before He created the church. If a minister’s wife leaves him for divorce, that says something about the minister and about the wife too, I suppose. I wouldn’t trade my minister husband for another and I love him deeply but we have both learned. It is something like being a parent, you learn as you go! No greater blessing than being a minister’s family….no greater heartache…the church becomes your family and you become theirs if you allow God to do it!

  70. Mike Willmouth says

    Let’s see: 2, 3, 6, 7, and 9 are the ones I would have liked some good advice on. The leadership and business wasn’t an issue (I didn’t enter the ministry until I was 39). The pay issue was a big surpise to me because I was naive enough to think that the church would do what was best for me and right in the sight of the Lord. Surprise!!! This has been one of the biggest issues that I have ran into over the years as a pastor. The next biggest issue that I found surprising was how mean Christians can be (to the point of wondering if some of these people are even Christian). There are two groups of people I will always remember, the good ones and the bad ones. May children are grown up now, and were older when I went into the ministry, but it still didn’t shield them and their impressions they got from the way some churches treated me. The Issue of being omnipresent still to this day bites me, not matter how much I remind everyone to let me know if there is something important that I need to know. I think they just assume someone will tell me — and they do! After the fact in most cases.

  71. Hector Perez says

    I have been waiting for the word of god my lord and jesus his son in order to even think of preaching his love, i have visit many temples and what i have seen is exactly what you guys are talking about. Where is the money is all i hear, i do believe that jesus said once destroy this temple and in three day it would be restore, where there is more than one person talking about the father that was consider the church. My real question is where can i register to become a minister for the lord under his believe? i would love if someone can honestly help me out with this information. thank you

  72. Morgan says

    Hello, my name is Morgan I am 15 years old. God has worked in amazing ways and I have talked to My Father and I want to share his word with the whole world as I become older! My goals in life have been set very high and I pray they only become higher.

    I am here to ask for any advice you could give me about being a Minister, to college, anything that would have helped you. Please contact me via email at . Thank you very much it means more than you can think of.

  73. Adam Hatfield says

    I have read some comments here that unfortunately lump all pastors into one lump. I won’t deny some may see small churches as stepping. However, that is not true of all pastors. Every church I have pastored, with the exception of my current church, has run less than 50 when I arrived. Every one of those churches were content to stay the way they were. They wanted a chaplain, not a pastor. I am so thankful to be where I am now. They don’t want to reamin the way they are. They want to grow. No church is insignificant. Where the problem comes in is not ever growing. If you’ve run the same number for over five years, the problem may not be leadership, it may be internal. Churches that outward thinking will grow. Inward thingking churches will either just matain or decline. It has been said, “It’s not wrong to be a small church. It’s wrong to have a small vision.”

  74. Bob Gillchrest says

    If seminary professors had actually served as full-time pastors before they taught at the seminary level, they would be adding the answers to these questions from personal experiences, not theoretical. I only had one or two profs at Southern with the practical knowledge and experience to give good counsel to us pastors-to-be.

  75. Louis says

    Pastor, I am so bless that you went through all that. Now you are a better man and a better Pastor. For those that we take this path more times than none, we don’t know what we don’t know, until we do. I know that many just like me have been bless with this posting. We are never exempt from the lessons in life and those in take the path to serve others, the lessons will be magnified. I hope that the experience has make you a better man and that you stay in the path and did not quit. The lessons will be many, and this lessons are the lessons outside the book. Jesus, thought us that through our pain we learn, we don’t have to go to the cross but we will face our own mortality. Keep on the path and God Bless.

  76. James Kennedy says

    I wished someone had told me that I couldn’t confide with other Pastor’s/preachers information that they could use against me…. and that most Pastors/preachers are egomaniacs….And that they would do anything to draw a crowd and step all over you and your church to do it….

  77. Iamaservent says

    james 3…Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire ! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity ; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue ; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God ; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs ? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
    Wisdom from Above
    13 Who among you is wise and understanding ? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

  78. Marisol says

    One of my former pastors told me his first roommate in seminary had spent a few years between college and seminary working in a secular job and observed how much kinder people outside the church were than people inside the church. Sadly, that’s often too true.

  79. Hilary says

    I’m so glad to read this post. I graduated from Memphis Theological Seminary in 2011. I got an email that pointed me to this post from MTS – I want to write on the topic and can’t now. Hold me accountable – I have much to say! Great post – totally great blog. Be well and happy THANKSgiving! Hilary Dow Ward

  80. Cathy Hubbard says

    A 1997 graduate of Memphis Theological Seminary, there were no classes in Practical Ministry. The “Dark Side” of the church wasn’t even acknowledged. I could go on.
    Seminaries don’t prepare you for crises either. For example, if the church burns down what is your first and most important step? If you have someone in your congregation that has physically threatened the congregation in an a widely distributed e-mail, what should you do? If you accept a call to a church who considers you the “hired help” after you start serving the church, what should you do to be effective?
    I recently had to issue a restrainer order on a church member as I was concerned he would come through the back door guns blazing. I prayed and thought about what I should do and obtained the restraining order. Loss of life, loss of the church property, etc. My life has been hell ever since. And, what do you do when you are the victim of pure evil? If I had to do it over again, one part of me says “let the chips fall where they may” the other part of me says “do it again. Even when ministry is carried out in the most righteous way, it can come back to bite you.
    The above church has burned me out after 19 years in ministry. My spirituality has suffered greatly and I am on the edge of complete compassion burn-out thus I have decided to leave ministry altogether.

  81. Devin Brisson says

    #2 is a sad commentary of where we’re at in this country! If you were to stop getting paid for your position tomorrow, would you continue to hold your post? If the answer is “NO” then you should quite now, because you my friend are not in the will of God! Money should never determine how or where we work for God! Jesus and Paul tell us that “IF” we receive monies for our work then we should take it without any condemnation… Luke 10:7 KJV
    [7] And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house.

    1 Timothy 5:18 KJV
    [18] For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward.

    These scriptures are to address our conviction about receiving gain after or “WHEN” we’ve done the will of God, they’er not there to influence us in “WHERE” to minister! And to admonish the churches (establishments) to get liberally to worthy hires.
    Preaching and pastoring today has become a career move not a heart move, and yes I’m a preacher and don’t receive one dime for it. The ones I’m called to minister to can’t pay me! I don’t mind taking money but I pray it never becomes a factor in which doors I walk thur. Here is my point…A nice, well blessed church offers you the pastorship with much monies and all the, car, insurance, bonuses, etc.! But, you feel lead to pastor a small poor church where there is no salary or benefits, the fact is you would have to work a secular job to support your family and more than likely have to support the church some what too! Be honest, which one would you take???

  82. Sally says

    So many of these items are just necessary learning experiences for any parent, spouse, Christian, church member, responsible adult. Perhaps we should just allow people to grow up, raise their little ones, establish their marriage and finances, learn their way around church dynamics, maybe run a business, and then, if they have proven faithful in these things and want to pastor a church, they might go on to do that. “Elders” means “old guys” for a reason, and I really think a young man with seminary training, starting out in life, is in absolutely no position to be a pastor (even with a couple internships and mentors!)

  83. Mark says

    I wish someone had told me to read the bible and see how it stacked up to reality. I finally did that and it made me an atheist.

  84. Elsie says

    I appreciate reading on this issue from the perspective of the pastors/leaders of churches. I’m sure no one does it all perfectly. Now I would like to comment from the perspective of a member of a christian church;
    I am not a pastor, a pastors wife, or related to a pastor. I respect all pastors everywhere and realize the hard work and dedication it takes to lead a church or ministry. Yet I can also give examples of when “the
    shoe was on the other foot.” I say this with caution hoping that there might be one or more pastors or leaders that will take my comments to heart and possibly use diligence and wisdom when dealing with the people in his or her congregation. First, the “mean people” are not always sitting on the pews of the church.
    Sometimes they are standing behind pulpits on Sunday mornings. If you have never been pointed at with an accusing finger from the pulpit and falsely accused in front of several hundred people in a crowded church atmosphere, you would not understand what I am talking about. This particular pastor has done this more than once. Meanwhile, he goes about his business as if nothing has ever happened while the “accused” tries to pick him or herself up off the floor even months later. Pastors complain about mean
    members, yet they have the authority and the power to expel members that won’t repent or that are
    troublemakers. But when a pastor does something cruel to a member, where does the member go? Remember, the pastor has a board of directors usually in his corner. He has “yes” men and women that will agree with him just so they don’t lose thier post or thier salary. If you raise any issues, no matter how legitimate, you as a member are labeled a “rebel”, when you are not rebelling in any way. There is a system of leadership in place and that can sometimes be a “sacred cow”. I am not saying this for any reason except to let pastors and leaders know that one thing most important over all things is to truly love the flock. We as members can tell when our leaders really love us or are tolerating us. I’m not talking about allowing members to be divisive, or troublemakers, or wallowing in sin. But even then the bible says to confront the person PRIVATELY, then with a witness, then if he/she does not listen, tell it to the church.
    How many pastors really and truly do this? Don’t embarrass someone from the pulpit just because you can. And don’t listen to every report given by churchmembers “tattling” on someone else. They could have hidden motives or just simply not like the person in question. Never believe these reports without first talking with the member in private and allowing them to either defend themselves or perhaps confess thier sin and then “let him who is spiritual restore such a one…..”. It is probably very rare that public confrontation is EVER needed.

  85. Susan Gabbard says

    Elsie, that pastor is abusing the pulpit. His behavior is absolutely unethical. It’s sad that the board still backs him up. There are times when pastors are treated badly and the board allows it to happen. That’s also sad, and bad for the church. It’s easy for me to say, but if I were in your shoes, I’d go to another church. You – and no one else – deserves to be abused in this way. Take care.

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