The Twelve Biggest Challenges Pastors and Church Staff Face

In my latest non-scientific Twitter survey, I asked the following question of pastors and church staff: What is your biggest challenge in ministry? Here are the top twelve responses with representative quotes. I’ve taken the liberty to expand most of the quotes from their abbreviated form in Twitter.

  1. Apathy and internal focus.  “I have been in ministry for over twenty years, and I’ve never seen church members more apathetic and internally focused.”
  2. Staff issues. “I inherited staff from the previous pastor. It’s not a good match, but I don’t have the credibility to do anything about it.”
  3. Leading and keeping volunteers. “It’s a fulltime job itself.”
  4. General time constraints. “I end every week wondering why I got so little done.”
  5. Getting buy-in from members. “I spend half my time developing a consensus from members about decisions from the mundane to the critical.”
  6. Generational challenges. “It seems like the older generation is determined to nix any new ideas or excitement from the younger generation.”
  7. Finances. “You can sum up our challenge in four simple words: We need more money.”
  8. Holding on to traditions. “I wish our members would put as much effort into reaching people for Christ as they do holding on to their traditions.”
  9. Criticism. “Some leaders in the church have appointed themselves to be my weekly critics.”
  10. Leadership development. “We miss too many opportunities in ministry because we don’t have enough leaders ready.”
  11. Majoring on minors. “We spent an hour in our last business conference discussing the fonts in our bulletins.”
  12. Lack of true friends. “One of the toughest realities for me as pastor was the awareness that I have no true friends in the church.”

What is fascinating, if not discouraging, about this survey is that virtually all of the challenges noted by these pastors and staff were internal challenges. It appears that many of our churches in America are not effective conduits of the gospel because the members spend so much energy concerned about their own needs and preferences.

What do you think about this list? What would you add?


    • Susan says

      :-) I like this comment and that is why I probably left it be when I first saw this blog. I am interested in how you guys work it out…. Perhaps Thom this could be a subject of inspiration for another blog . The many responsibilities of being a pastor…How many hats must one own to accomplish the job and where to find them.

      • says

        @Susan ~ The number of hats is probably determined by the size of the church and the gift mix of the people in it. As for “finding” the hats I need to wear, I try to read a lot – journals, blogs, books – anything I can to help me wear hats better :)

  1. Allen Calkins says

    That list is a good one! I can identify with every single one of them in churches where I have served. I believe the insight that they are all internal problems that have nothing to do with the outside world is a good one, but not totally true. I believe the reason these are THE ISSUES for so many pastors is because of 1) Worldly influences on members 2) A lack of spiritual maturity among the membership. 3) Some key church leaders actually being unregenerate and not interested in advancing the Kingdom of God. 4) Loyalty to church being more valued and rewarded than faithfulness to God. 5) Unforgiving hearts among pastors who seem surprised that they are opposed and persecuted to some extent even though Jesus promised it and Paul modeled it.
    In my mind THE FACT that THESE are our main issues reveals more significant and serious underlying spiritual problems also exist…

      • says

        Perhaps pastors who struggle with communication did not respond because they struggle with communication! Any previous links/posts/articles on the detriment of poor communication, especially as it involves social media, Dr. Rainer?

  2. says

    The balance of power in the church is so delicate, one little thing can have huge implications. Every day as a pastor I face the reality of that one phone call, one e-mail, or one envelope in my church mailbox which contains the equivelent of dropping a bomb on me.

  3. DAS says

    Non-leaders taking leadership roles because they volunteer or the nomination committee does not take the time to examine the spiritual maturity of each individual and set boundaries and requirements for leadership.

    10 people working constantly, while 100 sit and suck their thumbs and then complain about nothing happening in the church.

    These get me the most…

    • Susan says

      There is always something for volunteers to do, however not every person is suited to any/every endeavor. You must however be able to successfully integrate individuals who Are desirous and willing to help regardless of their ability. If you have a committee in place to assign leadership roles then you have cooperative participation, perhaps the problem is the leadership committee… Are they biased towards individuals whom they desire vs those who might be adequate and eligible? Why would you have people not suited in positions of power and a WHOLE lot of people not even wishing to participate?
      Committees still need the leadership of the Pastor.

  4. Greg Corbin says

    Great post. Certainly in 20+ years of ministry I have experienced all of them. Your observation that virtually all of these challenges are internal is “spot on” and gets to the root issue. Pastors spend so much time dealing with internal issues that there is little time and even less spiritual and emotional energy left to really think externally about reaching people in the community. These internal issues drain the soul and never stop – no matter what size church you serve. I think it’s important to point out that the internal issues exist in all churches – regardless of size, age of the church, community context, etc. The pastors who lead churches to truly reach out into their communities find a way to rise above the internal issues, cast a vision, and lead out in this direction even though they deal with internal issues all the time. Somehow they keep relentless focus on reaching people and know that they will never have all of the internal issues resolved. They live with them, deal with them as they can, but they never allow them to drain the life out of their leadership.

  5. says

    As a church plant we do not face many of the same challenges, however many we can relate. Staff issues, volunteer issues, summer attendance, $$ is always an issue. With that said I would say our biggest challenge is communication. With some full time staff, some part time and some volunteer staff, its a major struggle to communicate and to stay on the same page.

  6. Laura Bramlett says

    I’m a pastor’s wife, and I agree with all of these! I’m reminded all of the time that the enemy doesn’t need to use non-Christians…he has Christians so distracted by petty and selfish things! What a different country we’d have if we were truly focused on what matters (spreading the GOSPEL)!

  7. Heartspeak says

    As I pondered this list, my heart grew heavier and heavier. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such compilations of challenges and woes within churches. Sometimes I think that most of them are self-inflicted, not by the leaders so much as by our current ‘system’. It creates its own monster. The need to feed and nurture the infrastructure, the consequent fear of alienating the dollar sources, prevents us from speaking loving truth to those who are out of line, and make no mistake this is a root issue in many of the challenges listed above.

    That it falls so heavily on one man is, frankly in my opinion, quite wrong and not as God ever intended it. The people have been trained to see it this way and the leaders tend to let that perspective remain. The alternative is to stop trying so hard to ‘hold it together’. If God is, as we teach and speak it, sovreign and in control, then I am quite confident He will protect and lead His people even if the local church building were to close its doors. I doubt that will happen in many cases. It does have consquences for jobs however. But even here, perhaps God has His own way of providing that just cannot be seen from ‘inside’.

    Something has to give at some point. Unfortunately, that something gives every day of the year as pastors leave the ministry and churches close their doors. We see the warning signs and the wreckage, but are we asking the right questions anymore?

  8. Kathy says

    Sounds like a lot of pastors are trying to run a church. A spirit filled pastor who listens to God and obeys his lead will allow the. Lord to handle the church, after all it is his. Totally surrender yourself to God in all things and he will bring victory.

    • Don Phillips says

      Kathy, you get the brass ring. We pastors can never put out all the little fires. Listening to God and obeying His written Word along with following Holy Spirit leadership is primary. This is key to SPIRITUAL leadership. You’re also right about the church being His. Let him deal with the problem children as He sees fit. If I allow my focus to be on them my focus cannot be on a vibrant, dependent walk with my Saviour.

      This may sound a bit “theoretical” to some. It’s not. I’m pastoring my third church and I’ve been here seven+ years. It has been a hard learned lesson. But hopefully I’ve learned it well. GOD MUST BE THE ONE I SEEK TO PLEASE ABOVE ALL OTHERS! I’ll let Him deal with the unruly. I’ll let Him defend me. I’ll let Him choose whether or not I get voted out. I’ll let Him choose where I’m supposed to be. I’ll let Him choose whether I’m to have little or much. But GOD MUST BE THE ONE I SEEK TO PLEASE ABOVE ALL OTHERS!

      Oh I have the “junk” to deal with too. But I refuse to let “junk dealers” get between me and the Lord of all creation.

    • Ronnie Johnson says

      I totally agree with this comment. We stress ourselves over these things when we truly should seek God for counsel on them. We would be a lot less stressed if we did so.

  9. Chris Russell says

    I have only been a senior pastor for 5 months and fortunately I have not run into many of these issues, I am sure that at some point I will. But looking through some of them I can’t help but wonder at how Christ would handle such an internally focused and generally selfish church? But then again he did have the religious community of His day and decided his time was better spent with the poor, the broken, the sick, and generally the sinful outcast of society. I wonder how many churches would be looking for new pastors if we did what Jesus did.

    I may be way off but these are just some thoughts.

    • Susan h. says

      :-) I guess it depends on the church…. I recall an old movie mostly about racial relations but the pastor of the church eventually became tired of doing things because the town matron with power wanted them done and he stood up for what he knew was right… It was a fight but he gained not only respect but also a more devoted following.

  10. Rachael Woodard says

    [ “the poor, the broken, the sick, and generally the sinful outcast of society. I wonder how many churches would be looking for new pastors if we did what Jesus did..”]

    I think it’s actually easier to spend time with the above listed, but only because we have absolutely zero expectations of them. However, they won’t pay for anything, including an electric bill to keep the lights on, or your liability insurance so that you can keep picking them up for church.. So, as long as you’ve got a ministry that is funded from other sources, you could do that. That’s the nature of the food banks, homeless shelters and the rescue missions, but not usually the main focus of the church. We have several of this type in our church. I have to cover for their inabilities to bring food and themselves by bringing them and by bringing extra food for every service that we have a meal that they come to. It’s fine, because I know that the Lord wants me to do this. It’s also fine because I have the money to do it. However, if I didn’t have the money to pay for it, I’d have to cease doing it. I haven’t yet seen the Lord drop money out of the sky. So far he’s always used people to provide. Sometimes, it’s very, very unexpectedly, but it’s always been a person.

    • Don Phillips says

      Luk 4:18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

      With all due respect. If we are more concerned about the utility bill than we are about doing what Jesus did something is terribly amiss.

  11. Phil Wages says

    I guess we could add “institutionalism” alongside of tradition. I love our SBC but our Convention did churches a great disservice in the 50-60’s with a program mentality. I have a group of laymen who are gathering on their own to pray for revival in our church. It is a lay movement, it has spread by word of mouth, it is not mentioned on any church literature, and it is held off campus. One dear brother in my church heard about this and immediately began to ask questions like, “Who’s going to be in charge?”, “Who’s going to tell us what to pray for?” “Don’t we need someone to come in and lead us?” He does not have a clue about revival and spiritual awakening because he has an institutional mindset. Lord Jesus deliver us from this!

  12. Richard Gravley says

    No. 12. has been the hardest one to adjust too. I had worked for several years in the business world before becoming a Pastor. I had many friends before but now the lack of friends is sometimes difficult. My wife has had the hardest time with the lack of real friends as well. We pray that God will help us develop friends that we can share issues with.

    • Lawson says

      I understand Richard. The loneliness of pastors can, at times, be debilitating. Keep praying, and keep reaching out to other pastors because there are others who also struggle with a lack of friends.

  13. Ben says

    Number 12 jumped out at me. I was in youth ministry for many years and have served as a pastor for 8 years at my current church. I had a lot of great friends as a youth minister. I’ve been lied about and betrayed by several “friends” since becoming a pastor. People treat a senior pastor differently. I have zero friends now and will probably never try to have another. I love our church, but I will always be “the pastor” and people never see you as human and they DO NOT care about you as a person regardless of what they say.

    • Susan h. says

      Ben I am sorry you feel that way… As a ministry leader and a member of a church where this has happened I know it can be tough and disheartening . It does not however mean you have to shut down. The finality with which you comment belies a festering condition. Please seek a friend or mentor outside the church to help you work through this.

  14. Allen says

    Richard, Pastors need to see their current assignment as a mission field, not their home. That means your support comes from somewhere else. Friendships cultivated elsewhere need to be brought forward to the present. Your closesst and most intimate friends need to be somewhere other than where you presently are. And even though they are long distance, they can provide you the support you seek without the risk you run being too transparent with local folks who may use your honesty against you. I know some will disagree. But this is what has worked for me.

    • Susan h. says

      I fully agree… As a lay person I may have friends at work but on the other hand I do not go looking to make friends at my work. It is a job not a fraternity. There is a saying Familiarity breeds contempt… A supervisor who tries to be a friend /pal or a parent who tries to be a contemporary of their child are often scorned or taken advantage of

  15. Susan h. says

    I find the article very disturbing … I would hope that I would not be that person that all these pastors are laying the blame for their ineptitude at leadership. Some of the comments make me ill. As a ministry leader I have seen the same things but also the lack of spine from the lead pastor when he bows to the folly of those who undermine him. Volunteerism is a job unto itself but a true leader knows not only how to delegate but what to delegate… What is the problem with these people making excuses… Take the bull by the horns and lead with conviction. If you are so afraid to make waves or are afraid the waves you make might be overly large for the congregation to handle then perhaps you should not be where you are

    • Poking The Fire says

      Susan, take the bull by the horns? Lack spine? Making excuses? Ineptitude in leadership?

      Turn the other cheek… Be a servant… Strive to be at peace with all… Forgive. Those are the things that dominate a pastor’s heart. He’d rather take a black eye than give one to anyone in the church. Often the Pastor is on a limb by himself. I too hope you aren’t a trouble maker. There are enough harsh critics as it is who are critical of ministers.

      I can tell you this, pastors love God’s people deeply as found in 1 Cor 13. They are unwilling to run roughshod over God’s people because how he treats them IS how he treats Christ. I hope and pray you support, love, and encourage your pastor. Pray for him, don’t prey on him. Blessings

      • Susan h says

        Poking the fire…. Devisivness is bred by both contentious,unhappy people and people who instead of leading bow to those contentious people and allow them to ride roughshod over the rest of the congregation. I am not one of those that makes the problems but I am a Supervisor in a correctional institution as well as a prion ministry partner . I have seen and been on the side that has broken you and I know what you are talking about … However even Jesus Turned over the temple tables in righteous anger. Sometimes instead of placating the complainers it is better to stand up for what you see… Peace should not be at the expense of the church losing a pastor and members… You may have been privy to the Pastors side ( difficult congregations with a history of terminating Pastors) My mission over 28 years was to try and end that cycle because WHAT you do not see after you have left is that the contentious continue to run roughshod and push the weaker out wounding them just as you were wounded… I have always thought that a Pastor is a Leader not just another broken follower.

    • Dan says

      I have questions that I would love to see people from the congregation answer
      Do you support your pastors vision when you do not fully agree with it? When you do not, how do you respond? Do you call others from the church to complain, or do you call on the Lord on your pastor’s behalf? Do you call the pastor inept when they cannot lead people who won’t be led? Do you call the pastor lazy when he chooses to spend some extra time with his family and asks a deacon to make a hospital visit? Do you ridicule and belittle pastors when they share their struggles and frustrations with other pastors? Is the pastor safe when he lets his guard down around you? How would you feel about a pastor who would run the church like a president of a corporation? Would you be okay with a pastor who did not feel when remorse and pain when he hurt his people in order to get his God given vision accomplished (even if it is people he doesn’t agree with)? Have you been able to gather supporters around your pastor, or does he face the friendly fire of the church alone? Does your “support” for your pastor sound and feel like criticism?

  16. Poking The Fire says

    I found myself deeply wounded reading this. I’ve served difficult congregations all with histories of terminating pastors AND troubled staff (Which previous pastors affirmed to me in consequent conversations, which they didn’t reveal when I contacted them in my pre-call research). Honestly, right now I have no desire to shepherd a local congregation because of all the things you mentioned, which is the tip of the iceberg in my experience.

    To be lied about by staff and congregants, to have my wife and kids morality slandered, to be falsely accused of absurd things later proved false (!), to be portrayed as an immoral liar, and (to some) as a theologically divisive person became too much to handle after 23 years. Sadly I’m sure all those who did those things probably believed they were justified in their actions.

    If congregants really knew what pastors have to deal with they’d be shocked! Pastors deal with much more than any staff member. Yes, I’m wounded. Yes, I’m hurt. No, I’m not angry at anyone. Just broken that it seems the adeversary wins too many battles. It seems he knows crippling the under-shepherd makes the sheep easy prey.

    • Susan h says

      Again if this is happening without cause to the Pastor then it is happening to the congregants…. Either these churches are the nest of Satan or they are in need of a stronger Pastor who can lead and mold them into a Christ serving and Christ projecting body…. I personally after 56 years would not seek to be a member of these dens of Satan you speak about. I have enough energy to deal with the mundane issues of cliques ( and their gossip) , ownership of Christ above other members and love of power which I see in some people whom I run into in churches and ministries. Approaching a person who has wronged you is biblical too( as well as turning the other cheek and being a peace maker) … I would much rather focus on my mission, getting the work done and those who are working alongside me in Christs’ name and with his demeanor.

      • Poking The Fire says

        It is not good for any of us to paint with broad strokes or make blanket statements which is why I spoke of my experience. The nuances of situations and problems in congregations are, however, because too many pastors and congregants have forgotten how to repent, forgive, show mercy and grace so as to be restored and reconciled.

        Until these virtues replace the world’s paradigm of how things are to be done, confusion will remain in many congregations.

      • Dan says

        Amen, and pastors feel the same way too, but they do need support. More often than not, supporters of a pastor remain silent while the pastor is pilloried. My experience with a challenging ministry has led me to understand that although I had many supporters, they always remained silent, while the vocal minority was the only one who spoke. The silence from my supporters sometimes led to private conversations in which people expressed their support, but often it came across as “You have great ideas but you are too weak of a leader.” I (actually my wife and I) endured that hardship while feeling quite alone. Today my opponents have been silenced, and I feel a great sense of relief. But make no mistake, damage has been done. And, honestly, perhaps that is what God wants for me, to lead with confidence but to walk wounded. I don’t know for sure. It is too soon to tell.
        I appreciate your viewpoint on this. I wish that more church folks felt as strongly as you did, perhaps pastors would not feel so isolated.

        • Susan says

          Dan, it is always easier to pay lip service than to stand for your convictions. I have always had more trouble with individuals who pay lip service to me than those who oppose me outright. At least you know where a person stands when they oppose you, a person who comes to you later after sitting the fence only made sure they were on the safe side. I am sorry you are among the wounded and I think you said it eloquently when you stated that God may want you to walk wounded. I commented at 1002 this am ( below)about more of my thoughts . I hope you do not mind but I will leave your previous post and questions untouched…
          My background is 32 years in Corrections as an officer and supervisor and a lifetime in Christ. I managed to be able to incorporate My faith into my work and came away with a wonderful experience thank God. Corrections is not the easiest place to be a Christian or even a believer in God. I have been spit on cursed at and called every derogatory name in the book even some that some Christians could not think of. I have been invited to young men’s privates who are young enough to be grandchildren and I have gone in swinging, attempting to stop assaults on both staff and inmates. Perhaps this has molded me into the outspoken believer that I am. But maybe not.
          God formed a plan for me early on from my early profession of Christ to leaving the Catholic Church for a Baptist assembly and entering into corrections in my early 20’s where I called every inmate sir , young lady and mam and if I interrupted with a request I said excuse me! God grew me through me childhood and young adulthood with experiences and understanding of the environment I would one day be working in. I was not born into some urban community with a knowledge of the “element” but a middle class white family with a home in the suburbs.
          My background also is a product of several pastors and a priest who were not afraid of being controversial or telling it as it should be.The only time I personally had to spend with these wonderful individuals was when I could encourage them. Their teachings and leadership were enough to motivate me to greater things and to learn about disciplining and missions.
          I was inspired early on in my Corrections career by a Book called Man in The Mirror which the men’s group at my church had done a study on. Being that I worked with Men as well as women reading this book made sense to me and not only was an inspiration to me but it’s insights have been an inspiration to those who I worked with who would listen. As a result of that book I became more immersed in using my life and career as my ministry.
          I volunteered to work alongside ex offenders and pastors in Prison Ministry in affiliation with Chuck Colson and Prison Fellowship and was instrumental in starting an interfaith ministry group of leaders in our county who were involved in Prison Ministry.
          I have always reminded myself (repetitively ) that it is not the whole but the _one_ that is saved that counts . With that in mind I have plugged on even in the worst opposition because if I gave up, that ONE would not have a witness…
          While I have limited friends I seek out other commited Christians to talk with when I need guidance and this includes one or two Pastors I know . I do not walk alone .

  17. says

    I believe in these days God is calling our great pastors to go even further out of their comfort zone to an even higher calling.
    “Politics in the Pulpits”
    Pastors made America great… It is a big challenge; it would cost a great deal; Jesus understands this.
    .New International Version (©2011)
    Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

  18. Will Herndon says

    The church is NOT a Burger King…get it your way.
    The pastors that seek to impose their will on deacons/committees/members before they win their heart and earn their trust (your doctorate in theology can’t help you with that) will always have a hard time advancing their vision for the church. Don’t envy the pastor of mega-church that’s been there for 25 years, you are looking at the end result of their faithful ministry. Ask them what got them there … Faithful preaching, Love for the people, Servant heart.
    I know there are some deacons/committees/members that can come from Hades, but they are there to remind you that in God’s Kingdom we advance on our knees.

    • Susan h says

      I disagree Will… There are always things church members can do better. It is the Church members who should be learning how to have a servants heart and to feed not to be fed… Children who refuse to grow up become petulant spoiled adults… Working in a jail I have had the privilege to see those who do not want to grow up just be taken care of….A pastor is not only a leader but a coach, teacher, confidant and parent to the congregation.A congregation should be hiring the pastor for their ability to evoke learning as well as growth not because of some high school popularity contest and by the time the hiring process has taken place they should have decided that their new pastor is CAPABLE not just likable. Even though a Pastor has been retained and employed by the church does not mean that he does what they say, just the opposite he is now in the position of defining the advancement of the church and it’s people.
      A pastor who refuses to lead thinking instead the congregation will define itself is negligent. As in any new job a period of learning and adjustment is needed to put things in place. Sometimes work is excessive and it is then that delegating skills come in. A pastor who does not delegate correctly runs the risk of putting individuals who are prideful and (envious of the pastors position of power) in places they should not be. Just because a member has been in the church for years or grown up in a Christian home does not make them any MORE righteous that any other member of the body,the head of membership, Pastor or Christ… Can you imagine telling Christ that he cannot have it his way?

      • Will says

        Oh, I thought that Jesus said that whoever wanted to be great in the kingdom had to become a SERVANT. T H A T is Jesus’ way. Have you considered the option that there are pastors that push THEIR agenda BEFORE having earned the members heart through SERVICE?
        I know there are members out there that are spoiled brats, but this is a blog to pastors.

  19. says

    Thom, thanks for sharing your latest ‘non-scientific’ survey. What a great question! … the honest reality is that THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE for any pastor (or church staff) is ‘THEMSELF’. Our biggest challenge is always ourselves, isn’t?

    Like Moses, most pastors are godly men and great leaders. Also like Moses, pastors need to be careful not ONE to get carried away in their great work, AND TWO, BE CAREFUL not to make great mistakes that cost them dearly.

    Here’s what I mean …

    ONE, Moses got caught in the trap of trying to do to much, trying to make all the decisions, trying to spend time all the people. God gave him some advice, Exodus 18:21 (and Deut 1:15) “Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be leaders of thousands, leaders of hundreds, leaders of fifties, and leaders of tens.” Many pastors struggle with setting up LEADERSHIP INFRASTRUCTURE (particularly among men) to bear the responsibility of leadership, decision-making, care-taking, and importantly, spiritual discipleship. Is there a size of church or pastor that can’t benefit from the ‘LEADER OF TENS’ type of infrastructure model? Interestingly enough, Jesus worked with TWELVE for 3 years to get them leadership-ready. Look what happened in Acts 6:1-4 “Now in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplying … then the TWELVE summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

    Pastors need to learn to let go of being the center of attention and learn to make THE CENTER OF THEIR ATTENTION on developing ‘leadership infrastructure’ all the way down to ‘leaders of tens’. How many ‘TENS’ are in your church? How many ‘LEADERS OF TENS’ do you have set up to lead?

    Like Jesus, Pastor need to get comfortable with the thought behind Jesus statement when He looked at His ‘leaders’ and ‘disciples’ and said John 14:12a “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do.” Pastors, set up your ‘leaders’, ‘disciples’, and ‘members’ to do GREATER WORKS than you!

    TWO, for your own personal benefit and the benefit of your people, BE CAREFUL not to make the Great Mistake that Moses made. Out of prolonged frustration with how his ‘congregation’ was acting and responding, Moses chose to do God’s work his way. Moses struck the rock. AND God still gave Moses ‘God’s results’ for doing God’s work. BUT it cost Moses dearly. Be careful to do God’s work … God’s way. Not your own way. Not what you think is best as the ‘Leader of the People’. How do you do that? Just like the TWELVE above, STAY FOCUSED CONTINUOUSLY ON PRAYER and THE MINISTRY OF THE WORD.

    After all, that is how your ‘congregation’ and ‘people’ will grow both spiritually and numerically.

    ONE, continually build your ‘LEADERSHIP INFRASTRUCTURE’ (across all age groups).

    TWO, continually keep YOUR TIME and ENERGY focused on Prayer and the Ministry of the Word.

    That’s a pastor’s BIGGEST CHALLENGE!

  20. says

    This list, while not surprising is a good list to help evaluate our own organizations. The saddest of all to me was the last one. It never ceases to amaze me the lack of true friendship and relationships that most pastors experience. They build support networks for so many others yet the organization or systems in place do not allow for the development of their own friendships. Changing this factor would elp with burnout and thus turnover likely resulting in greater efficiencies throughout the organization. Thanks for sharing.

  21. says

    Looking back on 26 years, I agree with all of these challenges, but my biggest ministry challenge has not been the sheep, it has been the shepherd. I love pastoring, but my greatest challenges are internal. The goats in my churches are not viable scapegoats.

  22. Libby Lingenfelter says

    This link affirms my earlier comments. This blog may have evolved into one of the most important blog forums ever! Our pastors must stop being distracted by the minor issues and focus on the majors! Otherwise, there may not be a church to worry about. This presentation is presented by Orlean Koehle ironically presented from a pulpit. You may have to click on the exact video, entitled: Commom Core Curriculum – A Trojan Horse for Education Reform. This is so important to watch that if you don’t, your congregation may very well be devoured. The correct video shows her standing at the pulpit with a baptismal behind her for proper identification. Pastors you are here for such a time as this! God Bless (I have no idea how I got involved in this blog except to say it must have been a divine appointment.

  23. KS says

    These are important issues, and I can identify with some of them. However, they all seem to be symptoms, rather that root problems. Surely the biggest challenge is people (be they members, staff, or the pastor himself) who are not focused on God and on his character, who are not willing (nay, determined) to put God’s will into practice, regardless of the personal cost.

  24. Allen Calkins says

    The comments from lay leaders on this post really frame the problem pastors face in leading churches well. Half want the pastors to ‘grow a spine’, ‘take the bull by the horns’ and boldly lead the church. The other half want pastors to quit trying to ‘impose their will’ on the church, bully the church and passively wait instead for the Holy Spirit to lead, (not sure how that happens if nobody steps up to take charge). The variety of expectations for pastors from the actively serving members and apathy from the majority makes it tough for pastors to find enough support to move the church forward for the Lord.

    • Susan says

      I left this forum last month because I was advised that this was for Pastors and not me. I stand by my statements , A pastor must take control of the church or be run roughshod over. If the church members are focused on things other than God it is going to bring havoc to the whole church and open the Pastor to ridicule. I had always had the impression that a Pastor had the heart as well as the training and ability to do the job.
      The Job of Pastor is not just to be a counselor ( I have counseling certification and can do the same) but to LEAD the church, in order to lead you must have leadership skills and those include management of all the issues included here. If one area is in need of repair then the manager must recognize this and take action. The Pastor is the Sheppard NO LONGER one of the sheep once he takes the position. He is the individual who is supposed to know best care for and do what is in the best interest of the sheep including locking them in at night and medicating them when necessary ( taking license). If the pastor does not do his job correctly and it is brought to his attention (biblical) then it is up to him to admit to and rectify the situation. He must also be able (as a leader) be able to stand up to ridicule and _correct_ the improper attitudes.
      I am only a church member, one who does what she can and then some, but also one who has battled Satan in the church. I am sorry if I struck a nerve in some people ,I am not trying to hurt anyone further but I am adamant that someone needs to take control of the way things are going in these churches, because where there is apathy or dissension people are being led/pushed away from God! Not everyone is able to stand up and speak out against injustice, dissension and cliques. When this stuff enters our churches people who are looking for a haven from the worldly Garbage start leaving, what kind of witness is this?

  25. Robby says

    I would say my biggest challenges in order are wonderfully less than 12 but sadly just as difficult:
    1. Satan
    2. Myself
    3. People

  26. Rowland says

    My challanges as a pastor are: a) A lack of leadership. b) Members leaving because they can’t get their way.

  27. Robby says

    Pardon the gender term, but we pastors need to “man” up or better term , perhaps “Moses up” (see Exodus 14:11-20 among others), because I don’t see any other type of “sheeple” to work with in the Bible. All this handwringing and whining is causing me to wonder if God really “calls the equipped or equips the called”. I mean it is a tough work, the pastor’s, but what lie did they tell you, or rather “who” is that always lies to us about the facts (see Satan)? Jesus wasn’t the most popular guy in Jerusalem either and especially among the religious community and His was “killer” pastorate too. just saying

    • dan says

      I basically agree with your statements. I knew that ministry would be tough work, but I did not have, I was not prepared for the degree of difficulty early on. I made it through but it was pretty awful while I endured so much opposition for simply not being my predecessor, or not being the interim, or that my wife was active in ministry, or whatever else (the list was too long). I understand the hardship of ministry better than I could have just by hearing from others, but I aint turning back. Beyond that, I think it does me good to at least read from pastors in the trenches that I am not alone in the pain that ministry caused. I guess my reason for responding is that I think Satan would not want pastors to talk honestly about the struggles they face in ministry. I think Satan would want pastors who are feeling weighed down by the hardships of ministry to feel like they are being sissies for opening up. I think Satan would want a pastor who is enduring hardship to feel guilty for stating that ministry has been a challenge. I think Satan would want the pastor to forget that although Jesus willingly endured the cross, He also prayed for another way to bring salvation. I think Satan would want pastors to be macho…which as an American man is an attractive option, but not necessarily a wise or biblical one.

      • Robby says

        Dan, please feel free to say what your feeling, or however one expresses their hurts. I just thought someone should say OK now get back to work cause this is what it is. I mean if it weren’t for the people church would be pretty good work, right? Of course without the people their is no church. Isn’t this what God was doing with Moses in Exodus 14:11-20, trying to see if Moses was up for the challenge of real leadership? Moses’ reaction was to get back to work.
        I guess my ministry struggles are are more personal rather than other people, because I can’t really change them just attitude toward them. So I admit to being critical of those who always blame others for their struggles. Thanks for your comments, I shall leave the majority here to their mode of catharsis.

  28. Mark says

    These are certainly many of the symptoms I find in my church. They could cause me to become disheartened but I hold on to one fact: God called me to the ministry and to my current church. I think too many pastors are not called to their current assignments. They are “employed” by their current church but not called. This is important. If I were here because it seemed like a good idea, nice location, happening congregation then I would be in the wrong place. Instead, I am here because God made the way unmistakably clear. I prayed, as did the congregation, and I believe God’s will has been done. I refuse to allow man to disrupt what God has begun. So now I stand against the business/organization mentality that people seem to prefer over a real relationship with God through Christ. I have no stomach for committees that are formed so they can “figure out” if we can move forward with what God has tasked us with. I love my congregants, but I’m not here to make them comfortable. As a pastor, I am responsible to call my congregation to holiness and faithfulness. Everything else is either a distraction or icing.

  29. Brad McGuire says

    Deacons acting like members of a business committee. “Executive Board” is a term that makes me cringe.

  30. Kathy with a "k" says

    “If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten” Cannot even remember who gets the credit for this but since it has already been said…. We ( me & Pastor Hubby) have been in ministry 25 years this fall. Served in 4 Churches. 1 st (6 1/2 years), 2 nd (40 months of Egypt) , 3 rd (12 years) and now in our 4 th (3 years ) and counting. Every where we have been it has been that we are always learning something new. People are the same in every Church. We are the same in every Church. Here we are doing a new thing. Confessing our sins before each other, breaking up our FALLOW ground. ( this is an interesting subject because we all have fallow ground where we have never been before) loving what HE is doing in our lives and hearts. Indeed…HE is faithful and HE will do a new work in and among you. I love each new day same as I have in the past. The difference, same as it has always been. He is responsible for the increase. We are called to be faithful. Loving Him! Blessings!

  31. Gary D Standish says

    Thom the church has always been plaqued with these problems. Look at the church in Corinth or 3 John and Jude just for starters. Even the Isrealites were incased with these problems-lets go back to Egypt it was better there. Ever since I read your article on the Deceased Church I have not been able to get it off my mind for the same reasons. I have been beat up in the “Corinth” Church ministry for thirty plus years and I still have a heart for it. I have a whole lot more to say but not enough space to share it.

  32. Ann S. says

    Dr. Rainer,
    I am doing some research on, what I guess I will call, the unspoken struggles of a Pastor and their staff. Most research and articles like this focus on the time constraints, personality conflicts, family struggles, lack of sincerity in members, etc… However, I would like to know about the struggles pastors and staff members face with issues of pride, their position as servant, humility and ego. Are they aware of these attitudes creeping in? Do they take measures to guard themselves against it? Do churches, especially larger churches, have programs in place to keep this in check? Should churches have a program like this? It seems there is an unintended hierarchy in the church where those with smaller roles, less money and influence are considered not as important in the role of the church body and are therefore, more expendable.
    I am a preachers kid and a seminary student. I love Jesus. I love my church. This is just something I have picked up on over years of being exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly parts of ministry. It seems as though these issues are never addressed…
    I’m anxious to hear your thoughts on this.

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