Ten-Things-Pastors-Like-Least-about-Their-Jobs

Let me state the obvious: Pastors are humans. That means they have preferences, likes, and dislikes. So I did an unscientific Twitter poll to find out what pastors really don’t like about their jobs. By the way, one pastor cautioned me about calling their ministries “jobs.” I understand, but it’s hard to fit “God-called vocation and ministry” into a 140-character Twitter question.

I was surprised at the variety of responses. Pastors are certainly not monolithic. No one response was greater than 20 percent of the total. And I was surprised at some potential responses that did not show up. For example, as an introverted pastor, I liked counseling the least of all the work I did. But no pastors mentioned counseling as a least-liked aspect of their jobs.

Here are the top ten responses. They are listed in order of frequency of response.

  1. Conflict and complaining church members. No surprise on this one. These issues are a way of life for most pastors.
  2. Family challenges. Most of these responses were related to a desire to cut back on some church responsibilities to spend more time with family. Some pastors expressed concern about protecting family members from the issues of number one above.
  3. Busy work. None of the pastors thought this work was beneath them. They simply did not enjoy paperwork, janitorial work, and maintenance work that took away from their primary ministries. This issue was more common with pastors of smaller churches.
  4. Members whose priorities are their own comfort and preferences. “They like their comfort, but not their commitment,” one pastor wrote.
  5. Expectations to be present at all church functions and many social functions. One pastor indicated he could be cloned two times and still would not have enough capacity to meet all of the members’ expectations.
  6. Non-productive meetings. I feel their pain. 
  7. Expectation to be on call 24/7. Many pastors indicated that they don’t feel the benefit of a day off or a vacation because they have to respond to any interruption requested by a church member.
  8. Confronting people who are sinning. “It’s biblical,” one pastor said, “but it sure doesn’t end well.”
  9. Problems with staff members. As you would expect, this issue was more common for pastors of larger churches that actually have multiple full-time staff members.
  10. Members who aren’t passionate about evangelism/reaching the community. There is obvious overlap between this response and the response noted in number four.

What do you think about this top ten? What would you add?

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Comments

  1. Allen Calkins says

    The list is accurate enough. Any one of them could be expounded upon.
    Here are a couple of related issues that have frustrated me significantly in the ministry:
    1) The dedication church members have to their ‘traditions’. It is very difficult to set aside traditional activities or events, even when support for them is obviously waning.
    2) The reluctance of church leaders to support the pastor and make the hard decision for fear ‘it will upset someone’….Why do church members never recognize how upsetting it is to their pastor to not be able to confront a sinful situation or lead the church in the way they believe God is leading them?
    3) Members who assume the worst about their pastor instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt. They assume if they call at 9am and he is not in the office that he is slacking off without regard to the possibility that he had a late night or is responding to a need rather than sitting in the office. This is a problem that seems to be getting worse as cynicism against pastors and the church rises.

    • says

      When you say “traditional activities or events” Please explain.
      The problem is today many pastors are leading them right to the world.

      • Allen Calkins says

        Tony, by traditional I mean something that has been done for a long time, like a Spring revival a certain week of the year or an annual Homecoming celebration that has dwindling attendance or a program that is no longer effective but is still taking church resources to keep alive.
        In most churches it is necessary to stop something you are presently using resources on to start something new.
        …Just because something worked well 20 years ago does not mean we should still be doing it today.

        • Bobby says

          I left a church after 28 years because it was an older church that had generations of families that could only do things the way their grandparents did them..Traditions that were decades old were more important than really reaching out side of the church and into the community.Truth was always trumped by tradition.So sad.

          • Lyonet says

            The first church I joined was like that. As a new member and new neighbor the damage this did took many years and tears to overcome. My current church is dying and we are trying to do it with dignity. But many years of this attitude among the elders and members, and a pastor or two who would not buck it, put many of the nails in the soon to be filled coffin.

  2. Justin says

    Dealing with members who cause a commotion, leave, see themselves as a new Moses whose responsibility it is to take as many members with them as possible, join the church 1/2 mile down the road, and make it their life’s ambition to destroy your church. Of course, this is a common occurrence in smaller, rural communities – many people will have joined 5 or 6 churches throughout their life.

    • says

      Inner city churches have the same problems as small country churches except that you spend a decade with someone and see them either fall away into crime or leave your work to a larger wealthy church.

    • Nick says

      I don’t think that’s unique to smaller communities. Having lived in both big cities and small towns, I can say that church hopping is common to both environments, and its causes have little to do with the population density.

  3. Paul says

    Really encouraging to read this. Point 5 is a challenge, especially when events are on what is supposed to be the pastor’s day off! That then ties in with point 2 when as a pastor you just want to be with your family on that day. It’s not that you don’t enjoy being with your congregation at social events but can end up feel like you’re ‘working’ in the end. Thanks for a great article.

    • Drew Dabbs says

      This happens to me at least once every month. The monthly deacons’ meeting is scheduled for the Tuesday night before the monthly business meeting on Wednesday night, and Tuesday is my off day. So, needless to say, the whole day I’m “off,” I’m thinking about the fact that I have to be at a church meeting that night. Not a complaint or a whine, just a fact. It just kind of takes something away from the fact that it’s a day off. By the way, I know alot of people think pastor’s don’t “deserve” a day off every week, but I can’t tell you the number of church events I’ve attended–and even hosted–on Saturdays. Again, not a complaint or a whine, just a fact to be taken into consideration.

      • says

        Maybe you could negotiate a different “day off” for those weeks? Then you wouldn’t feel like you are dividing your time between two very important things.

      • charles says

        You need to change that meeting or your day off. I don’t care if the meeting is an hour long at 7pm, you effectively don’t have that day off.

        • Pamela says

          Yes, everyone–even pastors need a day off and our Father set the example–He rested on the seventh day.

      • Drew Dabbs says

        I don’t get to take a day off every week, but the church was very clear that they expected me to take a day off each week. Sometimes, I can; other times, I can’t. Some weeks, there’s just too much going on.

        You guys are right about changing the day that I take off. I know I could do that. I could change it to Wednesday, but there’s Prayer Meeting on Wednesday night, so that won’t work. I have a Thursday morning card & letter ministry, so Thursday’s out. That leaves Monday or Friday. When I take Mondays off, which I’ve done in the past, I feel like I’m playing catch-up all week after that, starting a day behind. As for Friday, if there’s any way I can make sure my sermon’s completely done by Friday, I’d take Friday off, instead of Tuesday on those weeks.

        My point was simply that when you have a church meeting or an obligatory social function, then, like Paul said earlier, you end up feeling like you’re “working” in the end.

        Similar feeling when you’re “off” (on vacation, etc.), and you get church-related phone calls. You’re still “working,” in the end.

    • Stephanie says

      I can’t help but chuckle at the phrase “pastor’s day off.” It’s truly a rare occasion for our house, and it’s never a designated day. My husband is bi-vocational, working 5-6 days per week at his full time job. But oh the joy when he does get a much needed day off!

  4. says

    The people who thinks it looks easy, and offer their simple fix-it-all solution to all the churches challenges. It usually boils down to adding another program, ministry or meeting.

  5. says

    I can relate to all of these frustrations, obviously some of them more than others. It’s comforting to know that our trials are not unique to us but shared by our fellow workers in God’s field. The only thing I would add is another list: “What Pastors Love Most About Their Jobs.” The blessings of ministry outweigh the burdens when viewed in the light of eternity. Remembering why we do what we do is often what keeps our hand to the plow.

  6. says

    If there is one thing not on the list that I find difficult in ministry it is the difficulty in separating yourself personally from the church or ministry you lead. Over the years when people leave the church they almost invariably will say “It’s not you, pastor, we just didn’t feel the church met our needs”. To which I think, “Wait a minute, you left the church I pastor and the ministries I lead because you didn’t feel that it met your needs and then you expect me not take it personally?” It is difficult. (And I get it that it is God’s church, but I am speaking personally). The other negative is the lack of negative feedback from people. In over 20 years of ministry, I can think of a mere handful of people that have actually stopped in to talk to me and tell my WHY they are leaving. The times people do talk to me it is because I track them down to talk to them, but rarely will people stop in my office to talk to me. How can we address something we might be doing wrong if no one ever lets the pastor know what the church is doing wrong?

    • Drew Dabbs says

      Jim, I’ve had this happen to me TWICE in the last few months. Both times, it was people who were “leaders” in the church AND personal friends of mine. At least, they were supposed to be leaders, and I thought they were personal friends. That’s when it really hurts. They just stopped coming and offered no explanation. One of them had the decency to offer an official letter of resignation from his post, but it was very generic. The other sent me a text message. A text message! Three weeks after the fact. Again, with no real explanation. That’ll make you believe the best in people, won’t it?

    • says

      To piggyback on this: the added sadness of the leaving members having no trouble telling everyone ELSE why they’re leaving.

  7. says

    Pastoral Loneliness: the inability to make friends with church members for when conflict between members arise, said members try to leverage the relationship with the pastor to gain advantage agaisnt the person they are in conflict.

    • says

      Don… not tooting my own horn but when pastors in my District get the boot or quit suddenly i call them. It isn’t my job. I think it do it just because if i ever get the boot i want someone to call me. They report that often – despite 10-15-20 years working in an area – i am the only one of their pastoral colleagues to do so. Often we correspond for months some times years as they transition out of ministry and into some other field. Your mentioning of “pastoral loneliness” is the most common presenting problem when i talk to them but the wrinkle i want to add is that this loneliness is most painful to them when its source is not only from the congregation they serve (which is understandable in many ways) but also within the colleagues from family of churches they have worked for. So a start might simply be for us as Pastor’s – if we are so lonely – to be friendlier and to be a friend to one another.

    • Luke says

      I would really recommend to all pastors the book Dangerous Calling by Paul Tripp. He has a lot to say regarding the loneliness of pastoral ministry.

    • CJ says

      In our case, this loneliness also extends to the pastor’s family. Which is especially hurtful, since this calling is a 2nd career, so we spend years as parishioners with lots of church friends and now we (the family members) sit alone in worship and at church dinners, etc. A very uncomfortable position, especially as our children leave the nest and area.

  8. Nancy Hale says

    On my top ten list would be officiating at weddings for people who have little or no Christian commitment, but simply want a beautiful ceremony in our gorgeous sanctuary.

      • Allen Calkins says

        The church I am presently serving really does not want the pastor to routinely officate weddings for non-members or unbelievers…I like that!

    • says

      My personal policy is that I will only perform wedding ceremonies for those who are either congregants or family members of congregants; and, that under ordinary circumstances they are required to do a brief course of pre-marital counseling with me before I will agree to officiate at their wedding ceremony. Officiating at wedding ceremonies is a privilege and blessing, but it is not a biblically required function of the ministry of the Word. (Of course, the fact that the congregations I have served thus far have met in rented facilities has also helped to cut down on the number of weddings I have been asked to perform.)

    • says

      A side note to this, it’s time most church should get a policy on weddings by their boards, sessions, etc., stating that they only do wedding for members… so as to protect themselves from other charges.

  9. says

    The other frustration is when church leaders meet. Discuss the pastor and make decisions over matters somewhere without him. When they come for the meeting with the pastor, they have already discussed and made discisions. The meeting is just for formality sake but decisions have been made without the pastor. It is so frustrating.

  10. says

    Sometimes when I have to do the busy work I remember that Jesus said that he came to serve not to be served. I do have to be careful not to take away from another something they would be willing to do if I asked them to.

  11. Steve Pryor says

    Another article applicable to non-Church roles, as well. Especially #1. Complaining employee, peers,etc..is emotionally draining. Great job.

  12. Drew Dabbs says

    I have way too many thoughts buzzing around in this little head of mine, which is precisely why I didn’t respond to the Twitter poll the other day. I simply couldn’t get everything sorted out and articulated in 140 characters or less!

    1, 4, & 10 go together like turnip greens, cornbread, & pepper sauce. You’re always gonna have all three. A related issue would be the “silent supporters,” which you’ve written about before, who won’t speak up against the critics & complainers.

    Someone will gossip (let’s call a thing what it is) to a fellow church member about their pastor. Eight out of ten times, that person won’t nip it in the bud and unequivocally take up for their pastor. They just listen and nod their head. Then, they come to their pastor and say, “I’ve heard some people complaining about so and so.”

    That kind of junk MAKES ME SICK.

    2 & 5 also go together. The expectation that pastors (often along with the pastor’s family) should be at so many functions takes away from quality time that a pastor might otherwise spend with his family. A related issue would be the ministry of the pastor’s wife. If she is, by nature, the kind of person who will take responsibility on herself, churches will often gladly allow her to do so. Before you know it, both pastor and wife are carrying a full ministry load, trying to raise a family together, and it can be really tough. It’s like Ed Stetzer’s recent article said: you’ve got to set up healthy boundaries, and, chances are, “your congregation is not naturally going to help you with this.”

    So, those are my two biggest dislikes:
    1) Gossiping & the failure by some to nip it in the bud
    2) Time demands / expectations (for both pastor and spouse)

  13. says

    I agree with all of the 10 and would add 1 more: Close friends! Being a PS (Pastor’s Sister), makes me qualified to agree and add another to the list. Pastors NEED someone who can be, is willing to be a close friend! Someone who will not only be that friend but love UNCONDITIONALLY and NEVER, EVER reveal what is told them by that pastor(s)! Pastors have not anyone who really cares for them or stands in the “gap” for them in prayer; not their families either! Rather, the norm is that many are expecting their pastors to be “perfect” and they just simply can not be! They are human beings, made in GOD’s Image, yes, but still human beings, flawed and NOT perfect; in much need of LOVE, unconditional, and devotion from one who will be a REAL friend!

  14. Rusty says

    The one I would add is no progression in benefits. A 25 year old and 50 year old pastor often have the same amount of vacation days. I know pastors who have never had a mothers or fathers day off as well as a Christmas off even though they live hundreds of miles from family. This can go back to #2 and many pastor families (extended and immediate) are bitter of this.

    • Allen Calkins says

      In some of the cases like you mentioned, Rusty, especially when the need is more specific to them, a pastor needs to be more willing to ask. Most churches do not have trained Human Resources people at their disposal. They do not know what benefits to consider increasing. If you want/need an extra week of vacation because of your tenure there or a Mother’s Day off every other year, or a sabatical week then ask for it. Most will NEVER think to offer it to you. Most churches are gracious to meet needs they can understand. Of course, if you ask too much then that can be a problem too….

      • Rusty says

        Allen, I agree with you in part. I have trained 11 interns who entered ministry and I had all them ask up front for progressive benefits and time off for holidays. Most got everything they asked. I have also had many pastor friends who current church were unwilling and they had to choose between leaving or the standard.

    • CNeuman says

      We have found the opposite of vacation days, the lead pastor gets 5 weeks off and the assistent only get 2. My husband is the assistant and the part I struggle with is the work load. My husband in a week will be at more events and lead more ministries than the lead pastor. Depending on the time of year (aka: Sept- Oct for Christmas Prestentation prep and Jan – Mar for VBS prep) will add at least another night out to his already busy schedule. And on top of all that, when the lead pastor goes away for his holiday time, my husband has to pick up the slack. But he still only gets 2 weeks off. We put in a request for another week of holidays for this yer since we had been at the church for four years. Our request was denied. Although my husband has been in ministry for the equivilent to 5 yeatrs, the board didn’t want to give him another week because he hadn’t been in “full-time” minstry for 5 years. As it turned out we resigned this year, but because my husband didn’t work the full year (even though he has worked over half the year) the board decided he was not entitled to his two weeks of holidays, only one.
      I believe at different times of the year all pastors have their busy times and their slack times. They are all on the same team, working for the same goal, why is it the lead pators get more time off then the rest when thy work just as hard? Why is it also we force those in the ‘prime’ of their lives, those whose families are young and whose relationships are just starting out, to put in the most hours, stealing that time from building strong and healthy relationships and families. Instead we give that extra time to the ones whose families have already grown up and left home, it gets given to the ones in which the damage is already done. When are we going to stop quabiblng about the money and the benefits and who gets more time off because they’ve been in the ministry longer and start looking out or the health and wellness both physically and spiritually of our young pastors and their families, epecially those who are new to the ministry and who have new families?

      • says

        It’s really sad when churches treat their pastors/employees with less dignity, consideration, money, etc., than the world does. Sorry that you went through all of that. Hopefully, the LORD will heal the wounds soon.

  15. says

    You have a pretty extensive list there, Thom! My addition isn’t a completely new one, but more a modification of one of the points above: I dislike having to lead apathetic people. I work in college ministry, and there are times when students can be very apathetic about everything. I’m a pretty passionate guy. When I do something, I dive in with all I have. Leading people who are the exact opposite burns me out and infuriates me. It would be different if we were selling cars, but this is bringing people to the Creator. No room for apathetic people there.

  16. says

    The difficulty dealing w/ some who are unwilling to step out in faith & trust God with our finances when we have over $60,000 in savings. We are not meeting budget currently, but you would think that the church is ready to close its doors (not to mention that my church has been debt free for many, many years). Seeking to develop a culture of faith regarding money in the church and stepping out in faith in new ministries is a big challenge.

  17. Stan says

    Members who jump into service for the purpose of setting up their own little kingdom – so to speak. This happens inevitably, but is messy, emotional, and damaging to the Church both to end and allow its presence. I assume most pastors would agree.

  18. Nick says

    I wonder where blogging fits in to this? With a few specific exceptions, I’ve found that pastoral blogs and a “global persona” are rarely helpful to an individual’s ministry. It makes me wonder whether “(11) Spending time with his congregation” shouldn’t be on the list. I’ve had pastors in the past that seemed to be more interested in publishing a newsletter about their lives than actually engaging the congregation on a personal level. Obviously, that’s not the norm, and I’m thankful for that, but I think it’s a danger nevertheless. Some of the best pastors I’ve served with have no blogs or large following, and may not receive any broad public acclaim until Jesus says “well done.”

    • says

      I think there is a place for pastoral blogs, but you make a good point. Blogging and publishing must be kept subordinate to personal shepherding of the sheep on the part of the pastor. Christ’s undershepherd is expected to know his “sheep” (congregants) by name – to know their individual life situations and spiritual condition – so a pastor who puts more emphasis on blogging or writing than he does on spending time with his “sheep” is simply not being faithful to his calling. (As an aside, this is one of the reasons why I think the megachurch model is an unbiblical model of doing church. No matter how many are on the pastoral staff, and no matter how many “small groups” – i.e., mini-congregations within the megachurch – the church may have, one suspects that very few in such churches have a pastor who knows them well, as a shepherd knows his sheep. For example, I wonder how many in such mega-churches have ever had their pastor stop by their home for a pastoral visit? The megachurch follows the marketing, corporate business model which is centered on multiple church programs; whereas Scripture lays before us a shepherding model designed to create a church community which is more like a family than a business.)

  19. Heather says

    Pastor’s wife here. How about “pastoral salary negotiations”. Always a good time! I’m looking forward to the “Top Ten Things Pastors Love About Their Jobs”. Would be fun to do a pastor’s wife perspective too.

  20. Kathy says

    i am not a pastor but a layperson who has served in leadership roles in different ministries. I never realized how hard of a job it would be until I was totally immersed. I prayed and told God that this wasn’t fun anymore. I didn’t want to continue. The next thought that came to my mind was, “Do you think Jesus enjoyed his time on the cross?” After that, I complained no more.

  21. says

    This is an accurate list. I think the mistakes we made as young pastors was not shielding our children more from the church complainers and troublemakers as far as them knowing how it was affecting us. Not that we discussed things with them. We didn’t. But children are wise and they picked up on things. Being a pastor’s kid is hard. Very hard. And it’s had some dire consequences for our family for one of my sons. Good post. Only wish our congregations would/could read it!

  22. Jason W. says

    The time situation I believe is one that every Pastor has to deal with. We all understood from the outset of our call that this was not going to be an easy road, but seem shocked when it really is hard. I have had times of deep sorrow in the ministry mostly due to apathetic church members and very high hopes that are inevitably dashed. We must understand the personality of our members and work to try to customize the ministry of that congregation to fit their personalities combined. I am and will be learning until I am with Jesus in glory, but one of the main lessons I’ve learned is that the Shepherd knows His Sheep. If we are persistent in our efforts to know the flock, when the time comes to implement a strategy or vision for the future of the church we will find that the sheep know the voice of their Shepherd and will follow. Trust must be earned and sadly is very hard to earn. If I am saying anything its Don’t give up, try to remain positive, find times for rest, always make time for your wife, kids, extended family and self. All advice given here was given to me by an elderly Pastor who had been in ministry for 50 plus years. I still struggle at times but I know the storms always end.

  23. Patti says

    I am not a Pastor but a lay leader. I can identify with this list. This year I decided to take off every Sunday in August from my home church. This would be the equivalent to taking a weeks vacation from my secular job. I informed my Pastor. I made sure my responsibilities were covered. I am spending time with family and friends. I am visiting other churches which I never get time to do. I am enjoying the time off. My children are enjoying the time off. I would recommend to everyone to take the time you need to rest. I hope to train my children by precept and example how to be an effective leader. One thing is to take care of yourself and family.

  24. Tom says

    I summarized this article to a friend as the ten things Pastors really dislike about being called to care for the Lord’s tired, poor, vain, shallow, broken, wicked, unfaithful flock. It is a good thing that the Lord calls men who are 1) free of complaints and conflict; 2) have faithful, healthy families; 3) work effectively and efficiently at significant tasks always; 4) eschew comfort and preferences; 5) are able to discern which church events are absolutely critical for Christ’s exultation; 6) lead meetings effectively and productively 100% of the time; 7) understand shepherding to be a 9-5 vocation like insurance sales or factory work; 8) afraid to confront sin when it is obviously manifesting in someone’s life for their eternal health; and 9) work effectively with staff members all day every day.

    Pastors, I hope the Lord receives your complaints with understanding and grace, because you are complaining about His calling on your life, which is not even really yours anyway. The rest of us out here, the sheep, are getting our butts kicked every day and relying on the Lord for endurance and hope. Have you all got something better to offer?

    • The Other Side of the Coin says

      Look, I’m not trying to start something. That’s not my intention. I simply want to show how there might be another side to this coin.

      God “calls” pastors, right? Countless men and women have left any and all aspirations they ever had to be or do anything else with their lives to follow God’s call. Why? Because God “called” them. No one, in their right mind, would leave med school or law school to become a pastor… unless God called them.

      The question is, “What has God ‘called’ pastors to do and be?” Without quoting Scripture and verse, the Bible tells us, in general, what pastors are supposed to do and be. In addition to that, God gifts each pastor uniquely with a set of gifts, talents, and abilities, which means each pastor’s ministry is going to be unique.

      “Let me state the obvious: pastors are humans. That means they have preferences, likes, and dislikes.” Pastors are not above complaining. I’ll call a thing what it is and say that, sometimes, pastors do complain. Sometimes, pastors complain about things they have no business complaining about. However, the vast majority of pastors that I know are faithful, dedicated men, who desperately want to live out God’s call on their lives, and, when things hinder them from living out God’s call, they “complain.” They “complain” here, often because there aren’t very many other venues in which they can speak freely about their “complaints” (1, 4, 5, 8, 9, & 10).

      From what I can gather, each of the 10 items on this list represents something that pastors feel hinder them from living out what they perceive to be the call of God on their lives.

      1) Conflict and complaining church members hinder a pastor’s attempt to live out God’s calling.
      2) Family challenges, due to church responsibilities, hinder a pastor’s attempt to live out God’s calling. A pastor’s first ministry is to his own family.
      3) Busy work hinders a pastor’s attempt to live out God’s calling.
      4) When people are more passionate about their comfort and preferences than they are about reaching the lost, it hinders a pastor’s attempt to live out God’s calling.
      5) When a pastor is expected to be at everything, everywhere, all the time it hinders a pastor’s attempt to live out God’s calling.
      6) When a pastor is expected to attend a meeting (#5) in which nothing is accomplished, it hinders the pastor’s attempt to live out God’s calling.
      7) Ditto #5
      8) When pastors aren’t allowed/encouraged by the congregation to “speak the truth in love” to people in the congregation, it hinders the pastor’s ability live out God’s calling. (Think, “We know it’s your job, but, if you do it, you’ll get fired,” or “If you do it, we’ll leave the church,” or “If you do it, we’ll make your life miserable,” kind of thing. As the guy said, “It’s biblical, but it doesn’t end well.” It doesn’t mean pastors don’t have the courage to confront sin. It means they usually have to endure a firestorm when they do.)
      9) When pastors have to deal with staff issues (a lazy staff member, a loose cannon on staff, or whatever), it hinders a pastor’s ability to live out God’s calling.
      10) See #4

      Are pastors just a bunch of whiners? Maybe so. Maybe they ought to all go out and get a “real job.” That way, they’d know what it’s like for people who have to work for a living.

      Then again, maybe pastors really are “God-called” individuals who are desperately trying to live out what they perceive to be God’s call on their lives. And when things hinder them from living out God’s call (specifically, things “inside” the church), then when given a rare venue, they take the opportunity to express their feelings and are actually encouraged to find that other pastors are dealing with the same frustrations.

      • Tom says

        All very good points. I would propose that this thread is a condemnation of the lack of fraternal discipling and compassion within the vocational ministry ranks in local communities. Several responders spoke to the very sad state of the fraternity (or lack thereof) of shepherds within a local community. In any vocation, those committed to the subject of the vocation NEED to be in community and fellowship with other practitioners. Doctors routinely consult other doctors. Lawyers regularly bounce ideas and frustrations off of their partners. I am sad that in a time and place blessed with the resources and luxuries that we all swim in, preachers continue to live in silos of their own making, harming themselves and their flocks.

        I am also disgusted that lay and vocational ministers complain about the general depravity of the people who have come to Christ for restoration. That is akin to nurses complaining about all of their patients being sick or lawyers complaining about all of their clients being in legal trouble. Has the prosperity of our time eroded our understanding of how lost we all are or were? You’ve been called to war. Now act like men with strong hearts and fight like crazy.

    • Nick says

      @Tom, I think that’s more than a little unfair. We hold this treasure in earthen vessels. Your complaint is actually a complaint against Dr. Rainer for having the temerity to run this kind of a post on his site. From my perspective he cares a great deal about pastors and this kind of thing helps us to identify problems not for the sake of seeing problems, but so that we can come alongside pastors and help them.

      I’ve been on the outside in the business world as well, and practiced law for many years before going into ministry full-time. I can safely say there is no profession that gets treated better – and worse – than ministers of the Gospel. Many pastors (myself included) do the best they can before God to minister out of His strength, but that requires us to go to Him an awful lot. It’s an often friendless and thankless life and saying we should just suck it up because we’re called to it is the worst kind of super-spiritual rhetoric.

      • Thom Rainer says

        You are correct Nick. I am to blame, if blame is to be placed for this forum. The nature of my question forced a negative response. The pastors are not whining; they are responding. And I am trying to provide them a forum to “let their hair down” with fellow pastors. If I have hurt any pastors or offended any people, I apologize.

        • Tom says

          That Dr. Rainer follows and responds to an article throughout the attending threads is indicative of his desire for the people reading his posts to be in community. How can any man be fairly criticized for encouraging and nuturing community in Christ?

          I have never let my own ignorance or inexperience get in the way of an opinion; this current thread being no exception. that being said, i would, from a lay perspective, propose that this conversation distressingly points to the lack of healthy, functional, Christ covenanted community between pastors of separate fellowships within their indidividual local communities. i am sure that there is some thin level of encouragement initiated by a post like this. the problem is that there is no real, side-by-side, functional follow up. how are all of the hurting pastors and their families that have written in going to engage their elders, deacons, members, and fellow pastors in their own discipleship? i have to recruit men into my life from both my profession and my neighborhood to disciple me and encourage me. we all have such an atrophied understanding of the community that Christ calls us to. a blog post does nothing to lift that fog.

          are people messy? unbelievably. they are messy when they are physically sick, when they run afoul of the justice system, when they are in legal trouble, when they seek to lessen their ignorance through education, when they seek to feed and cloth and shelter themselves. i am still no closer to understanding why the frustrations of vocational ministry diverge from the stresses of any other professional calling. how many pastors have been sued by an patient who has no means or intention to pay for their care and who actively impedes the clinical care system? how many pastors have been shot at by someone they are trying to help? how many pastors have run into a burning building set by an arsonist? and on and on it goes. we labor in a fallen world among depraved people. i stnad by my request that pastors realize that they are called to DIE; to themselves and for their flock.

          someday very soon, relatively speaking, we will all labor in the most unspeakably peaceful and beautiful ways. at that point all the medical providers, justice workers, and vocational ministers will all be unemplyed.

        • Drew Dabbs says

          This is likely (hopefully) the last time I’ll comment on this particular blog post.

          Dr. Rainer, I am incredibly and deeply encouraged by your articles; not on a superficial level but in my inmost being. Please, keep doing what you’re doing.

          When a person is asked, “What do you like least about your job?” they’re going to respond with a negative answer because of the nature of the question. It might sound like complaining to some, but it’s simply an honest answer to an honest question. That goes for everyone, not just pastors.

          Of course, pastors realize we’ve been called to serve Christ. Of course, pastors realized we’ve been called to sacrifice for Christ. Of course, pastors realize people are flawed and life is messy. Of course, pastors realize it will be a hard road.

          That said, none of this means that pastors will love every single aspect of their “job,” just as no one else who’s not a pastor loves every single aspect of their job.

          So, when a pastor is asked, “What do you like least about being a pastor?” please, give him the freedom to respond openly and honestly without chastising him for his answer.

          • Drew Dabbs says

            One last thing, for illustrative purposes. If I asked a plumber, “What don’t you like about being a plumber?” or if I asked a surgeon, “What don’t you like about being a surgeon?” or if I asked a school teacher, “What don’t you like about being a teacher?” I should expect an honest, straight answer. They’re not complaining; they’re just answering the question that I asked.

      • Joel says

        Bravo for this article. And as an aside, folks who have an opinion that says pastors don’t have a real job should take a couple weeks and follow their pastor around. Please! I would venture to say there aren’t many lawyers, doctors or other professionals who would keep their job Long term if they faced the awful things that pastors do.

        It isn’t an us against them. I really struggle with the idea that being a vocational pastor is a biblical approach–thinking in terms of the 501c3 organizational approach.

        The people, including the pastor are flawed. Thus, the systems are flawed as well.

        Frankly, this is probably one of the only places in the life of a pastor that it is safe to share burdens and how they think.

      • Tom says

        Did the Old Testament prophets get alot of encouragement from the people they were called by God to teach and lead? Did not Christ Himself say that the Master does not serve the slave once the day’s labors in the field are done, but requires the slave to make the Master’s meal as well? What do pastors want that they think other professions are getting and they are not? This is where I am a bit lost. Do pastors not realize how many professions are having to struggle for relevancy? We live in a brutal, mean time. Why do pastors think that they should be immune from this anymore than anyone else. How would you respond to a post “Ten Things Nurses Hate About Caring For People,” or “Ten Things Professors Hate About Teaching,” or “Ten Things Policemen Hate About Being Public Servants?”
        You are God’s appointed Shpeherds but the very premise of the post suggests that you don’t realize that sheep stink.

        • Jake says

          So, what you are saying is, you are a pastor, that’s your job, so just sit down, shut up and take whatever abuse the congregations want to heap upon you because that’s just the way it is. As a layperson I am appalled by that attitude. There was a time when the pastor was respected in this country but that time has passed and just as appalling is the fact that our churches, in general, (there are always exceptions) have become social clubs, where people assemble for their own reasons, but not usually to get closer and learn more about Christ, I would venture to say there is not 1 in 10 that would endure torture or death for the cause of Christ and not 1 in 100 that would encourage their family to do the same. So if you are going to refer back to the prophets then I would refer you back to the early church where the members risked everything to be a Christian and today there are areas where people do the same every day! An article like this one from Thom Rainer should be viewed as a ministry, an opportunity to learn that we as Christians may be doing harm to those who are responsible for leading us in our relationship with Christ. That as professing Christians showing the fruit of the Spirit pertains not only to strangers but to our pastors as well. As far as pastors complaining, well, there is biblical precedent for calling out congregations who were in error, when people accused Paul of things that were untrue he called them out, should pastors whine about things constantly, No, but even Moses asked God to kill him rather than put up with the constant complaining of the people. (Numbers 11:10-15).
          And since as you point out, that pastors are God’s appointed shepherds, isn’t rather an offense to God himself to treat those shepherds like hirelings?

  25. says

    Coming into a situation where your hands are tied and until the ruling board is replaced there is little u can do or get done without it being there desire or idea. A lead pastor should not have to lead a church this way but many if not most have to deal or move on.

  26. Ron says

    Why is it pastors can rant about church members, but church members are “contumacious” when complaining about their pastors?
    Here are ten from the balcony:
    1. Conflict with unbiblical pastors. No surprise on this one. These issues are a way of life for many members.
    2. Family challenges. Most church members would like a home visit once in five years.
    3. Busy work. Church members do not enjoy being treated like manual labor with nothing to say regarding spiritual truth.
    4. Pastors whose priorities are their own salaries and vacation time. “They like their comfort, but not their commitment,” some would write.
    5. Expectations to be present at all church functions and all social functions, instituted by pastors who have a personal agenda rather than the spiritual consensus of the Body.
    6. Non-productive worship. I feel their pain.
    7. Expectation to be ignored 24/7. Many members would indicate they are unappreciated, and feel their pastors believe that pastors are the only ones in possession of the Holy Spirit.
    8. Confronting pastors who are sinning. “It’s biblical,” one pastor said, “but it sure doesn’t apply to me.”
    9. Problems with staff members. As you would expect, this issue was more common for members of larger churches that actually have multiple full-time staff members than it is for pastors.
    10. Pastors who get passionate about evangelism/reaching the community every three years, but not consistently. “I don’t have the gift of evangelism,” one said.

    • says

      Wow, I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad experience with your pastor(s). I’d like to address your issues one by one in defense of my husband who is a good, dedicated, people pastor and others like him.

      1. If your pastor isn’t preaching/teaching/living biblical truths–run NOW. Get out!

      2. My husband not only does home and hospital and nursing home and wherever-the-people-are visits, he helps build their houses, remodel them, roof them, whatever-they-need-them — for nothing in return. And still many of these people treat him like garbage and take advantage of his good nature. So there’s that. (Not saying you would, just saying some do, which is common in any occupation, I’m sure.)

      3. Busy work. Would that we COULD get people to do some of the work! As the pastor of a smaller, rural church, my husband and I and about three other people do it all. It’s a major issue in fighting burn out. I go through it yearly.

      4. Salary and vacation time isn’t something I know much about. My kids never went to Disney or the Grand Canyon. Just sayin’.

      5. Expectations to be at all functions? Sunday morning would be nice. We hold no expectations, but we do have hopes that people will partake.

      6. Again, if there is unproductive worship? GET OUT NOW!

      7. If your pastor thinks he’s the only one possessed with the Holy Spirit? RUN!

      8. To confront a minister in LOVE is something all ministers should expect. My husband listens and heeds valid complaints. Unfortunately, not all people confront a minister in LOVE. And some people believe that because they tithe or give they own the pastor and his family. My children are not church property.

      9. Staff? What staff? Oh, that’s me, the pastor’s wife! Trust me, he deals well with his staff.

      10. Not only pastors are called to evangelize, we are all given The Great Commission. I agree that I’d like to see more community evangelism by pastors and churches. If only all churches would get along and not be about building their own little kingdoms. Not sure a congregation of 70 or so is a kingdom, but I think you know what I mean.

      I think this has been an excellent forum. I’m glad these questions were raised and that pastors answered them. No one usually asks them how they’re doing. It’s just assumed they’re fine. And as a pastor’s wife I can tell you, that there are many, many hurting pastor’s families out there. Oh the stories I could tell.

      A hurting pastor is likely to hurt someone just as a hurting congregant is likely to. When Pastors lose sight of keeping the main thing the main thing — ministering to PEOPLE, reaching souls for Christ — trouble brews. People need a shepherd, and when the pastor begins to act like a herding dog instead of a shepherd, then there will be issues. Oh that pastor’s had more time to pray and would take the time to pray more. To keep Jesus ever before them and truly be His hands and lips. But alas, Jesus died for them, too, for they are fallible. Weak. And human. They aren’t perfect. And they never will be. As long as there are people being pastors, there will be pastors who fail and people who love to point out their flaws and failures.

      • Ron says

        Good post, Karla. Just as Thom’s original post was “over the top,” (in my opinion, as well as in the opinion of others) so also was mine. Purposefully.
        We should have such discussions in our churches, but, alas, there is no patience for it.
        God bless you, and your faithful pastoring husband.

      • Joseph1 says

        As I read all these comments, one after the other, I am brought to shame. As a long time congregate and deacon board member, Awana leader, Vbs director, ABF leader and Guiding Hand Pregnancy Refuge Center counselor I have failed to consider the needs of my Pastor greeater than my own. Because of this post, this blog, I now know how I should have been praying for my pastors all along. I now see a need that I didn’t see before. My heart goes out for the family of pastors like it didn’t before. Thom thank you for this blog.

  27. Ken says

    I am a pastor. I have been a pastor for 35 years. I have many of the issues that are in the article and many others that are not. I haven’t read all the responses closely but I think it needs to be added that the thing I like least about the pastorate is my attitude to troublesome people when God has given them to me, troublesome issues when God has promised them to me and my ignorance of sovereign guidance when God has provided it for me. G.K. Chesterton once replied to a London newspaper request to say what was wrong with the world with this: “I am”. I believe there are times when I can say “I coached good but they played bad,” but even when I coach good my attitude can really be horrible. I cannot control stupid, half converted, self centered “Christians”. But I can control my response. I wish I had done it better.

  28. Andrew says

    The top ten responses sound like being a part of a family.

    I also assume that a forum for the same pastors who responded to then name the things they like most about their calling would yield a list of “over the top” with the glory and grace.

  29. Steve Pryor says

    Wow. We got some emotion, here. Let’s go back to the opening statement “pastors are human” They deal with some of the same workplace challeges, as non-clergy (complaining, nonproductive meetings, work-life balance, busy work).

    It seems to me instead of shooting arrows at pastors for being honest and human , maybe we could use that energy to encourage them, and help them find solutions.

    • Ron says

      Steve, I’ll bite:
      Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. (Romans 14:13, ESV)

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