Why People Love Their Pastor: Three Observations and Seven Reasons

I returned to the Twitterverse to find out why church members love their pastors. I must admit that this exercise was very gratifying. In the somewhat cynical and critical world in which we live, the messages I received gave me great hope.

As I share in any Twitter poll, my approach is neither precise nor scientific. It is, however, fun and a bit informative.

Three Observations

Before you jump down and read the results of my survey, allow me to make some observations from this poll and other information I have gleaned. I delineate those observations into three points.

  1. Church members overwhelmingly love their pastors. It was amazing to see both the quickness and the volume of responses to my simple question. Church members were eager to express their love for their pastors.
  2. Church members often don’t express their love for their pastors. Church members are more likely not to say anything about their pastors than express their love for them. But if they are specifically asked, they respond with overwhelming love.
  3. The critics and naysayers often drown out those who love their pastors. The negative people in the church tend to be loud but in the distinct minority. As a consequence, pastors often feel like the naysayers represent the majority. Most of the time, the vast majority of the members are very positive about their pastors, but they are quiet as well.

Seven Reasons

The response to my poll came in fast and furious. You could sense the strong love these church members have for their pastors. Why do you love your pastor? Here are the top seven responses, listed in order of frequency.

  1. Our pastor loves us and others. A strong number one response, church members see the love that overflows from their pastor.
  2. Our pastor preaches the Word and spends time studying the Word. Though stated in a number of ways, the respondents are grateful for the preaching and teaching ministry of their pastors.
  3. Our pastor demonstrates love for his spouse and children. The members love their pastor because of the obvious priority of family demonstrated day after day.
  4. Our pastor has a servant heart. I heard countless stories about the sacrificial and servant-like actions of pastors. Church members do notice.
  5. Our pastor is humble and transparent. Many of the characteristics begin to sound like the traits of Christ. That’s a good thing!
  6. Our pastor shares Christ with others. The evangelistic lifestyle and words of the pastors did not go unnoticed by the church members.
  7. Our pastor is passionate about ministry. The words “passionate” and “passion” came up so many times, I had to include it as its own category.

Reasons for Encouragement and Hope

Many pastors are worn out and discouraged. I hope you pastors know that the critics and the naysayers in your church are in the minority. I hope you know that most of your congregation admires you and loves you. I hope these words from church members around the nation will be a source of encouragement and hope for you.

So, how do you pastors feel about these reasons you are loved? And what other reasons can you church members have to express your love for your pastors?


  1. Chuck Deglow says

    I wonder whether “love” is the correct word. If a pastor were to relocate, and never again here from those who “love” him at the previous church, is that consistent with “love”? Perhaps the better word is “appreciate.”

    • says

      I don’t know man. I know people who if you don’t talk with them every two weeks they presume there is a problem. But I have never been this way. I haven’t heard from several folks in years who I do not doubt their love for me at all. Nor do I believe they doubt my love for them. I just don’t think that the number, frequency or amount of time spent is the definition of love from friend to friend. I admit I have a different view for my wife and children. But I have pastored three churches now in my life and I do not doubt for a moment the love that many have for me and that I have for them regardless of our current communication. I don’t mean to shoot you down or tell you that you are definitively wrong… I just don’t feel the same way.

    • Scott Stiegemeyer says

      Chuck, it’s quite possible to love people who might eventually move away. Parents don’t stop loving their children when they go off to college.

  2. Charles Lord says

    Thanks for the encouragement brother Thom. Good reminders for we pastors, of the basic and irreplaceable building blocks of pastoral ministry. I love my church, and my former church members are still dear to me and dear friends. I am happy to say amen, and that their love for me and my family wasn’t merely due to a “staff position” but a true “pastor and people” relationship. As an under shepherd, I cared for their souls and enjoyed their gifts and benefitted from their faith and grace. Jesus commanded us to love one another with God’s grace and kind affection. I think love is the appropriate word. All pastors serve solely by the virtue of God’s grace, and Christian’s love is not temporal. However, as a pastor who has moved a few times, I know it is important to decrease so that the next pastor might increase (as God begins a new relationship).

  3. Watcher of the Rock says

    Three months ago I left a church after 12 years, in part because the elders focused their attention on the critical minority. Not only was I consistently reminded that I was not keeping those folks happy, I came to believe that the critics and naysayers were actually the majority. Two different members told me that I was THE problem with the church, and the elders passively failed to contradict them. I’ve never felt that it was my task to keep people happy, but if a congregation as a whole has no confidence in the pastor, it’s futile to try to lead them. And so, along with other considerations, I yielded to what was “obviously” the majority opinion, and left.

    In the aftermath of my resignation I learned that the majority of the congregation did NOT feel that way about me. Most held me in very high regard and with appreciation and affection, but (as Rainer points out) never expressed it.

    Church members, please understand that your pastor is not a “ministry machine,” but a man who labors with all his heart and usually sees VERY little results. Please don’t assume that your pastor knows that you value him and appreciate him – tell him. The most wonderful thing I EVER heard was how someone’s life had been impacted for the good because of my ministry. Gifts are fine, cards are nice, but your pastor wants to know that he is making a difference in your life.

    Elders and leaders, every time you let fear of the unhappy few control your actions, you lose the trust of your pastor a little bit more. If you don’t give attention to building trust by defending him (when he is in the right) and correcting him (when he is in the wrong) you will continue to lose trust. He is not a “ministry machine,” but a man, and can only take so many blows before he throws in the towel. You also need to realize that your lack of support is many times worse the average criticism (I told my elders a couple of months be resigning that I didn’t mind swimming against the criticisms of the congregation, but I refused to try to swim against THEM). Your pastor may not leave, of course – he may simply come to believe his low value to the church and lose his passion; that’s living death for a pastor, believe me.

    Pastors, even at risk of the accusation of seeking man’s approval, you need to know how your congregation feels and what your congregation thinks about you. You aren’t a “ministry machine,” but a child of God chosen for, I think, the hardest task in the kingdom of God. Unless you are sociopathic, you can’t help but be impacted by the opinions of others. Tell them what you need! If it is true that most feel that you are in the way, then leave and pursue a place where the people want what you offer. If it is not true, then get righteously stubborn and keep giving all that you have to give.

    I have been blessed to find a part-time ministry in a small church which is soaking up the Word of God like a dry sponge soaks up water. And at the request of some folks in our community, and some from my former church, we have started a new plant, not to compete with my former church, but in order to pursue the great commission with a full heart. I’ve taken a 2/3 pay cut, and I’m more energized than I’ve been in years.

  4. says

    Good points, but you don’t often hear people say how much they love you, and this can be discouraging. Why is that? Why don’t members tell their pastors how much they’re loved? I believe we should let others know we love and appreciate them. As a pastor I try to do this with my members as often as possible. However, from what I’ve seen and experienced to often members don’t express their love and appreciation until a pastor is leaving a ministry, then you hear a lot of nice things and feel a lot of love. I don’t understand why this is.

  5. Kim Powers Belstra says

    It seems culturally systemic to me. The reason church members do not openly express their love for their pastor is the same reason they do not openly express their love for most of the other people they care for in their lives. It just isn’t done much anymore. It seems often in relationships, of any kind, the fact of a person’s repeated presence is meant to reflect their love. That simply is not enough. It’s not enough between friends, extended family, spouses, parents & their children, and it’s not enough between a pastor and his people. We are commanded in Scripture to encourage one another. What is of greater encouragement to any of our hearts than to know we genuinely are loved? We should intentionally encourage every fellow believer who crosses our path, especially our pastor, church staff and church leaders.

  6. Samantha says

    As informal and unscientific as it is, I would be interested to see this same study with associate ministers (children, youth, music, etc.). Church members have a tendency to make more jokes about the youth or music minister (ex: the youth minister never works, music minister has an easy job) and as a result love and appreciation is not evident from the congregation.

  7. says

    While being loved by a church congregation is nice, it is not necessary, as Brad Powell writes in his book, “Change Your Church For Good: The Art of Sacred Cow Tipping. He declares that a pastor should love people without needing them (their affirmation, etc.). On page 139, he said, “JESUS was that kind of leader. He loved people supremely. His entire life and ministry was motivated by sacrificial love. However, He was not held captive to needing people. JESUS evidenced this aspect of His character in John 2: 23-25.”

    On page 140, Powell continues: “Unfortunately, those of us who choose to become pastors often do so because we both love and need people. We love making an investment in people’s lives, but at the same time we enjoy people affirming and responding to our investment. We tend to have a deep need for people to accept, esteem, love, and positively respond to us. Though common for many people, it creates a huge problem for a leader. If you need people, you will do anything to get and keep people…including compromise. There is no way for an individual that needs people to lead courageously.”

    Powell really “nails it.” Pastors are called to lead courageously. As we live out this call, we genuinely love the people we serve, but we don’t do so in order for them to love us in return.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Well stated Mike. I fully concur. The purpose of this post was simply to demonstrate to pastors that the great majority of our congregants have a heart of love instead of cynicism.

  8. Brad Dixon says

    Dr. Emerson Eggerichs says that men want respect more than they want love. (His book is good for both mean and women.) I believe he is right. I want respect more than I want love and they’re not the same. Eggerichs’ ideas don’t fit as neatly with pastors and congregations as they do with husbands and wives, but the words easily fit. Don’t worry about loving me — I want your respect. They’re different.

  9. says

    Are you finding that the negative voices are louder or tolerated to a greater degree in smaller congregations? It seems logical that smaller congregations would be more reluctant to confront complainers and bullies and thus these would have inordinate influence there. My experience in megachurches is that the complainers are largely ignored by the congregation.

  10. TDT says

    Dr. Rainer,
    Many churches get a bad name and are criticized that they don’t like or even hate pastors. I beg to differ with most of the churches in which I have had the privilege to serve, especially the one I serve now. I am a support staff member and I have seen a transformation in the way that leadership (i.e. deacons, major committees) see the pastoral leadership. More than once i have seen them collectively see a need in a pastor’s life and they have risen to meet those needs, mostly medical or a a time of tragedy in the families.

    Recently, my family has gone through some major medical issues and the last three years have pounded us down. I have quietly worked hard at paying bills and trying to honor God in these difficult times. Without speaking to anyone about it, one of the deacons who is also one of my long time teachers emailed deacons and teachers, with our Sr. Pastor’s permission, and raised funds without my knowledge of the incredible gesture. One Monday morning, after tithing to my Lord the day before, I received a card on my desk with a note and a monetary amount that I am embarrassed to quote. I was able to pay off my wife’s bills and place some aside if we face i more medical issues again.

    I testify this story to say that the church gets a bad rap and I am so thankful for a church that does love their pastors. It also reminded me to love the flock as we are called to do so with passion in so many places in Scripture. Thanks for your encouragement and thanks be to God for His bride!

  11. says

    this is great. As a pastor that recently left a church where the senior pastor bullied his church members of only 15 people. which was the main reason I left. Can you give me a list of things I can do to love the congregation members that have left hurt and injured. God has called me to start a church once I have had counselling and I have healed, What type of things can I do to show love to my congregation members, and not lord it over them. I do not want to hurt anyone. I love your lists they are great. Can I get a list of how pastors love there congregation members please
    God Bless

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