Nine-Heartfelt-Things-Church-Members-Would-Like-to-Say-to-Their-Pastors

I am among the most blessed men in the world. God has graciously saved me and sustained me. I have an incredible family. The place and ministry where I serve vocationally is a gift from God.

And then, as if I should be blessed even more, God has allowed me to serve and hear from church leaders across the world. In this article, I share some insights I heard from church members via social media, emails, blog comments, and personal conversations.

The following nine statements are heart matters for many church members. For the most part, these members are not the perpetual critics and the business meeting naysayers. These are men and women who truly love their pastors. But many of them do have some words from the heart they would like to share with their pastors. But many are reticent to do so, because they know their pastors often receive criticisms and inordinate demands for attention.

So, hear these heartfelt words from church members who love their pastors, from men and women who truly desire the best for them.

  1. “Let me know you really care for me.” That does not mean you call me regularly or that you visit me on demand. It is more of a disposition, or maybe words from the pulpit that demonstrate your love for the members. We can tell if you really care for us and love us.
  2. “Teach me the Bible.” I know you are inundated with requests, and the expectations for your time are often unreasonable. But please do not let those people distract you from your time in the Word. I am hungry for biblical teaching and preaching. Please spend time studying the Word so you can teach us well.
  3. “Help me deal with change.” This world and culture are changing so fast that I find myself dealing with fear and uncertainly. Help me understand the steadfastness of God in a turbulent world. And understand that my fear of change in the church is often related to my fear of change in the world. So lead me gently as you lead change in the church.
  4. “Don’t lead too far ahead.” I do want you to lead us. But don’t get so far ahead of us that we mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the rear. I know change is necessary, but learn the pace of change that is best for our church.
  5. “Help me deal with family issues.” Some of us are in struggling marriages. Some of us are lonely whether we are single or married. Some of us have problems with our children. Some of us are dealing with aging parents. We hurt deeply when we have hurts about our families. Show us biblical truths about these issues. And show us your pastoral heart and concern for these issues.
  6. “Be transparent.” We know you are imperfect, but the critics sometimes cause you to hide your faults. For sure, we don’t want every nitty gritty personal detail about you and your family. But we do want to know that you have some of the same struggles we do. It helps us to identify with you better. It helps us to pray for you more.
  7. “Don’t get defensive when I offer constructive criticism.” I know that this one is tough. You get so many criticisms already; many of them are petty and self-serving. But there are many of us who love you and will, on rare occasions, offer some words that we think are best for you. Hear us without being defensive. Pray that God’s Spirit will help you discern when you should listen and when you should ignore.
  8. “Pray for me.” Please let me know that you love your church members so much that you pray for us regularly. Let us know that you consider prayer for the members to be one of your highest priorities.
  9. “Give me hope.” This world confuses me. This degenerating culture scares me. Show me how God has dealt with such hopeless times in the past that they may be times of hope for me today. Show me Christ’s possibilities, His hope, and His encouragement in difficult days.

Pastors, your task is not easy. Indeed, it is impossible without Christ’s strength. You have many church members who love you. They are often the silent members and, thus, the disregarded members. Hear these words from healthy church members that you might be even a better pastor to them.

What would you add, church member? What would you add, pastor or staff? How do these nine sentences resonate with you?

My blog post this coming Saturday: “Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members.”

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Comments

  1. Greg Barefoot says

    I have to say, I’m glad you emphasized the word “healthy” church members at the end. These 9 statements take on a whole new strategy for the “unhealthy” church members that can lead to an unhealthy church and a disenchanted pastor. On a light-hearted note, making the title , “Nine Heartfelt Things Healthy Church Members Would Like To Say To Their Pastors” might increase the sharing of this article. :)
    I want to thank you for your commitment to sharing your thoughts with others. I have always found your writing to be refreshing and challenging.

  2. Mark says

    At times I have wanted to say that “I am a Christian too” and not just someone here for you to lash out at and then ignore. Whether or not I am married and have children does not lessen my worth to God, so why does it lessen my worth in some churches?

    Jesus had a bunch of younger people around him and was 33 when he was executed. Why the dislike of people his age in many churches?

  3. says

    These areas resonate well with me. I wonder if part of any disconnect caused by these areas fails at the level of communication. Pastors may be engaged in these areas, but church members may not be fully aware.

    What would you add, church member?

    “Consider me more than those outside our congregation.” I know pastors have friends and affiliations, some maybe very influential, outside of their congregation. Yet, attention given to those outside the congregation should be secondary to those under the pastor’s charge. Church members want to know that those to whom they biblically submit to and support are will to put their needs and concerns above that of an outside acquaintance.

    This consideration for those in the congregation first works from the pastoral perspective too. Members should place the welfare of their own pastors above that of pastors of other local churches. For example, some church members must understand that a podcast is not their pastor. Pastors and their congregations need to be there for each other. God has placed us together for a reason if even for a season.

  4. Mark Dance says

    This pew perspective is helpful to me because I am almost 50 and have never actually been an adult church member (layman).

    Reading this has my mind churning and my heart racing. What a great way to start off a full day of ministry. Thank you Dr Rainer!

  5. Greg Corbin says

    Great post. I thought #6 & 7 were particularly insightful. #6 regarding transparency by the pastor is so true. Churches want you to be transparent, but only to a point. They want to know that you struggle as they do and they want to see humility. However, if you put too much out there, then it makes people uncomfortable and emboldens critics. It’s a fine line. I will also add that I believe the longer a pastor has been at a church, the more transparent he can be. As for #7, I have found that this one is among the most important things one can do as a pastor. I would even go one step further. Once a pastor has been at his church a while and discerned those who aren’t chronically discontent, it is a powerful thing to ask church members what they think from time to time. Primarily, I am thinking here in terms of one on one conversations. Many Godly people will give powerful insight, but the pastor must open the door for them to feel comfortable. They won’t initiate constructive criticism or advice because they love their pastor and they don’t want to add to his burdens.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Greg- Your response demonstrates great love for the members and great wisdom in your leadership.

  6. says

    Dr. Rainer, thanks again for the helpful insight. I know as a pastor it can be very easy to feel like so many people are against us. I have found that the very high majority of the people are for their pastor and love their pastor. We always here the few critics is the megaphone and it can make it hard to hear the voices of those who have honest and constructive feedback. Thanks for helping us to hear their voice. I appreciate all that you do to encourage pastors.

  7. Steve Miller says

    Great post and great list.

    “Thank you,” would top my list of what I would like to hear. Not that we live for the praise of people, but sometimes leadership feels like it takes place in a vacuum. Some members assume you know you are appreciated or they assume you know God has used a message to change their life. Some sort of feedback would be helpful, silence can mean anything from, “That was a faith building message,” to “I was mentally compiling the grocery list.”

    I also love to hear, “I’m praying for you.” Nothing lights my fire more than having someone share they lift me up before the Lord. What an immense privilege and honor. I think this goes hand in hand with number 8 on the list.

    Finally, I want to hear, “How can I help? Where can I get more involved?” Increased involvement as a response is a good indicator of God moving someone to greater intimacy with His family the Church.

  8. Russ H says

    I would say Don’t be so Heavenly minded you are no
    Earthly good.
    We are blessed with a Pastor dedicated to Expository Preaching yet both feet on terra firma and in touch with reality.
    I have seen Pastors who refuse to face the real world their sheep live in. Always looking for “deeper revelations” with broken hurting people all around them.

  9. Joseph Tatsak says

    I would add following, “Tell us what we need to hear (the Truth) and not what we want to hear. and make sure you tell us out of Love.

  10. Suzanne Howard says

    As I read the list I said “check” to each point. I am thankful for our pastoral staff and our lead pastor sets the tone. Nobody is perfect but from where I sit they’re close. Let’s call that “imperfectly perfect.” When change comes it’s explained before it’s implemented when possible, giving consideration to all. Teaching is wrapped in transparency. I am looking forward to your next post, because as a member of the Body of Christ I have responsibilities as well. Thank you!

  11. says

    Thank you very much for this. I think I’ll print it off and check it daily so I don’t forget. I know that there are those who love me, but at times in my past they have gotten overshadowed by the ones who have given me grief. I try to distinguish these now and act appropriately.

    I especially need to remember the one that says don’t lead too far ahead. My church may be willing to change, but just not as fast as I am desiring. I must remember to go at their pace. Thanks for that reminder.

    In the love of Christ,
    greg

  12. Kris says

    Great article! I would add: Don’t fight individuals from the pulpit. Meet in person. Making leading statements from the pulpit about “certain people”, or targeting a particular disagreement, is using the pulpit as a shield because the person can’t defend himself. Go to thy brother alone rather than picking a fight in a public forum where everyone can Amen the bad guy away without letting him explain in private why he did something.

  13. Randal Kay says

    THANKS Thom! Once again, just what I needed to read today!

    I loved #4. Great insight wrapped-up in a pretty funny picture of a pastor getting shot in the butt! :o) I’ve told my kids and the church I am privileged to pastor, when they are going through hard times, please remember, I’m not the enemy, even if it may seem like it at the moment. I’m here to help!

    Thanks again, keep up the good work!

    Peace!

  14. Tim says

    Thank you for this post. I am a PK and was recently very close with my Pastor. He went through a lot of hardships in the church and the closer I got, the further he pushed me away. I tried talking to him and prayed for him, but He labeled me a critic and did away with me. I have tried relentlessly to make amends, but to no avail. He doesn’t believe I care nor love him and it has nearly destroyed me and my relationship to want anything to do with any church. I urge all pastors to be careful in the labeling of your members. They are all under your watch as you are there to Shepherd the flock. There are different types of people, but if you aren’t careful this labeling leads to mislabeling the ones who do really care about you. Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God looketh on the heart. You can do some serious damage. If you are called to lead those people, lead them all. Love them all. Shepherd them all.

    • s says

      Tim

      Please understand that your credentials as a PK don’t entitle you to special knowledge into his struggles. (I’m a PGK, PK and PW – 3 VERY different men – no two people do this life the same). It sounds like at this time you may be adding to the weight of his burdens instead of lifting them with him. If it’s really about encouraging him and not scratching your itch to be needed by him or for him to acknowledge the wisdom of your advice, you will patiently wait for God to use you to reach your pastor and seek the Lord for the best way to do so – even if that means backing off for a while. Keep praying for him and for you and let God change the hearts of all.

      • Tim says

        I don’t claim to understand his struggles, but just relating that being a PK does make me a bit more sympathetic to the plight of Pastors from watching my dad from the inside of our four walls growing up. I would never say I understand who being that man is. To me, they have the hardest “job” on earth. I don’t want acknowledgement, just a Pastor. I’m a background sort of fellow. I don’t expect my Pastor to be perfect. I have since left the church (as have many others who would be labeled “healthy members”). I just have observed this labeling of church members in several places and I think it is hurting the growth of the church and spiritual growth of God’s people. I have extended my friendship, asked for forgiveness for any hardship I caused, and have been ignored. I do still pray for him daily. I still shed tears over the whole thing. I do want to be right before God in my heart, and I hope that I am, but I cannot force a person to forgive me, nor can I force them to listen, nor can I force them to speak to me. I appreciate your insight, but I don’t see how I line up to the person you describe. I was the man who went to visit with him often, especially to the homes of those we thought may be highly critical and rude. The church started to change and he started overruling deacons (I was one) on decisions (his wife handles the money of the church now…like literally balances the books, prints the checks, has a stamp of a deacon’s name..etc) I asked him if that was wise and tried to nicely remind him of the deacon’s decision to bring it before the church to vote for a treasurer and secretary. When she started deciding how the church spends money I asked for a meeting and tried to kindly ask if we could take the pressure off his wife and have the church vote on a treasurer and secretary…that’s when He cut ties with me. I guess I’m just trying to explain where I am coming from. Now I am labeled as a critic and honestly, I am not one. I love them and see where it’s headed and am greatly concerned. Does that make more sense? Thanks again.

  15. Bill Hand says

    I think all of those are valid and are needed as reminders. I just completed an anniversary of service at my current pastorate and a church 180th anniversary. The ideas of change you listed are especially relevant to a church whose community has been in decline for several decades. This week I’m seeking personal renewal, and these short words you have shared are helpful. Another I might add from my musings today is “Remind me often how God values me and delights in my faithfulness. Sometimes I wonder if my small life matters.”
    Keep up the good work.

  16. david br says

    I don’t want to say any of those things. I want to say “Stop preaching that if you don’t come to every weeknight service during a revival that you ‘are not what you ought to be, you do not love the Lord like you should’ because that’s utter nonsense.”

  17. says

    Thanks so much for this story. It does cause one to put on his thinking cap. One issue I have with so many pastors today is not preaching about Hell. I also see a need to preach about pornography, responsible sex, homosexuality, love thy neighbor, helping (and giving) to the needy and other issues I grew up hearing about. I’m tired of those pastors who don’t preach these subjects out of fear of hurting people’s feelings. Those are what I refer to as the “politically correct” ministry. They need to get back to the real gospel and if it offends others then so be. Follow God and his word and not the feel good crowd.

  18. Tim Wilson says

    Wow. When I read the title I thought this was going to be about supporting your Pastor. Thought it would be a list of things to encourage and support your Pastor. Looks like the typical consumer mentality type of list.

  19. Shawn says

    Thom, I’m a pastor and trying to think through each of these statements. A question…are these actual statements from a survey or something? Where did these originate from?

  20. says

    Teach me how.

    Who should respond; What should be the response: When he should respond: Where he should be relationally; Why he should change.

    All of these are great…but very few preachers and teachers conclude with How all of this should be accomplished. Lead me in the path I should go, feed me in the green pastures…teach me how to change, to be effective, to be closer to God, to be a better member of this body.

    Teach me how.

  21. David A Booth says

    Dr. Rainer,

    I both love and dread this post. On the one hand, these are great reminders. On the other hand, part of me expected the list to go on and mention walking on water and turning water into wine. That feeling hit me when I arrived at point 5. Obviously, no committed pastor would disagree with the need to help members deal with family issues (In fact we spend a lot of time and emotional energy on precisely this), but I wonder about how wise we have been in integrating family counselor into the pastoral tasks of preaching, teaching, training leaders, etc …

    There was a time not that long ago where a pastor was seen as faithful to his calling if he preached Biblical sermons, administered the sacraments, prepared people to die, buried the dead, and helped people understand that they were forgiven for the sake Christ. We have moved to an environment in which people keep adding to their pastoral wish list without taking anything away (I’m grateful your list didn’t include things like “vision casting”). Or to put the matter in biblical terms, an exegesis of all the passages in the Bible that speak of OT Priests or NT Pastors/Elders doing marriage counseling would produce a very short book.

    Thank you for your ministry.

    In Christ,

    David

  22. D. Hayes says

    Church members are not to dictate to the pastor what he should say or do. He is there to preach the Word and show us how to be saved.

    The prophets and Apostles did not ask the people how they wanted to be treated….they told them “what thus saith the Lord”.

    A pastor is there to show us how to be saved and encourage our walk, not to be told how to handle himself. He has feelings as well.

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