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

In an earlier article this week, I noted nine things church members would like to say to their pastors. In this article, I represent the pastors. Please hear me clearly. Most pastors love church members dearly. They truly care for those they serve.

But pastors are human.

And there are times they would like church members to know some things about them. In my conversations with pastors via social media, in person, by phone, and by email, here are the nine most common themes.

  1. “When you criticize a family member, you hurt me deeply.” Please understand that neither my spouse nor my children are employed by the church. Do your best to treat them as regular church members, and do not place unreasonable expectations on them.
  2. “I will have bad days, and it will show at times.” A pastor is supposed to be “on” all the time. But it is difficult. I know there are times I speak out of turn. I know there are times when I’m too tired to listen well. I will try not to show my bad days, but I will slip at times.
  3. “Not all of my sermons will be ‘home runs.’” I wish they were. But with the number of different messages I have to prepare and preach in a year, I won’t always be the stellar preacher you want me to be. Indeed, I won’t always be the stellar preacher I want to be.
  4. “I am sensitive about my salary.” There are few people who work in a place where everyone in the organization is the boss. That is the nature of church work. But when you make disparaging comments about my pay and my related work, it cuts me to the core.
  5. “I struggle when the church numbers are down.” I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t derive my worth based on attendance and offerings. But when attendance declines or offerings drop, I question my own leadership at the church.
  6. “I would love a true friend in the church.” I’m talking about someone who would let me be myself, someone who wouldn’t mind if I let my hair down. It seems like everyone wants me to put on my pastor face all the time.
  7. “Please don’t criticize me or ask me to do something right before I preach.” I put many hours into sermon preparation. I have prayed with intensity about the message. Please don’t tell me the worship center is too cold right before I preach.
  8. “I cannot show up at every place all of you would like me to be.” I jokingly told a pastor friend that I wish I could be omnipresent, and he laughed and agreed. I love you church members, but it is physically impossible to be all the places you expect me to be.
  9. “I hurt deeply when good people don’t defend me.” Every leader will have his or her critics; and that is certainly the case with pastors. I don’t expect to be immune from criticisms. But what hurts me the most is the silence of “good” members when I am attacked unfairly. Please say a kind word about me in response to the negativity you hear. Don’t let the few critics dominate the conversation.

Most pastors do indeed love their church members. But most pastors have a challenging work, one that is impossible without God’s strength.

Pastors, what would you add or change on this list? Church members, what do you think about these nine items?

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Comments

  1. says

    “Hey I just don’t send e-mails and post articles for my health, do you read them, do you see them? It would be nice to actually dialogue. Maybe I have the wrong e-mail addresses and some folks overseas are getting them.”

      • Doug B says

        Before I comment, I would like to share that this is the 8th church I have served in the past 34 years, 3 (including this church) have provided a parsonage for me and my family.

        I have been blessed to be here for the past 17 months. The people are loving, caring to me and my family.; They appreciate me and the ministry the Lord has called me to and they take care of me and my family quite well. I am extremely blessed to work with these wonderful people but in other churches, I have not always been so blessed.

        As a full time, ordained staff member for 34 years, I can also relate to #5.
        In the past, I have had people hatefully come up to me and say: “You are going do what I say because I pay your salary and you work for me!” I have calmly replied: “That’s funny, I do too; I am a tither, are you?” None of these people have said yes. They make up excuses why they are not tithers. In these past 34 years, I have found that the people who give the least gripe the most. Which brings me to another pastor’s financial topic:

        The parsonage where the church pays all the utilities!

        “Hey, turn those lights out, quit running your air conditioner so much, stop watering the lawn and washing your car pastor; the utilities were too high last month.” Doesn’t this just want to make you pull someone’s hair out?
        Yes, but I asked the Lord for strength and for the calm words to say.

        Thanks for reading my 2 Cents worth :)

        Once again, thank you, Lord for the wonderful church you have me serving in :)

        • Ken says

          Love the comment about tithing! Likewise, I’ve often found that the people who complain loudest about the church attendance are the ones that are “too busy” to come to visitation or to work in Sunday school.

    • says

      I hear you. When I post on our facebook page questions that I would like to have input from it would be nice to actually have someone comment.

  2. Scott Cassel says

    Dr. Rainer: It’s funny how much we are all alike in this ministry for Jesus Christ. Of the 9 points you made. I actually have spoken about 5 of them – this week. This week!

    It does beg the question though: if these are so common and shared, why aren’t they addressed? One example would be no. 6. Although I long for just a regular friend I will never seek one out and I will discourage it if it happens in the church I serve. Why? I’ve been badly burned by trying, more than once. Since the community I grew up in is 4 churches back, there is no external support system beyond the church. So, it becomes a part of the cost of the calling.

    He never said it would be easy.

    Thanks for your insightful work.

    Scott

    • Thom Rainer says

      Scott – Thank you. One of the purposes of my blog is to get issues out in the open that are often unspoken. We can’t act on challenges until we confront them with brutal honesty.

      • Rev. Ernest R. Flores says

        Dr. Rainer, have you done any research on clergy friendships? I have listened to a lecture about this topic years ago and would love to see if there is anything more on the importance of clergy maintaining friendships in the congregation, amongst clergy persons, and with non-church related individuals. And what is the danger of clergy having so few friends?

          • says

            I would absolutely love it if you were to provide research/advice/etc on this topic as well! It would be great if you also provided guide nice for a pastors wife and children as well. This is a difficult are where we have been badly hurt more than once.

    • says

      I’m a 54 year old, Deacon for 25 of the last 30 years under four Pastors, adult teacher. If you don’t have friends, and won’t try to have friends…doesn’t that become a self fulfilling prophecy? Sure, friends hurt you…welcome to the real world! Even friends of deacons hurt them sometimes….nobody can irritate you more than your closest friends…and nobody will stand tougher for you either. To deny yourself friends, is to set yourself up for loneliness, and a lack of tough, go-to -the-wall friends. Of course nobody understands you…they don’t know you. Ultimately, to deny yourself friends in your Church is an insult to the flock you Pastor…does not God promise to supply that which we need? I know you’ve preached that. You cannot be an effective shepherd if you do not trust your sheep. If it is not a lack of trust…then it is probably a pride issue…

      Not all of them will be close friends…of course not. A man only has room for one or two…maybe three close friends in total. Give your people the chance to know you. Yes, that will require transparency, vulnerability and effort on your part…just like it does for a Deacon.

      I hope I wasn’t too abrupt…

      • John says

        I have too many deacons talk exactly like you, and that is the reason I do not count deacons as my friend. My flock are more connected to me than the deacons because they understand my difficulties more than the leaders.

        • says

          Did I say something wrong?

          It’s a real shame if you can’t trust your deacons…the men who your trusted and understanding congregation chose to work with you.

          It’s a real shame if there is a built-in adversarial relationship between you and your churches deacons.

          • Dale says

            Trusting the deacons, it’s an issue in many churches because the “deacons” are not always spiritual leaders, just popular guys, or worse family. This makes for a very bad mix, and honestly in 90% of Southern Baptist Churches the deacons “run” things which is not at all what their role is as defined in scripture. Pastors can make friends in the church but almost always have to be protective because “friends hurt you”, and in church this can cost one their ministry both there and in the future. The attitude “we were here when you came and we’ll be here when you are gone” is always the guide when the strife begins. A friend who grew up in the church has family or in lawas in the church will not stand beside a friend who will move on to other places. This is just the simple fact of human nature. Unless the pastor started the church, that mentality will always prevail.

      • Chris says

        Slim-

        It seems that this can be a slippery slope with deacon/elder role and expecting a friendship, and the title of Deacon or elder does not automatically mean friend.

        I do agree that we as pastors need to not insulate ourselves from our congregation, but sadly, the role of the elder/deacon sometimes is seen as more of the overall benefit and direction of the church and not for the care of the pastor or his heart.

        If I may give an example, if you have a pastor who has come into a church and has inherited his elder/deacon board from a previous pastor, he could be walking into bitterness, mistrust, and a sense of having to prove himself to a group of men who have been there for a long time. That’s hard. He may be a bit scared to be transparent because there will be those who will look for a weakness and exploit it. I know that this is sad and not true for all churches, but for many it is.

        My hope is that for all of us who call ourselves pastor, elder or deacon-that we take off the titles and the church politics, and we start caring about the hearts of each other and not exploit the weaknesses of each other.

        But be careful about thinking elder/deacon=Friend.

        • Slim says

          I don’t believe that every Deacon is going to be a close friend of their Pastor…that would be an unreasonable expectation. A man usually only has three or four close fiends…that’s the nature of the beast.

          I do believe that every Deacon should be friendly to their Pastor. Obviously this will manifest in degrees of relationship.

          I so believe that every Pastor should be friendly to his Deacons. Obviously this will manifest in degrees of relationship.

          Now…on to reality. Pastors and Deacons, or anybody for that matter, will have history, experiences, baggage, preferences and personality. It is not reasonable to expect that all of the people in the mix are going to be buddies, but they ought to be able to be adults and work together without suspicion and prejudice.

          Some of the posts to this blog state very clearly the prejudice of some Pastors toward their leadership. They believe, and act, on the assumption that all of the leadership is against them, is unfairly judgemental, and uncooperative. They believe and act on the assumption that they cannot and will not ever have friends in their ministry. They believe, and act, on the assumption that they will be miserable, mistreated and lonely as long as they endure under the heavy cross that Christ has asked them to bear.

          Even if the leadership set high marks for saintliness, the situation will be fraught with suspicion and frustration for lack of trust and openness.

          Personal example. My Pastor was told by his former pastor…the one he was a youth pastor for…that he should never trust his deacons, that he should never expect to have friends outside the ministry, that he should expect to be desperately lonely all of his ministry try life. My Pastor brought that prejudice to our Church. Fortunately we were able to see it and work through it with him. His former pasted nearly cost my Pastor his ministry…or at least the joy and reward of it. That former pastor should be spanked for propagating his own prejudice and hurt onto another,

    • says

      Scott,

      Please understand the critical need to locate and reach out to other pastors in your area and build a support group. Even though I do have those I consider to be friends in the congregation I serve, I will always be “the pastor” in even the most informal or social times with someone who is a member of the church! I know many pastors who have been hurt by other clergy, but if you can locate a group of genuinely caring men with whom you can be yourself and share the common concerns and frustrations only another pastor can understand, it will make all the difference. I have been part of a group of about 4 men I meet with once a week for over 5 years now. We are there to literally support and pray for one another, and not “fix” each other. The men in the group have varied as some move out of and into the area, and currently I am the only pastor of my denomination in the group. But we have developed a closeness that makes this regular meeting one none of us desire to miss! Some meetings together we talk about nothing in particular and other times one in the group is really dealing with a deep hurt or issue and we center in on that person almost completely for that meeting. It is exciting to see us genuinely care for one another and genuinely be able to rejoice with each other when God blesses a church one of us serves in some special way. It takes time to develop this level of trust and confidentiality among peers, but is well worth it.

  3. Jeff Glenn says

    I struggle with Number 5. There are times I feel that if I were a better pastor and/or preacher more people would attend and get more involved.

    • Thom Rainer says

      You are not alone, Jeff. I am taking a few moments right now to pray for you and your ministry. I will trust that great days are ahead!

    • Nancy says

      But the best thing for you and your congregation is serve up what God puts on your heart. Anything else will be a clanging symbol. And you can please some of the people some of the time…….

    • Esther Uwaegbulam says

      Glen.

      It’s not that you are a bad pastor. You have to pray about the situation to God to see what you are doing wrong. I’m not a pastor, but I feel that it is a calling on my life. The thing is, I don’t know which way to turn. Pastors can have friends in the church. I have a discernment and I can tell a good spirit from a bad spirit. God will lead you and guide you in the right direction. You must believe and have the faith that everything will work out for the good. Don’t be discouraged.

  4. Herman says

    I love my ministry but not my work . . . and it’s your fault.
    As a youth pastor, I was hired to have a positive spiritual influence on students. Giving me responsibilities that have nothing to do with the job I was hired for makes me choose between the urgent and the important. I often have to choose the urgent, but teenagers are more important.
    Expecting me to spend 40 hours a week in the office means I have to choose between your family and mine during my “free time”. I choose mine.
    Turning in registration forms at the very last minute, or worse, late, makes me stress, cost me money out of my budget, and makes me feel like a bad guy when I have to say, “Your kid cannot go”.
    Free me up to do the ministry you hired me to do.

  5. Jason says

    I’m giving 100% to this ministry. I wish I saw more effort and commitment to the ministry from you.

  6. Gregory Kirk says

    My favorite comment after 20+ years of parroting is “you don’t understand my husband is not like your husband HE WORKS FOR A LIVING”

    And as the son of a pastor who can ever forget having your families energy usage in the patronage discussed at the monthly businesses meeting.

    People we love you but can we get a small amount of respect?

    • Thom Rainer says

      Gregory: When my family lived in a parsonage, the church treasurer made an unannounced visit to tell us to stop using our clothes dryer, and only to use the clothes line.

      • says

        Thom and Gregory,
        I still live in a parsonage, but the utility expenses are not paid by the church; they are my responsibility. I did have a pastor friend who told me that since the church could not afford to increase his salary they determined to pay his utilities for him. What a blessing! I don’t believe they ever came back and demanded more conservation practices, though.

    • Jaime Potter Alvarez says

      When I was a District Superintendent (United Methodist Church), one Charge actually tried to pass a resolution that would have allowed every member of the parsonage family only three toilet flushes a day. I ruled it out of order, but to this day I cannot believe they had the nerve to do that.

  7. Mark Lindsay says

    Dr. Rainer,

    Great post! The ball just left the park! It also applies mostly to ministerial staff as well.

    We live in a very busy world. There is no way that one human can process all the information coming at them at any given time. Therefore, I would say also: “If I fail to respond to your communication, please know that it doesn’t imply a lack of respect for you or your thoughts. I’ll earnestly seek to do the same for you the next time you miss an important meeting that I reminded you of.”

    Press on, brother!

    Mark

  8. Jim says

    I would add to #1 – And please don’t go to my family with your criticisms about me. It hurts them, alienates them from the church, and you may find them coming after you!

    I would add to #7 – And please have the courtesy and Christian integrity to come to me first with your concerns/criticisms before you start making phone calls, emailing, posting on social media, holding private conversions or secret meetings with others about those concerns/criticisms.

    • Debbie says

      I as a church member have been laughed at and ignored when I have approached my pastor with questions ad/or concerns. So it should come as no surprise when I went further. If a pastor doesn’t want his laity to air their issues with his lack of pastoral commitment with the rest of the folk, he should never treat a member’s questions and/or concerns as if they are total gibberish. The members DO pay his salary, and he would be wise not to forget it.

  9. says

    Thom,
    Most of your blogs make me feel like you are following me around and then write about my life. It’s very encouraging to know that other pastors are in the same boat that I’m in. Thanks for all you do. And Roll Tide!

      • Ken says

        Well, Dr. Rainer, I’ve always had a lot of respect for you, until you put in those last three letters. Everyone knows that no REAL Christian would ever root for Ala–… Ala… (I can’t even bring myself to print it!). We true Christians (Tennessee fans) will be praying for your salvation. :D

        • Ken says

          P.S. To those of you that aren’t familiar with the SEC, we tend to take our sports rivalries rather personally. ;)

  10. James Callender says

    Thank you for this article. I have found it to be so true of so many of my colleagues. On the other hand I myself feel so fortunate to not have to deal with most of this. Wish I could share the secret but I don’t even know it. Perhaps it is in longevity. I have been in my current pastorate going on 26 years. I imagine the reason I have stayed so long is because my time here has been void of the issues you raise. I have very close friends in my congregation and have not been burnt but I am a very relational person and can’t imagine not having close friends. Hopefully those who have been burnt by close friends will not give up trying. Blessings!

    • Thom Rainer says

      James: You have weathered the storms and earned the members’ trust with your longevity. May your tribe increase!

      • says

        This is the Deacon, again…you hit on a real issue just now. You noticed that this Pastor had “weathered the storms” and “EARNED THE MEMBERS TRUST”. As membership, we owe our Shepherd respect…but an entirely different kind of respect comes after having proved that it doesn’t matter how big the wolf is or how nasty the weather is…the Shepherd will not forsake his sheep. (Gee, that almost sounds Biblical).

        Try this…if your people treated the storms and wolves at their work…people they do not like and work they can not stand…if they had the same level of commitment as their Pastor, what kind of congregation would you have? The average Evangelical Pastor stays in a given position for less than four years before “God calls him someplace else”. At that rate, the issues, whether sheep issues or Shepherd issues, never get resolved…and we have serial leavers…hirelings instead of Shepherds.

        Not that all Pastors are at fault…there are some really difficult (stupid) sheep out there.

        Sometimes unruly sheep just haven’t been taught to behave.

        Sometimes unruly sheep have been taught to misbehave by their Shepherd.

        Full disclosure here…my Church has been here for 58 years. We have had 18 Pastors. You can’t run any kind of organization with that kind of turnover in the Leadership. Most of our Pastors recently have left for career advancement opportunities…bigger flocks, better pay. Almost all of them blamed the sheep for their leaving. We have been working together for 58 years…can we really be all that cantankerous? I suppose.

        • ServantHeart says

          Wow! 18 pastors in 58 years is an average longevity of only 3.2 years. I’m sure some have lasted longer and some not as long, but you are correct in that with that kind of turn over, nothing ever really gets done. I’m assuming your church “calls” its pastors rather than them being “sent” by a governing body. With that in mind, perhaps the folks tasked with selecting/hiring your pastors are well intended, but lacking the skill set needed to “call” the right person to pastor YOUR church. Churches often appoint a “pulpit committee” based on things like membership longevity, regular attendance, participation in church life, and other criteria that don’t really mean a thing. They would be better served by selecting committee members who have at least some of those traits, but are also have some practical life skills such as human resource management, teaching, business management, and finance. They all must desire not to just “get the job done” by hiring someone within a certain time frame, but to seek God’s will in their process and hire a pastor who is the wisest choice among the candidates.
          One more thing, please please PLEASE . . . DON’T hire a new pastor and expect them to come in and “reboot” the entire operation. To do so is to set them AND your church up for continued failure. Establish a long term mission and vision for your church. Continually cast the vision among your members. Make sure your mission is understood and embraced by each. Cast your vision to every single pastoral candidate early in the selection process and make sure they understand their role, if hired, will be to support (and cast) that vision going forward. If they are agreeable, great! If not, thank them for applying and move on!
          Churches who allow every new pastor to establish their own mission and vision soon lose credibility with their members. However, if the mission and vision transcends personnel changes no matter how often those changes take place, the church grows stronger and is much more credible and predictable. Pastors will stay longer and become true shepherds of the flock, rather than just another passing through.

          • says

            We were started as a mission church in a remote (then) area of a developing State. The mission cycled the Missionary/Pastors through fairly frequently. On the order of 17 months to 3 years. The church was closed for a number of years while,the mission placed more emphasis on the next town over.

            When the church was opened…the missionary was caught in the wrong bed and removed…three years.

            The mission sent in a really neat man to repair, which he did and the church went self supporting in a couple of years.

            The new Pastor was neat and the church grew. Then the quarrels started with the Deacon board and he quit…twice. He has since stepped out in his wife, divorced her and married his secretary. Evidence suggests he was “experimenting” while he was our pastor.

            The new Pastor came to us from a Bible College, Pastored for four years, and went back to College with a Pastorate on his resume. He left because the church was “hard hearted”.

            The new Pastor came to us from the East Coast and was a great teacher. His wife was a meddler and set about breaking up long standing friendships and relationships…even family units. The situation deteriorated and the Pastor lied repeatedly, would not work with the board (over 12 months) and went about polarizing the church before he walked out on a business meeting and quit.

            We hired a professional interim pastor to help us fix ourselves and get ready to move ahead. He pronounced us a great group of people, well taught and cohesive.

            The next Pastor was younger. Had been a youth pastor for a number of years and was ready to take his first church. He was fun, used the Word well and taught us well. His wife hated being here and just wouldn’t settle. They left after six years.

            The next Pastor, our current Pastor, is a young man. He’d been a youth pastor for some years and was ready to move into hai first Pastorate. They both seem to like being here, they are popular and well liked. They have been here six years.

            I hope and pray that we have a much longer run..We crave the stability and continuity.

            I don’t know how we could do the pulpit committee any better or more studiously. Ultimately we have to vest our vote with the authority of God and trust his judgement and leading. It seems the breakdown comes when our Pastors and our Leadership can’t figure out how to play nice in the same sandbox. We have a large board for our churches size to prevent the focus of personality. The board is elected by the membership. Quite honestly, it would be awesome to be able to come to a board meeting and expect all the parties to use their people skills and be able to discuss agreeably instead of getting their feeling hurts and pouting when their idea doesn’t pass muster for whatever reason. The same skills we all have to use at work, or even in our homes.

        • says

          Pastors are called by God to shepherd sheep, not goats and vipers.

          There is a God defined symbiosis that exists between shepherds and sheep that will simply not work with any other composition.

          A closely related pair of characteristics attributed to sheep in the Biblical sense is that they are teachable, and they follow (albeit with the occasional innocent wandering one out of one hundred).

          Are you sure this church is actually populated by sheep?

          Pastors may be called to a congregation of goats in order to preach the Gospel in a uniquely targeted way, but those efforts usually run their course in a couple of years. God then moves His man along to a pasture of sheep or another goat pen.

          In all things we should follow God’s direction, no? How many churches follow the model of Acts 6:2 in how the pastorate and the deaconite are structured (or even more importantly: defined)?

          Deacons (literally “through the dust”) are named after the most mundane household servants in Ancient Rome. They are the servants to the church elders (a completely different group) of which the Overseer (pastor) is one member.

          If we have churches where the deacons are in a position of authority then I think expecting God’s blessing given such an unBiblical model would be a bit far fetched.

          I have seen many pastors brought in as “employees”. Far less have I seen pastors retained as what God has directed them to be: spiritual leaders whose needs are to be met by the church through a direct command of Christ.

          Given the poor state of the church in general I can tell you that it would take a lot to move a shepherd away from sheep. But getting him to leave goats after the Gospel has been delivered and God releases him is easy.

          • says

            Ah…thanks for clearing that up for me.

            Goats and vipers. Drat those goats and vipers driving good men out of pulpits everywhere.

            Your example completely absolves the Shepherd from any responsibility. It truly is the peoples fault.

            And he moves on…and finds himself in another “goat pen”.

            So.the Cause of Christ is lost. The Church has failed in her mission.

  11. Tommy Mitchell says

    The article is dead on! Concerning #7, I have some pastor friends who insist that the pastor must be out in the congregation welcoming, greeting, and loving on folks before the worship service starts. I used to do that – and it was mostly good. However, through the years and churches, people have become less mature and will voice their complaints during that time. So, for the last several years I stay in my study praying for the people and the service until the 5 minutes to start time. Then I stay very close to the stage or on stage during that 5 minutes. After the service I am glad to stay until the lights go out! Complaints are not as distracting then, and most people would rather get to lunch than complain!

    Tommy

  12. Reggie Williams says

    Your articles are inspiring and encouraging. It is a comfort to know that others are dealing with the same issues. However, having a close friend in the church can come back to haunt you. Anytime you get close to someone, they begin to see the chinks in your armor.

  13. Maureen Killoran says

    As an intentional interim pastor, I’ve managed to dodge many of the slings and arrows that were familiar to me during my long-term settled pastorates. This week, however, has been different, and your blog came at just the right moment. After nearly 30 years in the ministry, I fear I am losing my resilience, and am seriously contemplating retirement.

  14. Art S says

    Thank you for reopening some of the wounds from this past week! :) It’s only funny because it’s true. I appreciate your blogs on both sides of the coin.

  15. Summer says

    As a pastor’s wife I can’t help but smile when I read this! ALL these things apply to us! We’ve been burned many times. I would add as a pastor’s wife that it truly, truly breaks my heart to see people hurt my husband, to see him agonize over numbers and doubt his calling because of discouragement. Thanks for letting us know we’re not alone!

    • Thom Rainer says

      You are not alone Summer. Many on this blog pray as they see the comments come in . . . including me.

  16. says

    My ministry IS what I do to “WORK for a Living.”
    I work for a living just like anybody else. How is it they think we just work on Sunday?

    • Debbie says

      because for many of us, that’s the only time we see any work out of the pastor. Any employer is going to expect to see results much more frequently than once or twice a week. And when the pastor seems much more involved with his kids during the day, rather than be anywhere near the church or its members, it’s probably going to be true that church is NOT getting its money’s worth. If the pastor is truly worth his hire, then he’s going to have to show it.

  17. Bob says

    Here’s number 11: Before you leave this church for another, sit down and talk to me about it. Let me know your reasons for moving. If there is an issue or problem at the root of your decision to move, I would like to at least know what it is and be given a chance to address it. It may or may not be resolvable but you never know until you try. Also be honest about why you are leaving. Don’t lie about it. Chances are I will cross paths with your new pastor at some point and I might mention you and ask how you are doing. I’d rather hear positive things from him than discover quite accidentally that the reason you gave for leaving wasn’t the true reason at all.

  18. David says

    The times when my family is in crisis, and those in the church, especially the leadership, fail to minister to me and my family, I feel like a hired hand, not a member of the family.

    • Debbie says

      welcome to the member’s world! many times my pastor and deacons have failed to minister to me, so it’s not hard for me not to trust or follow them

  19. K smith says

    I am thankful for this article and comments! I will ask now for a followup blog for helpful comments to say to a pastor and family (since saying positive form of this list doesn’t necessarily work in all cases). I especially struggle on how to supportively speak to a pastor as a single woman without seeming flirtatious.

  20. chasintheunicorn says

    Thank you for helping me see your perspective. Part of loving is to see the needs of others, but I frankly often don’t think much about the pastor, like he is some kind of super human.

    A pastor is not a super human. Just a human.

    The last time I thought about this was thirty years ago, when I read Herman Hesse’s “Magister Ludi”. There are three short stories at the end. If you can, read the one entitled “The Father Confessor”.

  21. Mark Dance says

    Thank you for giving voice to our thoughts and experiences Dr Rainer.

    A neighboring pastor shared the sentiment of #9 this week when he bemoaned the silent support of his best members. The power of the spoken word cannot be underestimated any more than the powerlessness of the unspoken word.

  22. Rob Crawford says

    These complaints are very similar to many shared by leaders all throughout time. Most of the “pastoral” problems are self inflicted. 1 Cor 12 and 1 Cor 14:26-40 show a much different pattern for how the body is supposed to operate. Instead of wearing the mantel of “pastor” realize that it is just one of the offices God set up and the gifts you have may differ from what is normally expected. You need to identify those who God has empowered with other offices and gifts.

    • says

      I agree. Everyone has gifts to contribute to the functioning of the church. Absolutely no reason for a pyramid structure where the burden is on one person. Team leading, team teaching and team serving provide a much more inclusive culture. Half of those statements could be eliminated if it was a shared responsibility.

      • Ken says

        I respect what you’re saying, but you have to have some leadership if things are going to get done. As they used to say in my last church, “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business.” God has appointed pastors to be the leaders in the church.

  23. Howard Dotson says

    I often reference the conflict management model in Matthew 16 as covenant with my church

    leadership.

    They can point to it when people are going to others before talking with the source of the concern first.

    When your church is growing, and the old guard has their power diminished this is when I have seen

    the most conflict and a spike in the parking lot meetings. Church members say they want to grow, but

    they do not want to weather the stress of change, nor release some of the power and control necessary

    for this to happen.

  24. jacki duffy says

    what i expect as a church member is for my preacher to be a human . for his family to be human as well . i expect the preacher to be Gods messenger and bring His words to me and teach me . I expect the preacher to bring the message daily to “His” flock, to church goers and ones that have never stepped into the door way of a church . I expect the preacher to listen to his church members when they come to him with a issue and not judge them but listen and pray with them, but the members need to listen to the preacher and his family as well and pray for them . Preachers have a tough job trying to please everyone and the only one he needs to please is God that is what we all need to do. Ask ourselves daily, are we doing Gods work or are we pleasing our own agenda? . Stop putting so much pressure on a fellow human and start getting down on those things called knees and praying together with that man called a preacher . Your preacher is to guide you and encourage you, not please your every whim . What Would Jesus Do if he was walking among us today?.. What Did Jesus Do when he was walking this earth ? ..How would any one of us look at God right now and respond to Him with our actions ? Saying a prayer right now for all churches..

  25. says

    Addendum to #8: …and please understand that I can’t support every cause and give gifts for every milestone event for every member’s child. If I give to one, I have to give to all, and I don’t make enough to do that and eat too.

  26. R. P. Vanderburg says

    My experience causes me to ask the question: How can a pastor have truly close friends in the congregation when no one there understands his calling and burden, not to mention all the responsibilities that the pastor is given.

    • says

      Why do you assume that the congregation does not understand your calling or the burden of ministry? Statistically those people have stuck together for each other slot longer than they have had a given Pastor. They have had to work together to make the hard decisions when they didn’t have a Pastor. They had to feed themselves…some of them taught classes, some of the covered the pulpit, some of them did the calls, some of them did the books. They had to be their own Pastor. They do understand. What they do not understand is the disconnect. Why does a Pastor take the position that his job is the toughest on earth? The loneliest? The biggest burden? The most costly? Why does he feel he is the most sacrificing for the cause of Christ? Does he really believe that his calling is more important and special than what God has asked any of his people to do?

      Doesn’t he preach that God is sufficient. That God wants us to live victoriously above the circumstances? That we are to be content? Pastors ought not be discontented…not if they believe what they preach…not if they live what they teach us to live.

      Your people may not understand the intricacies of your vocation…but they do understand hardship; having to do dull, grinding, thankless work for people they don’t care to associate with. But they do it because at is what God has ordained for them…and they strive to do it contentedly and victoriously.

      Your people shouldn’t have to understand the intricacies of your vocation, anymore than you understand theirs. God equips those whom he calls…each for his ministry.

      I know I’ve been hard on Pastors in my several posts. It seems to you like I’m probably a discontented, cynical back row troll waiting to vent on Pastors. That is not the case. I believe God is sufficient…in my business (calling) and yours (calling). I was not surprised at the drudgery, the paperwork, the cranky customers, the press for time, the dry spells waiting for work or payment, the great days when all the stars line up…I expected them…I embrace them as part of what God has ordains me to do. Are you surprised at the drudgery, the administrative work, the cranky old man in the third row, the press for time, the lack of family time, the dry spells, and the great days? Were you not aware that there would be people in your Church? I, too, am in a people business. People issues come with people businesses.

      In recent discussions with several Pastor friends of mine, we (they and me) came to the conclusion that the disconnect is often on their side. They had lost sight of their commission…to be a Shepherd to a flock that God had assemble just for them. Sure, some of the sheep are head strong. Some want to eat the weeds. Some want to play in the mud. Some are quite happy to just sit and munch the flowers. Some are serious about being part of the flock and are productive. They concluded that they, as Shepherd, had started to think that the whole business was about Shepherds instead of about Sheep. They had lost sight of the fact that God had assembled their flock just for them. They had forgotten that shepherds do,what the sheep need done…not make the sheep do what the shepherd needs done. At the end of the day it’s all about the sheep.

      Now…someday they can ask God…the Great Shepherd…just what he was thinking!

      Pastors…we love you. We desperately need you to lead us gently and profitably as sheep with all of our quirks and penchants for wandering and stubbornness. A good shepherd truly loves his sheep. He cannot be a good shepherd if he resents his sheep, or if he doesn’t trust them. Lead us in HIS pastures…for HIS glory…please!

        • says

          You are right…I do not understand. How is the Pastorate so much more difficult than any other profession?

          Different, obviously. But more difficult?

          God has promised to equip those he calls…to whatever walk in life…for his honor and glory. That should equalize the playing field.

          If you had a man that constantly needed fluffing up, was depressed over his profession, was losing his health neglecting his family and desperately lonely due to the pressures of his profession…what would you counsel him to do?

          • Ken says

            I don’t trivialize the difficulties my church members face in their jobs, so I’d rather them not trivialize the difficulties I face in mine.

      • CS Countryman says

        Wow. Just wow.

        Yes, the calling of a pastor is a special one over and above other Christians. We have been entrusted and empowered in a special way by the Spirit, and because of this we will encounter a different judgment before Christ than other believers (James 3:1 and many other places).

        Second, we expect things to be different in the church than the world at large because the church has been called out of the world when its members were converted in the new birth. Yes, all leadership has its issues, but a pastor should expect those in the church to be much different than the world because of what the church is in its human composition.

        A hut of goats however could be expected to be the same or worse than the world and I see quite a bit of that I’m afraid

        • says

          From the bottom of my goat hut heart. If God has called you to a “special work, over and above other Christians” ( the implication being that their life path is somehow less worthy). If you have been “entrusted and empowered in a special way” for this “special work” how then can it be that you find Gods provision lacking? I know you preach to your people that God will supply all of their needs in their lives…but it rings hollow if God cannot supply the needs of his “special” workers.

          “We expect things to be different…” Does that mean issue free? Does that mean you expect Godly behavior from all your people? Then why are Pastors necessary. “The WORK of the ministry, CORRECTION, REPROOF AND INSTRUCTION” would seem to bear.

          Your people, goats though they may be, were given to you by God. Pastor them. Lead them. Love them. Trust them. Talk nice about them. Teach them. Be an example for them.

          Please…the Cause of Christ desperately needs committed, loving Shepherds.

          • Jeff says

            As a pastor who is daily keenly aware of my own shortcomings and struggles to practice what I preach I appreciate much of what Slim has posted. I pastored a church that had heavy turnover in pastors and unfortunately I turned out to have a short tenure there as well. I truly believe to this day that God called me to pastor the church I am in currently. My current church has been 100 times harder than the one I left and I knew it would be harder when I accepted the call. The reality is that when churches have high pastoral turnover the deacons will fill the leadership vacuum left by those circumstances.

            Slim, I have wrestled most weeks over the past 4 years to stay and only by God’s gracious supply I have and will. I do preach to Christ’s church to endure hardship and then the Spirit reminds me of that when I want to run. I do preach that God supplies and am consistently challenged to lean on His supply. I am no different than the vast majority of pastors who weekly struggle with the same issues. Nor am I different than the vast majority of church members who struggle to stay at their jobs…or stay with their spouse…or not give up on their kids…or not give up on the church. God’s supply is deeply rich to all of His saints. Thank you for exhorting me in your comments. The church belongs to Christ and it’s all about Him and His glory every day.

            Keep being faithful to The Lord! May God grant us all an enduring faith wherever and however we serve Him. We need it! Jeff

      • Just another pastor says

        Wow, chill out Slim!
        I can’t imagine how hurt you are for all the turnover you experienced. But having someone so predisposed and so hard as you expressed would make ministry so unsavory and make any pastor quit.

        • Slim says

          Hear my heart…not so much the verbiage of this condensed forum. I am very dedicated to my Church and my Pastor. And I work and pray daily for a long tenure of both. Hard I am not. But I live and work in a world where men need to know and be told the truth directly for their own safety, morale and the benefit of the crew they work on and for. Crew leadership rises and falls on the ability, and willingness, to work together with many personalities in quiet and not so quiet circumstances. That ability is taught and learned. Some have a predisposition to lead, but almost none have the needed skill set innately.

          When I hear a man say that he won’t trust the people in his Church or more importantly his Deacon Board; I hear a man who does not have the necessary skill set to play well with others. Worse, he refuses to acknowledge the lack and won’t learn. The relationship is untenable. And he blames his crew.

          When I hear a man say that he is desperately lonely but won’t try to have friends in his Church; I hear a man who lacks the relationships required to love his people well, to pray for them instead of about them, to trust them, to lead them. The relationship is untenable. And he blames his crew.

          When I hear a man say that he is constantly criticized and never complimented; I hear a man who needs to be constantly propped up, patted on the head, coddled and treated as special. Such a man cannot lead a crew effectively and will frustrate the snot out of the real leadership who has to play to his weakness.

          When I hear a man demand the respect, obedience, servitude and cooperation due his position; I hear a man who is insecure and untrusting. Or worse, a man who is arrogant and prideful and thinks more highly of himself than he ought. Such a man will not long lead a crew successfully. He may drive a crew successfully…but the men will resent him and will not happily cooperate with him. Such a man will always blame his crew saying they are clickish, and think they are better than him, and don’t respect him

          When I hear a man say that his is a higher and more special calling than those he pastors (lords over). I hear a man who has lost sight of his purpose and position. He is proud and haughty. He cannot relate to his crew, they will not cooperate, I will lose profitability. I will fire such a man…even if he is good at his trade because he makes the rest of the crew hate their job.

          When I hear a man say that his job is the most difficult, the most demanding, the most burdensome and requires the most sacrifice to stay at; I hear a man who has lost sight of his calling. He is mired in the muck of pride and self. I will never place a man in a position of Leadership that will break him. I will stretch him, but I will equip him and enable him to grow and to lead his crew that I assembled for him. Everybody wins if everybody works. God is faithful, he will equip his people for the ministry he has called them to. To say less is to insult God himself.

          Leadership will always have to contend with other personalities, other ideas, history, experience, friendships, relationships and skill sets. The people business is always so; whether as Pastor, Foreman, or Contractor. Paul recognized this when he was teaching Timothy how to identify the men who could be taught to lead.

          There is an excellent blog on arrogance on this site. I read it and was convicted. All of us should read it. All of us should print it and read it daily. All of us have people counting on us to love them and lead them. We cannot do less.

          Our Churches turnover is not unique among evangelical churches. Pastors move on at a rate of less than four years for whatever reasons seem best to them. The Pastor blogs seem to blame the people for this trend and claim the moving of the Spirit in their decision to leave. In the contracting world, such a man will eventually find it hard to be offered a good job, because he will be leaving again. So, that man, skilled as he is at his trade, people skills notwithstanding, will usually start his own company. But, not having learned the people skills, he will not be able to keep quality people in his employ and he will blame them.

          Are all Pastors like these men? Obviously not! Praise God for faithful and loving Shepherds in the ministry.

          Are there Pastors that need to enhance their skill set…so it would seem. Deacons? Obviously.

          All all church members good people? No. We are not. We are a bunch of fractious, rebellious, self-indulgent, self-absorbed sinners saved by the grace of God and collected together for the work of the ministry. And then given to you to love and to teach and to lead and to equip for ministry.

          If I have been found to be offensive in my posts…I apologize. My intent is to provide balance to the discussion. Maybe some of us need to examine our hearts and make some changes, or polish up our skill set, or just plain decide to love our people…even if they are goats.

  27. says

    As a pastor’s (elder’s) wife, I want to say I’m not perfect, never will be, and when a family at our church family all picked on me for very minor things, it was very hurtful. I cried for days. I liked what you said about your family. Even though my husband is not a minister(here) as well and doesn’t get paid for his services as an elder (pastor), it doesn’t give anyone license to pick on his family either. If we don’t love in the church and make everyone feel the love of Christ we have fallen down on the work Christ left us to do.

  28. Sam says

    As an Admin. Asst. I can confirm that the Pastor feels all of these things and I do my best to shield him from what I can. It is difficult for me, too, to be subject to 300 people who all believe they are my boss and treat me like the hired help. I might not agree with every decision or strategy, but I’m not the one called to do the Lord’s work in that capacity. In the meantime, don’t mess with my Pastor, you have to get by me first.

  29. Stephen Willie says

    Here’s one I have heard too much of in the church, “It’s Business” or “We want people who will contribute financially, not the homeless trash from the shelter.” These are words spoken in a heartless manner lacking God’s love and Christ’s Mercy.

    To them I’d would and have said, “the church is made up of those who believe in Jesus Christ. We are God’s people, not a business. We are about ministry and service, not profit and gain. We are called to be selfless, not selfish.”

    At the Temple, Jesus overturned the tables because the people there had turned the temple courts into the business of making money. If Christ would reject such behavior then, and he is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow; then, doesn’t it stand to reason that he rejects the same behavior now?

    • Debbie says

      the church IS a business, and if you don’t think so, try keeping the lights on without collecting money and writing a check for the electric bill! try keeping the water on without paying the water bill! do your staff work there for free? only a business would pay employees, prepare tax statements, maintain records for non-profit status, use a bank account to pay bills and deposit money, etc……

  30. Brandon Maynard says

    my Senior pastor and dear friend of the past 3 years committed suicide Apr 11, 2014. I thought I was close to him but fear that I missed something. The burden is intense for pastors and their calling. I don’t know what further to say but love on your pastors. Be sure they have an outlet without being judged.

  31. says

    I would be honored to support and lift up my pastor. Remember, you are human just like the rest of us yet will be held accountable to a greater degree come judgement day. Hold Fast brother!

  32. Jay says

    I hope it is okay to make copies of this to give it out to people.
    Please may I have your permission. I will be sure to place your name on the document and I will also include the website address.

    Please let me know… because more people need to read this.

    Thanks.

    Jay

  33. says

    My friends outside of the church seem interested in how I am doing in ministry more than my friends in the church. I am grateful for both – I certainly don’t feel friendless.

  34. 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.

  35. Mitch Fisher says

    I am a Director of Missions in Southwest Missouri…I love my Pastors and their churches…and I appreciate your posts…which I share often…this one hit to the core…and I pray that my office/phone/company will always be a safe place and they will always find a faithful friend…thanks for the information and encouragement…it really does help many many people…thanks again and have a great week…

  36. Scott says

    These items have hit very close to home this morning. I have just recently gone through a “do not return” vote from the membership of the church I pastored. During the open discussion time prior to the vote, an individual stood and began condemning pay cut me and the work I had done over the last eight years. Another stood up and referred I was being paid too much, and asked me in a public forum if I would take a pay cut. (I had never received a pay increase in the 8 years of service there, actually I had taken an $11,000 cut). Another stood and said they had been overly generous toward me during the past 12 months following a personal major medical situation.

    I said all of this above to express, if only they knew how deeply I grieved over this issues personally prior to the open discussion. However, during these times of personal anguish, I had found a deep peace with God and empowerment beyond my ability to describe. I was seeing more fruit in the ministry in the last 12-18 months, than all of the previous months put together. Live were being changed, homes mending, and so forth. IF only I could have (would have) said what I was thinking during the open discussion, but I did not trusting others to speak for me, with the result of silence for the most part. Then the vote came and I did not receive the amount of votes needed to remain (missed by 1.3%) the pastor.

    If I can add to the list as well: We are human as well. When we are sick, we are sick. When a love one passes away, we need time to grieve as you would. (I had a board member tell me after my brother, 40 years old, suddenly pass away to stop grieving and set an example of strength and hope for the rest of the congregation. This came after 10 days after his death and my first Sunday back in the pulpit after I did his funeral).

  37. realitycheckinsc says

    I am reminded that until some one walks in another’s shoes it is really hard for them to relate….I have been a deacon…….and now a minister for many years…..well over 20…….ministers are held to many unreasonable expectations as are their families…….how many deacons families or sheep families could with stand what many many ministers deal with…….to simply say ‘that comes with the territory’ is to simply dilute the Biblical responsibility of each of us to ‘love each other as Christ loves us’. I have weathered many storms only to have ‘lay’ leadership to still not stand up for their minister/employee. Last time I looked in South Carolina, employment laws apply…..that say, you cannot have a hostile work environment…….but many ministers either don’t know or let it go…………churches want to have the protections of the law and yet don’t apply the work place laws? I do believe times are changing and ministers are recognizing that the ‘old status quo’ of just sucking it up and moving on most of the time is just wrong……..and changing…….. I have heard it said, when ministers are promised benefits and such, when later it was not delivered, it was not in writing…I have had that very statement said to me when promised pay increases/accrued vacation time…and other such blatant issues. Can we get a discussion started on the legalities in the church/minister employment relations and the literal meaning of this to ministers and churches? That i think is a very valid discussion in this thread too………emotional/spiritual supports are part of this issue…………yea, i know……but is it possible to leave the ‘law of the land’ out of the discussion? Just wondering.

  38. Ed Mitchell says

    After reading a sampling of the comments I’m inspired to take a moment and thank the Lord for the church I serve and the house my family and I are buying. Yes, I’ve said and felt a number of the issues brought up in the article. And my family has paid a high price in years past. But in God’s mercy, from the perspective of this article, we are in ‘pleasant places” just now. Yet still so many lost …

    • realitycheckinsc says

      Agreed, so many are lost. I simply want to focus on seeing the lost saved and ‘making’ disciples. Certainly the latter involves all the ‘human’ circumstance from the ‘redeemed’. We can’t escape the trials and tribulations of this world, neither could the 1st century church fathers and people of the ‘way’. It is simplistic yet I yearn for exactly what the Bible says is the believers experience for Jesus to please come………it takes on great and wider understanding with me each day. My heart goes out to the ‘church attendees’ and I am reminded of what Billy Graham said in an interview…….he wondered just how many of those that came forward really had a ‘heart’ change……. These concerns listed by everyone are all indicators of the hearts of many……I am thankful to serve and know Christ as my savior, advocate, and keeper. I continue in that hope for all i meet. I am reminded of the absolute need of God in all we do, that simply His will be done.

  39. Ken says

    I think this article is spot on, and several people have suggested some excellent additions to the list. Here is one I would add: how would you like it if your pastor came to your place of employment and tried to tell you how to do your job? How would you like it if he watched you every moment of every day, just waiting for you to step out of line? How would you like it if he found fault with every little thing you did, and always talked about how you don’t measure up to other members of your profession?

    We pastors feel the same way when you laypeople do it to us.

    • Debbie says

      if he paid my salary, then he would have every right to do so–several of my real bosses have done just that very thing themselves, and never considered it out of line

  40. Paul Curry says

    Perhaps the hardest area to deal with as pastors is hospital visits and holidays. Nothing can be more frustrating when people expect the pastor to go visiting on a holiday( such as Memorial Day and Labor Day). The argument is always that they have to go work so why isn’t pastor working. Yes, some people have to work on these days, but if the church office is closed for observance; then that also should imply that the pastor is off observing the holiday.

    • Ken says

      I don’t mind making hospital visits on holidays if it’s an emergency and if I’m in town. If I’m out of town and it’s an emergency, I’ll at least try to get in touch with the family and let them know I’m praying for them. I always tell churches on the front end that while I always try to be available in emergencies, that doesn’t always apply in non-emergencies.

      What I really hate is when they don’t tell you they’re in the hospital, and then they get mad because you didn’t come to see them. Do people expect us to read their minds?

      • Just another pastor says

        Yes, your forget the fine print; “extra-sensorial” skills are required for the pastoral office!

  41. Josh says

    I’m sure the every bi-vocational pastor could empathize when I say that it is frustrating when people will act or even say they are disappointed when you cannot make it to their event (Heartfelt Thing #8). It is usually the same people that rarely com to any church activities because they say they have to rest or take care of things at home because they had to work all week. After someone complained that I could not be at their event, I figured up my work hours not including the things that needed to be done at home. This is not something that I usually do but the comment spurred me to do so. I worked a total of 70 hours that week + 7 hours of travel time. It was a normal week. I know that many have commented that even though these heartfelt thing are common they have not heard a pastor communicate these feelings. I know that I have thought all of these things and the reason that I have not communicated these things is that I believe it would be perceived as whining. I may be wrong.

    • Ken says

      Some texts in the Pauline epistles address the subject of financial support for pastors, and I always use those texts to say a few words about bivocational pastors. I usually say something like, “If your pastor is bivocational, you can’t expect him to be available in every situation. He has obligations to his employer just like you do to yours. You can’t leave your job at the drop of a hat, so you shouldn’t expect your pastor to do so with his.”

  42. Greg Lloyd says

    My mentor and friend has remarked how pastoral ministry is ‘BRUTIFUL’. Sometimes its brutal, other times its beautiful. I do agree with #5 too, but focus on making a consistent impact one soul, one day, one message and witness, one opportunity at a time. Wisdom is justified by her children. Thank God for His immeasurable gift!

  43. Mike says

    Number five hits the hardest and closest to home! The numbers and offering down can be one that really is hard. It keeps me praying and making sure I am doing all the right things that I think are supposed to be done. It also tempts me to dust of the resume too. Thanks Tom!

  44. josh says

    Does anyone have the concern about less attendance when you are away from the church like vacation or away for a revival or sick?

  45. says

    RE: deacons & friends. I just want to say the deacons in my church are the most spiritual men in the church AND my closest friends. I’m saddened that it appears I am in a minority. I’m thankful for the church God has sent me to.

    • Debbie says

      you are most lucky if your deacons are what they’re called to be–servants. but many of us aren’t so fortunate. the deacons in my church are pretty much useless. they don’t visit, they don’t minister in any way, they are lifeless. the only time they ever do “deacon” things is once a month at deacon meeting time, when they meet, pat themselves on the back for being such good guys, talk about everybody, then eat–that’s it. no hospital visits, no funeral home visits, no phone calls or cards, even at a time of a loss. Yet pastor, from the pulpit, tells everybody how saintly, how ministering, how good his deacons are! I have a hard time going with the pastor, when he knows much better but pretends much worse.

  46. Just another pastor says

    Dr. Rainer, thank you, thank you, thank you..
    I even thought I was a rare animal. I know God is with me, but it feels comforting to know that other fellas on this journey.

  47. says

    I couldn’t agree more with number 9. I am a pastor’s wife who is also employed by the church as secretary/Outreach Director. My biggest frustration is when people do not defend their leadership when they hear something that is simply not true. The lack of defense is almost an affirmation that the person slandering is correct in what they say. It hurts me to the very core on many levels….the main level being that perhaps the “good” person may think that as well and that is why they didn’t defend us.

    And I equally can relate to the “numbers” being down. With so much emphasis in this world on success equals the majority (or in this case, bigger numbers), I struggle when the numbers are down and the church people start sharing what “this” or “that” church is doing to get their numbers up. Success does not always mean big numbers. Sometimes big numbers are just numbers. It depends if the numbers are coming for a social club or are the numbers coming because you are doing what God has called you to do. The latter is the only thing God is concerned with…..

    That’s my thoughts as just a lowly preacher’s wife…..

    • Debbie says

      and as a pastor’s wife, please know that church members see you as part of your husband’s package deal. In that, you deserve the same treatment that your husband deserves, and I sincerely hope that you’re getting that from your church. but the comment about the pastor’s family not being employees of the church is wrong for many of us. we DO see the wife as an extension of the husband, and she owes her time and loyalty to the church, just as much as her husband does. and this is true for the minister of music as much for the pastor.

  48. Aaron says

    Here’s an add: Please treat me the way you want to be treated.

    Pastors are a handy target for many church members. I have never demanded to be puffed up or praised, but I would like the same grace that you extend to your fellow church members. I think I show it to you.

    Slim (if you are still following this thread), here is one thing I say to a lot of deacons I meet who have a heart to see pastors stay longer. Defend them. Most people in your church are probably kind. Most people frankly don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the church or the pastor. However, in most churches there are a few people who are always on the attack. They complain, they gossip, they stir up trouble. They only love two pastors: the last guy and the next guy. What would happen if someone other than the pastor stood up to them? They might grow. They might leave. Would it be so bad if a troublemaker left and a good pastor stayed? Trust me, defend your pastor to the troublemakers and it will change things. Far too often, they are the only ones he hears and “they” often speak as though they speak for the church.

    • Slim says

      We have and we do. We have learned the hard way to use the Matthew Mandate for dealing with misbehaving members…and unfortunately with misbehaving Pastors too. We take our role as Deacons very seriously…thanks for the reminder.

      We know Pastors are an easy target. As we “Pastored” ourselves between real Pastors we experienced that, especially since the “leaving” was not clean and pretty. And members bear some culpability in that leaving as well. We take our role as helpers to the Pastor and the Church very seriously. We try to encourage our Pastor to engage and help himself when he would rather curl up and hide. We all need to grow and learn the skill set needed for any long term success.

      I appreciate you engaging me in a pleasant manner, without blame or presupposition. I really am a nice guy…

  49. Josh says

    As I was reading number eight, I was reminded that most pastors have lives, or better yet, need to have lives away from their church responsibilities. They have families that also need their attention and when the family is neglected, it will eventually show itself behind the pulpit when the fire goes out of the man’s eyes. I have been a traveling minister for many years and have seen this first hand at places where I have ministered. Most of the time, I have found myself ministering to the pastor and his family, not just the congregation.

  50. Mark says

    Dr. Rainer,
    When are you going to write about the composition of the pastor search committee? If every person in the private sector were fired like pastors are, there would be so much turnover that no company could do anything but perpetually hire. This sounds to me like a significant issue.

  51. Reverend Fred Carlisle says

    Maybe the words, ” I have not done a very good job as your pastor. I have asked the Lord’s forgiveness and now I ask yours. I will determine to do better from this moment on.

    • Ken says

      If the pastor has genuinely not done a good job, then those words would be in order. However, many pastors work themselves half to death and still get nothing but complaints. Let’s face it: many church members are not realistic in what they demand of their pastor.

  52. Kay Wood says

    what bothers me the most is when a congregation criticizes a Pastor when he is blessed financially. What makes that people think that Pastors should automatically go without some of the luxuries in life? As a child, our Pastor lived in a house that the church paid for — it was fairly modest. But towards the end of his ministry, he bought a new home in a very nice neighborhood. And I just remember that became such a scandal that eventually, our Pastor retired, sold the house, and moved to a different state. Unfortunate. The word pastor should not necessarily = poor as a church mouse and have to go to the board every time they want something new or nice or popular or whatever. It’s been years, yet I’ve never forgotten that incident. Nice post.

  53. Aimee Mulder says

    I co-pastor with my husband and we have experienced all of these things. The best thing I do is have a life outside of the church with my invested friendships with women of faith not under my care. That helps me stay balanced but I don’t think our congregation knows how much we love them. We didn’t “end-up” as pastors, we were called and sacrificed much to fulfill God’s call on our lives. I love the church with a capital “C” and I want my three sons to love the church too.
    But we’re tired, my husband is bi-vocational and we are investing our lives into this calling. I want to desperately trust God will all the results of our efforts but sometimes-I want to see results.
    Aimee Mulder, Sr. Pastor, Breakwater Church of the Nazarene

  54. Heather says

    I am a Pastor’s wife of 12 years and have ministered in 2 different churches with my husband. In both we have faced many of these challenges and have drawn closer together because of these challenges. I will say that even though I haven’t been in ministry an extremely long time, I have been in long enough to know that due to the nature of ministry and the need or lack of personal “Friend” relationships, it is often that the person serving as a confidant for the pastor is his wife. So often people stray outside of God’s will and as his role to do-is guide people back into God’s will by calling them out-privately of course but is often met with contempt and the old saying, “DON’T JUDGE ME!!” If I am wrong in my understanding of a pastor’s role, it is his job to “GUIDE” his flock. That means calling people out in a loving way. One thing I would add to this list is “Don’t confuse guidance and Godly counsel with judgement.” They are completely different and the guidance and counsel should be taken and accepted as a way of God telling you to “get back to HIM and seek HIS will”.
    Concerned Pastor’s Wife

  55. Mike says

    I would add #10. Don’t expect the Pastor to do everything around the church and then get upset when he doesn’t live up to your expectations.

  56. B. J. Bonn says

    Mr. Rainer:

    Please clarify the purpose of this website. Since the title is “Pastors Today,” I thought it was for Pastors. I am surprised at the people commenting who are not in the ministry. Surely there is a place for their questions to be answered and their comments to be heard, but is this the place for it? If you intend this site to be a place for pastors to express themselves, then surely they don’t need to be subjected here to the rants of unhappy church members. Perhaps you could have two websites, one reserved solely for pastors.

    • Slim says

      I’m sorry for butting in where I am not welcome.

      It may come as a surprise that I was invited here by a Pastor.

      It may also come as a surprise that many Deacons, Elders and Leaders frequent sites like this to try and understand their Pastor and to understand the issues facing him and their church. We try to find that little tidbit that will make us better able to have productive board meetings, to help our Pastor, to be better members, to maybe help us know how to love our Pastor better, his wife, his children.

      Because, face it guys, Pastors are not like the rest of us.

      We desperately want to learn how to be a church that prospers and grows, that is effective and welcoming and loving. We crave the Pastoral leadership that such an endeavor requires. But, in order to get there we have to stop watching our Pastors leave every 3.8 years, to leave us in damage control, to bandage hurts hearts, to wonder why, to face the congregations questions with no good answers. To start the process once again of looking for another Pastor, hoping and praying fervently that he will come without prejudice, will learn to love us, will lead us without resentment

      Jesus physically touched almost everyone he ministered to…pretty tough to do that for a position of prejudice and suspicion, and distance.

      If my posts have seemed to be the “rants of an unhappy church member” then you have missed the point entirely.

      I’m sorry.

      By the way, there are blogs on his site from the perspective of the membership…did you know?

      I particularly was convicted and thus benefitted by the blog on arrogance.

  57. Scott says

    I have been mortified the way that our church recently rallied against our pastor. He was a Godly man the was sent to deliver me from my drug addiction and teach me to be a good husband, father and spiritual leader. He tried many things to get different people involved in the church. All to no avail. I’m sure he got discouraged and decided it was a waste of energy. I just want to say thank you to this author and all pastors for your hard work! I was a very scary looking man but pastor Jim approached me anyway. He told me the good news and prayed, prayed, prayed with me. Thank you for all you do guys. I know it’s exhausting at times but there are many that need you and what you have to offer! God bless you all!

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