On rare occasions, I wish I could read minds.
Granted, most of the time I have no desire to know what’s on the minds of others. But there have been times when I wish I knew exactly what my wife would like for her birthday or our anniversary. When I was a pastor, however, it would have really come in handy. Today, hardly a week goes by where pastors do not share a story with me about their failure at mind reading. Here are seven common examples.
- When a church member is sick or in the hospital. “I got chewed out by a church member a month ago,” a pastor shared with me. “I failed to visit her while she was in the hospital. When I told her I didn’t know she was in the hospital, she responded that I should have.”
- When there is a death. “I missed a funeral, and I am still getting criticized for it,” noted a Colorado pastor. “A church member’s mother died. The funeral was about an hour away, but I never knew a thing about it until after the fact. The church member told me she doesn’t think she can keep giving to a church where the pastor neglects her.”
- When emphasizing ministries in the church. This one came from my Church Answers mentoring group. The pastor was warned by an elder that he was in trouble because he was talking more about the children’s ministry than the student ministry. It was true, the pastor said. Those in the children’s ministry are highly accountable and give regular updates. He rarely hears anything about the student ministry.
- When there is a meeting. The church member knew the pastor did not know about the meeting she led, but she was still infuriated. “He should have been there,” she fumed. “The pastor is supposed to know what’s going on in the church.”
- When the budget is being prepared. “You don’t care anything about our ministry,” the deacon said. “The church doesn’t have any funds in the budget for us.” The wounded pastor did not know the deacons wanted funding. He should have read their minds.
- When someone wants to talk. The pastor summarized the conversation in this manner: “Pastor, I have been really down lately. I don’t know why you haven’t taken time to call me.” The pastor did not know the member was struggling with depression. He had over 500 other members, and he couldn’t read their minds either.
- When someone celebrates a special occasion. “I don’t know if I will survive this one, “ a pastor told me. “I missed the 50th wedding anniversary of one of our senior leaders. Her husband does not come to church, and no one told me about the anniversary celebration. But my explanation does not seem to make any difference to her.”
Pastors and church staff have hundreds of things and people on their minds. We cannot expect them to know or to anticipate all of our needs.
The solution is simple.
Don’t assume the pastor should know.