10 Reasons Ministry Pain is Really Tough

Most of us who have done ministry for any length of time know the pain of this work. Sometimes it’s gripping . . . ongoing . . . overwhelming. Here are some reasons why it is especially difficult pain:

1. We start ministry with excitement and joy, never thinking about the potential pain. But, then it happens. It catches us off-guard, and we’re not immediately sure what to do with it. Confusion compounds the pain.

2. No one can adequately prepare us for the pain. Veteran pastors, seminary professors, and good friends can share their experiences, but there’s no way to describe the pain until you’ve felt it. No way.

3. Sometimes it’s good friends who bring the pain. It really hurts when someone you love stabs you in the back. Losing a Christian friend—particularly for unknown or unfounded reasons—hurts.

4. It often comes unexpectedly. I still think about times when I thought our ministry was going quite well, only to be caught off guard by conflict and opposition. Not only does the pain hurt, but it then also feels like you’ve missed something somewhere as a leader.

5. Our families often hurt more than we do. That’s because they sometimes hear more than we do through the grapevine, and they also naturally jump to our defense. Even when we might let go of the pain, our family may still struggle.

6. Some of the reasons/causes for the pain are ludicrous. I’ve often said that we pastors could not make up some of the things we’ve faced in ministry. I stand by that statement—it’s amazing what crazy things some church members will believe (and do).

7. When pain robs us of our joy, we sometimes begin to question our calling . . . or whether we still want to fulfill that calling. That is, the situation hits at the very core of who we are. Pain leads to questioning, confusion, and doubt.

8. After too many episodes of pain, some of us begin to look for the next pain. We’re sure it will happen, and we don’t want to be surprised—so we operate with suspicion of anyone who doesn’t seem to be on board. That’s a terrible way to lead.

9. Sometimes our pain reminds us of times when we were wrongly the cause of someone else’s pain. We want to let it go, but we still carry guilt over yesterday’s actions. The enemy resurrects the situation in our minds, and we give him a stronghold.

10. Many of us choose to carry the pain on our own. We don’t readily share with our spouses, lest they get angry and hurt, too. Nor do we typically talk with other pastors if we don’t want them to see us struggling. Our isolation in the pain only compounds it.

Church leaders, what would you add to this list? And, what do you do to avoid letting yesterday’s pain consume you today?

Posted on August 3, 2021

Dr. Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with Church Answers to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.
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  • The pain is real and unlike any I have ever felt. There’s no real friends in Ministry. What promises are made are quickly broken when you don’t fully cater to the needs and demands of a particular congregants (friends). People flow in and flow out. Trying to prevent the process only perlongs the pain.
    We’ve loved, helped, taught, discipled, cried with, laughed with, and stood by every single back stabbing congregant/friend .. actually family would better describe. Because every single person we have put minutes, hours, days, months, and years into as we give our all and they walk away, hate, backstab, talk bad about us, slander our name – our ministry, our families, and our walk as well as our standing with Yahweh/God as if they are our judge, jury, peers, and students that believe they have surpassed us to judge accurately our life.
    This has been a lonely and heart breaking walk. But I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world because God/Yahweh/Yehshua)Jesus means more to me than my own life. And to walk according to the Word and to Love and serve my Jesus/Yehshua is all I want to do. If all forsakes me.. it will hurt and break my heart but I will not falter from Serving Jesus/Yehshua. Because He is my Savior and His Father my Father and creator. It is life and I can’t imagine my life without my Savior and King, Yehshua/Yahweh.
    This is my hearts cry…
    Keep me broken before you Yahweh, cause me to Yield completely to your calling and will… extent your grace to me that I might not become offended, hide me away that all the people see is You… Cause.me Father, to serve all, love all, submit to all and account myself as nothing.. to be in service to You, My God, IS Everything to me. So I will endure all and press through bc You my God, You Are My.Life, My desire, My.Heart and The Love of My Life and I will give.my All till my last breath… No matter the cost, because I Love You Yahweh, my God and my Savior Yehshua.

  • David Blanton says on

    Great insights from Chuck Lawless. Those pains and feelings seem to be part of ministry.