I thank God for pastors. They are often criticized, second-guessed, underpaid, and expected to do too many things. Pastors would be perfect if they were simply omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.
Indeed, the expectations of pastors can be overwhelming. In that light, I asked seasoned pastors to share with me the areas they wish they could be better prepared and better equipped. The results were voluminous, and the needs are great. Here are the top eight:
- Leading the church in evangelism/reaching the community. Many pastors felt as if evangelism and healthy growth are neglected topics. They admitted their own sense of inadequacy in leading their churches to reach more people with the gospel.
- Leadership development. Pastors know they can’t do the work of ministry alone. But many of them shared poignantly how they wish they could become better at developing leaders in the church. They understand both biblically and intuitively that more leaders are imperative for a church to be healthy.
- Finances/business issues/administration. “I never considered how much of church life is running an organization,” one pastor shared with us. “I was never trained for that aspect of ministry, and it has come back to haunt me again and again.” Another pastor confessed that he had never learned to balance his checkbook, but he was expected to lead a church with a half-million-dollar budget.
- Leading staff. We heard it again and again: “I have no idea how to lead my staff. I have no idea how to evaluate my staff. I have no idea how to deal with conflict among my staff.” In fact, one pastor told me he joined Church Answers for one reason: so he could ask questions about dealing with staff.
- Counseling. Many pastors shared how much their congregations demand in counseling. They also said the demand seems to grow every year. They not only lack the training to know how to counsel, they often don’t know when to refer people to professionals.
- Dealing with change and conflict. It is a common theme among pastors. They were told to expect conflict before they became pastors, but the reality was consistently worse than the warnings. They long to know how to lead change and deal with conflict better, but they often feel inadequate in those areas.
- Dealing with their own depression. A number of pastors admitted surprise when depression hit them. They simply did not expect it to happen to them. Many also admitted shame and embarrassment in talking to others about their struggles. Some even shared confidentially with me their own thoughts of suicide in the past.
- Equipping others. This particular need is similar to number two, leadership development. But in this case, pastors desire to equip the entire body of Christ, not just leaders. But many pastors feel woefully inadequate in doing so.
It was fascinating to see what topics did not make the list: Bible, theology, ethics, and preaching, to name a few. The pastors expressed gratitude to the Bible colleges, seminaries, and books that prepared them well in the classical disciplines. But the cries were for better preparation in practical issues and practical ministries.
How about you? Where do you think pastors need to be better equipped? What would you add?
Let me hear from you.
Posted on August 6, 2018
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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1.I feel that we pastors are not able to learn from others ie other pastors or believers in matters of church growth
2.We pastors fail or dont know at what point we should involve/welcome other so as to work together for the growth of the church and even in spreading the gospel
3.Pastor fears being foreshadowed by their colleges and so tend to own or fight for departments and ministries as they own their personal items
4.Pastor at times fails to seek counsel from God on what God need them to do
Yes to all of this. I went into local church ministry because God called me to lead spiritual renewal. Having been at it for 15 years, I now find myself spending more time on administration, management, and finances than I do on sermon preparation. And I preach nearly every week!
Where do we go to get better at these things? And how do we help our churches understand how much time it takes to do these things?
isn’t this the theme of part of the struggle of being the church, the Body of Christ? many people do not know how to be the ‘part of the Body’ that God has gifted, Christ has called and the Holy Spirit has empowered. as a result looks a little more like being a jack of all trades and a master…
In the workplace it is called team-building, so many as the church we could spend more time ‘body-building’ so that all the parts are honored?
I wish an M.Div. program required a course in cross-cultural evangelism and missions. These topics seem irrelevant to most pastors, but in fact, they are highly relevant.
My area of ministry has been cross-cultural evangelism & missions. It’s surprising how much cross-cultural evangelism applies to evangelism here at home. The secular world is another culture to those who have been in the church a long time, yet we don’t know how to bridge that gulf, other than invite them to church – a foreign culture to non-Christians.
Not only is cross-cultural evangelism highly relevant to evangelism at home, but a pastor will probably see at least $100,000 given to missions during the course of a 5-7 year pastorate. It behooves us not only to be effective in missions ( and much, if not most, missions is not), but also to be wise financial stewards of that money (most missions giving is not).
About a decade ago, the late (and considered great) management expert Peter Drucker said that his many-many observations of for-profit and nonprofit (including churches) organizations across the US led him to believe that NO for-profit organization was as well-managed as a few of the nation’s nonprofit ones, and he said that the average nonprofit organization scored a “C” in his opinion–not because they didn’t all try hard but instead due to their lack of focus and limited knowledge of how to use tools for their own success. It probably is more true of churches than those of us posting/reading comments here may think. If our congregations are going nowhere in particular except for around in circles (i.e., lack focus), then they really don’t need the well-paid you and me as their “leaders”; instead, they can simply snag the next guy or two coming down the street–because those fellows are just as capable of leading them in circles as we are, but they might do it for lower wages :-))
Drucker appears correct: for Pete’s sake, we should focus on something that extends God’s kingdom on earth, and learn which tools that requires and how to use them, set all like-hearted folk to work that way, and then praise the Lord for all the successes He will give–including many unintended ones!
Need an expert’s help? Your congregation’s Cooperative Program and local Association contributions already pay for it. Accept the help offered (if none is available after requesting it, keep those CP and/or Association dollars at home to fund the help needed).
Anything about “burn out”? Or, “fried out” by ungodly staff and deacons?
After 17 1/2 years in 2 county seat town churches in the south (right out of seminary), I was burned out. Mainly because of staff. Secretaries did not get along. One music director whose dad was an SBC seminary professor was overheard saying, “As soon as I get rid of this pastor, I’ll be in the driver’s seat in this church.” He had already allied with my opposition (I had been at the church about 7 years when he came).
Between that and a youth director whose “exit interview” after he resigned ripped me apart with the personnel committee (they recorded the meeting but would not let me hear it), I had enough.
I went back to college to retrain and pursue a job. I spent the next 25 years in two churches “one horse” churches where “I was the horse” (didn’t have to put up with paid staff).
If the pastor does not have the authority to hire/fire his staff and be backed by ALL the church leadership, he has no strength.
A disloyal “worship pastor” can whine to the old ladies in his choir or the young ones in his praise group to get his way; they will go to their husbands who may be deacons, and the pastor will get “scaled” like a fish at the next meeting. Or, he will be pulled aside by two or 3 powerful ones who are “musically inclined” and work him over.
Loyalty is a trait that seemed to die in World War II. Christianity that leads staff to be honest, trustworthy, and hard working seems scarce as well.
I am thankful all that is behind me.
Many of these deal with Leadership. I am working on my PhD in Leadership from Piedmont International University, a Christian college and it has been a great help with these issues. Anybody interested should check out http://www.piedmontu.edu