Five Common but Unreasonable Requests Church Members Make of Pastors

“I need you to do a funeral for my cat.”

Yes, that is a request made to a pastor by a church member. And here’s the stranger reality. I have heard from dozens of pastors who have had this very request.

I assume the cats in question were dead.

Though I have heard hundreds of strange and unreasonable requests made to pastors, five of them are common. In fact, most pastors will encounter all five of these requests in the course of their ministries.

  1. Ask certain people to leave the church. The common theme is the request to get people who are not like us to leave the church. A church member asked one pastor to have a separate church service in the trailer park for “those people coming to our church.” Yes, really.
  2. Accept a gift with unreasonable expectations. The most recent was the offer of a $10,000 gift if the church signed a document agreeing to keep fresh flowers on his grave in perpetuity. I assume he meant the request to be posthumous.
  3. Do a pet funeral. A recent example was the request to do the funeral of a turtle. Can we really know if the turtle is dead? I guess our olfactory senses will confirm its death.
  4. Travel out of town to minister to a distant relative. I lead a pastors forum called Church Answers and get a lot of great input and questions. One pastor in the forum asked me about a request a church member made for him to visit a cousin in the hospital. But the surgery was minor and outpatient. The one-way distance was 225 miles. And the cousin was active in a church in her hometown. The church member left the church because the pastor declined.
  5. Leave the church. Many pastors are asked to leave the church for the most outlandish reasons. I remember the first time a church member asked me to leave the church. She said, “God told her” I was supposed to leave because I was bringing too many unbelievers and new Christians to the church. And then she said the cringe-worthy words, “They are just not like us.”

Keep in mind, these five unreasonable requests are common. These are not the outliers. In fact, they are so common that I am now suggesting seminaries add a course for every one of them (tongue in cheek, of course).

You just have to love pastors. Their lives are often stressful, but never boring.

Posted on April 24, 2017

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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  • I am a seminarian and am on the fence about the pet funeral. I have a dog and I love her to pieces, but when she dies, I would not dream of asking my pastor to perform a pet funeral for her. I would ask him to pray for me and my family, though, as she is my baby and I would be grieving. Would I perform a pet funeral? Yes, I would.

  • Gordon Weir says on

    Not a pet funeral but in the same ball park when I was asked last year to pray a prayer of blessing for the new guide dog of a blind person. Although I was off the day they taught that at Bible College (!) it was actually a privilege and it meant a lot to the person concerned.

  • George Perkins says on

    I don’t think it’s about the “pet funeral” as much as it’s about ministering to someone expressing grief. If some don’t recognize how to grieve their pets how will they ever grieve the lost soul. They are not the same and presenting them as saved souls is wrong in my interpretation but as a teaching tool to the realities of life it most certainly should be. I’ve done them, but always made 2 comments. “You are to be like them in relation to the people you come into contact” (Usually because of what they meant to the family or individual) And “Obedience to God should come just as naturally to us, because He feeds us for eternity” (usually because that is why our pets love us so much). We as Christians might think it’s ridiculous but 1st world problems force us to minister to the 1st world the same love He has for the 3rd world, and just for clarification “minister in Jerusalem” comes first for most of us reading this article.

    • I think you’re right about the disdain for “First World Problems.” As long as we’re here in the “First World,” these problems are what our people are dealing with.

      I think people on both sides are sort of arguing against “straw men” here, though. No one is really suggesting that we should have no compassion on people who have lost their pets or coldly tell them to get over it. And no one is suggesting it is a reasonable request to put together a full-fledged funeral service for a pet and treat the animal as a saved soul bound for heaven or to otherwise elevate the pet to the level of a person.

      A pastor who has a small congregation should probably at least be available for comfort if a member feels the need (I sent a card and a small sympathy bouquet once). It doesn’t need to be a top priority for pastors with hundreds of people to minister to.

    • I will gladly do a pet funeral for a $100,000 minimum honorarium or gift to the church

  • #2 reminded me of a joke about a rich man who offers a pastor a lot of money to preach the man’s brother’s (Billy) funeral, but to call him a saint. The pastor finally accepted the money and at the funeral said, “Billy was a cheat, every person he ever did business with got cheated. He was a drunk who spent most of his time at the bar. Billy ran around on his wife. He was a terrible father. BUT compared to his brother… he was a SAINT!”

  • Jim Watson says on

    I know what I am worth. A man in the church said he would give a $10,000 gift to the church if they got rid of me. I preached too much from the Bible.
    I personally thought I was worth much more. (LOL)

  • When my dog died just short of her 18th birthday, my family and I grieved. We gathered around her in the vet’s office and I said a short prayer, thanking God for her life and the love that she’d given us over the years. I feel sorry for those who have never experienced that.

    Yesterday on her way out the door after the service, a long-time church member said, with tears in her eyes, “Pastor, pray for us. We have to put our cat down tomorrow morning.” You’d have to be pretty cold-hearted to say “No” to that.

    • Praying for a family grieving for a deceased pet is a far cry from participating in pet funeral. Let’s not muddy the waters here.

  • Doug Whittenburg says on


    My son in law was let go this week because he was encouraging his youth group to begin memorizing scripture. The deacons thought this was an unreasonable expectation and was heading down a bad path in a conservative Baptist church

    • I am so sorry, Doug.

    • How can memorizing Scripture be a bad thing?

      • Because:
        A) anyone who knows more
        Scripture than me makes me look bad.
        B) it helps them see that what the church is doing is not in line with Scripture.

      • Getting the context of said memorized scripture might lead to disagreements with and questions of church leaders who have a vested interest in maintaining a certain interpretation of a verse taken out of context.

      • I guess an AWANA program would be a no-go at that church, huh? I’m old enough to remember when “memory verses” were part of the regular curriculum in Sunday School and VBS.

      • Hail awana ! I think if my kids didn’t attend awana as a kid they would be dead now. Gods word doesn’t return void . I believe that program set the foundation for their faith

  • Richard Woodruff says on

    I never realized that so many pet funerals were being performed. I understand folk can become attached to their pet(s), but humans are unique. In Genesis, we find that God spoke all but one creature into existence — man. God formed him out of the dust of the earth breathed into his nostrils. He became a living soul. This set humans apart from the animals, bugs, birds, fish, etc. When asked if there are animals in heaven, I refer to Rev. 19:13 where it says that the armies of heaven (this would include the believers) ride white horses following our Lord back to earth. There are, at least, white horses in heaven though I would not say the dearly departed pet is. I guess the upside of a pet funeral might be that that no one showing up would have any animosity for it, just kidding.

  • Andi Andrzejewski says on

    I have to say there are folks who should not be allowed back in church.

    Those who are physically, emotionally, verbally or sexually abusive to others – they, not their victims, need to leave.

    In the first three on that list – they need to be counseled first, sure, and perhaps given a ‘handler’ to help them behave appropriately but if those steps don’t solve the issue, they should be asked to leave. No it doesn’t matter, what the reason for it, others should not have to pay the price.

    • You may not have too many people left and if the truth were really known, you might be surprised who was gone. I was in the group of victims of #s 2 and 3, who heard that we caused it by bringing up topics that weren’t to be discussed or asking a simple “why?”. I know quite a few who were in group #1, and tragically some in #4.

  • Jimmy Smith says on

    In my first church a lady asked to speak with me in the strictest of confidence. I could not imagine what she might want. She asked me that if she were to die while I was there as pastor to be sure and get to the funeral home fast and make sure someone painted her eyebrows on her before anyone saw her. She was serious!

  • My in-laws insisted that their pastor come visit me in the hospital even though we didn’t know each other and despite my getting outstanding pastoral care from my own pastor. He came just as I was coming out the other side of a Fentanyl-induced haze about an hour after having a rather painful procedure done. I felt so bad for him.

  • Christopher says on

    I honestly cannot believe how many people are in favor of pet funerals! This is so indicative of how leisurely and comfortable our lives have become and why the church will continue to languish until we experience real persecution.

    • First World problems. Like people who complain their house is too big for the Wi-Fi router. My spouse and I do grief recovery. The program does not include Pets. We are pet owners, it’s a totally absurd request.

    • God created men and women in His own image. Animals…. nope! I own a dog, always follows me around and shows anthropomorphic love…. don’t need a funeral.

    • I can understand why parents might hold a “funeral” for a pet to humor their kids. But to bother a pastor with such things — come on!