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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  • Another Anonymous Mark says on

    I presume any member asking for a pet funeral gives a healthy honorarium for the time spent by the pastor?

  • With held (don't want to be next) says on

    Lets see. I was first aware of the pastor, with the support of other church leaders, telling a family of 4 that perhaps they should find another church because the wife was asking around in the congregation for persons to support her position that more hymns should be sung rather than praise music. Then the pastor was told of a unmarried lady having an affair with a married man, she was told to either break off the affair or leave the church. She left the church, in the mean time another family left, then another husband and wife left, then another longstanding hard working man left. Then another well liked usher left, would only say, Oh those guys, another lady and her son, who never missed a Sunday, always tithed, was ousted because she complained about another person in the church mistreating her. Although it is well known she doesn’t live up to the “standards” of the other middle and upper class members. She is a hard working low income person. Some didn’t like her having so many papers sticking out of her bible. She sit in the front pew, wanted to come forward for Christ once a year and was told she could no longer do that by the pastor. The membership has dwindled and some wonder why.

  • I mean this with all the love in my heart – but if somebody asked me to do a pet funeral, I would be sorely tempted to tell them to quit worshiping their animals and then, depending on how long I had been at the church and worked with the folks, resign the pastorate because I’ve obviously failed to communicate biblical truth – it clearly hasn’t sunk in.

    If the church member left because I declined to go 225 miles one way – then my church has just become more healthy without that one member.

    If they asked me to ask certain other people to leave the church, I would be tempted to ask the requester to leave the church.

    Give me a break . . .

    • I suppose the Levites also had the job of offering grief counseling to the Israelites who brought their animals for sacrificial slaughter.

  • Two things:

    1. Not a pet funeral, but a priest friend of mine was once asked to perform an exorcism on a cat. (He declined.)

    2. When my dog died during surgery, my pastor and his wife came and sat with me, and we prayed together and then they took me out for a quiet dinner. That was nice. No, it wasn’t a pet funeral, per se – but isn’t the purpose of a funeral to comfort the living?

  • I would suggest somewhere along the line someone differentiate between grief and sadness. Most of this blog is taken up with the death of a pet…. an animal with which people make anthropomorphisms about being loving, etc…. and therefore have loss, which I do not discount as real. Have we lost our minds theologically and become sentimental so as to attract people and not offend?

    • I can understand having a “pet funeral” to humor the kids, but why drag the pastor into it? Do people honestly think pastors have nothing better to do?

      • Another Anonymous Mark says on

        Ken, no, honestly too many don’t think the pastor has anything else to do.

  • Richard Woodruff says on

    The funeral is primarily to aid the ones that are grieving. I suppose that it depends on to what extent the pastor is being asked or even expected to officiate a pet funeral. I would hope that any pastor would do as the Apostle Paul writes “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15 KJV). Is he expected to put the pet on the same level of a human being and officiate in such a manner, or is he simply coming along aside to aid those who are grieving the loss of their dear pet? The key, here, comes down what level of expectation is placed on the pastor.

  • I was told by a grandparent that her granddaughters didn’t come to our youth group because the “bad” kids come to our youth group. She asked me to break the group up into good kids and bad kids. She even suggested that I take the “bad” kids on a prison tour to scare them straight.

  • Pet funerals provide an opportunity for ministry to a grieving individual or family and of outreach to unchurched pet lovers whom the individual or family invite to the funeral. The individuals or family itself my be unchurched. People do become attached to their pets and experience grief at the loss of their pet. The death of a pet can be one of those stressful times in which the individual or family that suffered the loss may be open to the gospel. When burying a much loved pet or interring its ashes, a few words on how God is the creature of all living things and how his providence extends to all his creatures is not inappropriate. Prayer then may be offered for the individual or family whose pet died. Simply being present can be a very effective way of ministering to the individual or family. I would not be too quick to dismiss such opportunities as an unreasonable burden on a pastor.

  • Gary Smith says on

    I was told in no uncertain terms to stop preaching about the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ because she only wanted to hear love from the pulpit.

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