Five Secrets Pastors Refuse to Tell

By their very nature, pastors are a confidential lot. They counsel numbers of people who share their deepest secrets and problems. They know things about families that could hurt and embarrass them if they shared information freely. So pastors tend to keep secrets and confidential information well. In most cases, you can feel comfortable that your confidence will not be breached when you talk to a pastor.

But most people don’t realize pastors have their own secrets. These spiritual leaders refuse to share their thoughts or pains for fear that their own ministries will be damaged.

So they keep the secrets.

And they hold the pain to themselves.

As I have spoken to pastors across the land, many have confided in me their hurts and secrets. I don’t think they would mind that I share these secrets with you, as long as I don’t identify them with any one pastor by name.

  1. “My marriage is struggling.”
    Pastors are on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Oftentimes family meals are interrupted by a call. A planned date with a wife is put on hold because of an emergency related to a church member. Pastors’ wives sometimes wonder if their husbands are married to them or to the church. Resentment and marital fights are not uncommon.
  2. “I fear my kids will grow up hating the church.”
    One pastor told me in tears the story of a church member criticizing the pastor’s wife to the pastor in front of his 12-year-old son. The young boy went home insisting he hated the church and never wanted to return. Children are often exposed to the dark side of church life. Pastors worry that they won’t recover.
  3. “I let a handful of critics control me.”
    These pastors wish the squeaky wheel didn’t always get oiled, but such is the reality in many churches. “If I ignore them (the critics), “ one pastor told me, “they will make life miserable for me and my family. Sometimes it’s just best to give them their way.”
  4. “I often have anger toward the supportive church members who don’t defend me to my critics.”
    “It’s not my critics who bother me personally,” the pastor shared with me. “It’s the so-called supportive members who refuse to come to my defense when I’m attacked by a critic. Going into a business meeting, one of these supporters told me how much he loved me, and how he would always have my back. Fifteen minutes later, I’m being castigated by three members who hardly ever attend church. What does my supporter do or say? Absolutely nothing. That’s what really hurts.”
  5. “I’ve thought about quitting several times.”
    These pastors are truly called men of God. They really do love their congregations. Most of them will endure the criticisms aimed at them personally. But when supportive members really don’t support them, or when family members are hurt, many pastors think about quitting. “Only one thing has stopped me from quitting,” the pastor said. “It’s the call of God. That’s what keeps me hanging on.”

Through this blog and through other venues, I intend to do everything I can in God’s power to be the pastor’s advocate. The pastorate is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Indeed, it’s an impossible job in human power alone.

Pastors, how can we best help you? Church members, what can we do to be the best pastor advocate possible?

Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog series at Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at [email protected]. We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.

Posted on June 2, 2012

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 attend a rather large church in northern California. It’s a Apostolic Pentecostal church.

    My family and I have attended the church for more than 13 years.

    For a short time in my childhood, my mother took us to church, before she stop due to pressure from my father.

    My wife grew up in a Christian home (Romanian). However, with a decline in her parents standards, my wife experienced a mild short run in the world.

    Thus, she was exposed to worldly attitudes, envy, and women not liking or accepting her due many times because of her outward appearance.

    13 plus years ago, when we began attending the church. My wife would often tell me that their was this woman in church which keeps starring at her with looks of envy. She told me that she knows that look.

    I watched it go on for some time.

    Only later to discover that ‘the woman’ was the Senior Pastor’s wife, and the Bishops (church founders) daughter.

    In all the 13 years of us attending the church, she has said less than 7 words to my wife. She completely ignores her, and I can’t remember a time where she has never prayed for or with my two order children (which according to many elders, have the hand of God upon them, and stand out in the youth group, this includes the Pastor children).

    I just look at my family as a normal family.

    However, saints who attend the church and visitors alike always tell us that we have a beautiful good-looking family.

    As a father, I have always taken a strong stance against my family getting wrapped up in their looks. This is due to what I have seen in my father and mothers family and siblings alike.

    I wonder at times is the Pastor in competition with our family. They have more money, his wife wears very nice and perhaps very expensive clothes (I’m not talking Macy’s either). They have a lot more than we do.

    We have had saints tell us that we have the best family in the church. I get embarrass, because like any other family we have problems, and seasons of hell in our lives.

    We are considering changing churches. We’re currently seeking the will of God.

    I don’t believe in attacking the ministry.

    I have a difficult time attending the church, and hearing his wife sing of Gods love, grace and everything God is, yet still wrestle with envy over a woman who is nearly a decade younger than she is.

    I think it’s silly. But, it’s very real!

    This is just one of the major issues that go on there.

    This church has good leadership (they have a good ability to lead), great human ingenuity, and administrative ability. However, from what seems to be very apparent to me, they lack in the most important pillar in real church leadership, and that’s prayer and walking in the spirit.

    I didn’t come here to tare down my Pastor. I could have said a lot more.

    I would like some insight and a view point outside of my perspective.


    • I think it’s normal that ppl don’t want to be around others that make them feel inferior, you could try praying how to break through this situation. Maybe find out if her and your wife have anything in common or can find a church where so they will appreciate you and your wife’s qualities as a family and look past the looks. I spent my whole life trying to get on with ppl who didn’t like me because of my intelligence and honestly I’d rather spend time with people who feel they are as intelligent as me , it saves a lot of stress. I don’t think the Lord is happy about it but it’s my feeling.
      I don’t think it’s on for this to continue , thanks for sharing it’s helpful to have others who feel like this,

  • Wiley phillips says on

    I have been a music minister for thirty years. The last ten yes lost my wife on a four wheeler accident a yr ago I lost my thirty five yr old daughter to a heart attack and last yr my home burned. been leading music at two churches for three yes and recently one of the churches that I had been at of and on thirteen yes. The deacons and preacher recently called me into a meeting where they said they loved and cared for me very much but wanted me to take off four months and try to get over the hurt then one of the deacons said he thought I had a drug problem which I have never drinked .smoked or been on drugs. I told them to get them a music director because I have been fighting my emotions for ten yes and leaving church would only make things worse. I was hurt for a church to tell me to go home and get over my problems. Then the pastor said let’s not let the Cong know what we talked about. The other church was proud I was leaving that church and are very satisfied with my ability to lead the music program. The other church is upset because the deacons ask me to leave. Is it ever ethical for a deacon body to tell everyone in the meeting to not let the congregation know what we talked about. Thank you.

  • thesecretlifeofapastorswife says on

    WOW this is spot on. This is kind of why i blog in secret. We do need an outlet for sure.
    Its true what you said. We have secrets of people that will or could destroy them, embarrass them and all that stuff. If we had the wicked heart to share those things. Even when the same people hurt us we still remain silent.
    Its our job to keep secrets (unless they crimes of coarse) but we can never trust them with ours. We are there create a safe environment for others. We however dont get to benefit from that 🙁

  • You are absolutely right about every point, except one…not all pastors are “called men of God”…some are called women. And women who are pastors deal with these exact same problems, so thank you for leveling the playing field. Peace.

  • Dave Griffith says on

    It’s hard sometimes. Every church that I have served at, there has always been someone who critisized. But I learned now with my spouses help to just ignore people and to ask God for his help. We can please everyone.

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