I am among the most blessed men in the world. God has graciously saved me and sustained me. I have an incredible family. The place and ministry where I serve vocationally is a gift from God.
And then, as if I should be blessed even more, God has allowed me to serve and hear from church leaders across the world. In this article, I share some insights I heard from church members via social media, emails, blog comments, and personal conversations.
The following nine statements are heart matters for many church members. For the most part, these members are not the perpetual critics and the business meeting naysayers. These are men and women who truly love their pastors. But many of them do have some words from the heart they would like to share with their pastors. But many are reticent to do so, because they know their pastors often receive criticisms and inordinate demands for attention.
So, hear these heartfelt words from church members who love their pastors, from men and women who truly desire the best for them.
- “Let me know you really care for me.” That does not mean you call me regularly or that you visit me on demand. It is more of a disposition, or maybe words from the pulpit that demonstrate your love for the members. We can tell if you really care for us and love us.
- “Teach me the Bible.” I know you are inundated with requests, and the expectations for your time are often unreasonable. But please do not let those people distract you from your time in the Word. I am hungry for biblical teaching and preaching. Please spend time studying the Word so you can teach us well.
- “Help me deal with change.” This world and culture are changing so fast that I find myself dealing with fear and uncertainly. Help me understand the steadfastness of God in a turbulent world. And understand that my fear of change in the church is often related to my fear of change in the world. So lead me gently as you lead change in the church.
- “Don’t lead too far ahead.” I do want you to lead us. But don’t get so far ahead of us that we mistake you for the enemy and shoot you in the rear. I know change is necessary, but learn the pace of change that is best for our church.
- “Help me deal with family issues.” Some of us are in struggling marriages. Some of us are lonely whether we are single or married. Some of us have problems with our children. Some of us are dealing with aging parents. We hurt deeply when we have hurts about our families. Show us biblical truths about these issues. And show us your pastoral heart and concern for these issues.
- “Be transparent.” We know you are imperfect, but the critics sometimes cause you to hide your faults. For sure, we don’t want every nitty gritty personal detail about you and your family. But we do want to know that you have some of the same struggles we do. It helps us to identify with you better. It helps us to pray for you more.
- “Don’t get defensive when I offer constructive criticism.” I know that this one is tough. You get so many criticisms already; many of them are petty and self-serving. But there are many of us who love you and will, on rare occasions, offer some words that we think are best for you. Hear us without being defensive. Pray that God’s Spirit will help you discern when you should listen and when you should ignore.
- “Pray for me.” Please let me know that you love your church members so much that you pray for us regularly. Let us know that you consider prayer for the members to be one of your highest priorities.
- “Give me hope.” This world confuses me. This degenerating culture scares me. Show me how God has dealt with such hopeless times in the past that they may be times of hope for me today. Show me Christ’s possibilities, His hope, and His encouragement in difficult days.
Pastors, your task is not easy. Indeed, it is impossible without Christ’s strength. You have many church members who love you. They are often the silent members and, thus, the disregarded members. Hear these words from healthy church members that you might be even a better pastor to them.
What would you add, church member? What would you add, pastor or staff? How do these nine sentences resonate with you?
My blog post this coming Saturday: “Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members.”
Posted on May 21, 2014
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.
More from Thom
Church members are not to dictate to the pastor what he should say or do. He is there to preach the Word and show us how to be saved.
The prophets and Apostles did not ask the people how they wanted to be treated….they told them “what thus saith the Lord”.
A pastor is there to show us how to be saved and encourage our walk, not to be told how to handle himself. He has feelings as well.
I both love and dread this post. On the one hand, these are great reminders. On the other hand, part of me expected the list to go on and mention walking on water and turning water into wine. That feeling hit me when I arrived at point 5. Obviously, no committed pastor would disagree with the need to help members deal with family issues (In fact we spend a lot of time and emotional energy on precisely this), but I wonder about how wise we have been in integrating family counselor into the pastoral tasks of preaching, teaching, training leaders, etc …
There was a time not that long ago where a pastor was seen as faithful to his calling if he preached Biblical sermons, administered the sacraments, prepared people to die, buried the dead, and helped people understand that they were forgiven for the sake Christ. We have moved to an environment in which people keep adding to their pastoral wish list without taking anything away (I’m grateful your list didn’t include things like “vision casting”). Or to put the matter in biblical terms, an exegesis of all the passages in the Bible that speak of OT Priests or NT Pastors/Elders doing marriage counseling would produce a very short book.
Thank you for your ministry.
Teach me how.
Who should respond; What should be the response: When he should respond: Where he should be relationally; Why he should change.
All of these are great…but very few preachers and teachers conclude with How all of this should be accomplished. Lead me in the path I should go, feed me in the green pastures…teach me how to change, to be effective, to be closer to God, to be a better member of this body.
Teach me how.
Thom, I’m a pastor and trying to think through each of these statements. A question…are these actual statements from a survey or something? Where did these originate from?
No survey — just anecdotal conversations.
Wow. When I read the title I thought this was going to be about supporting your Pastor. Thought it would be a list of things to encourage and support your Pastor. Looks like the typical consumer mentality type of list.
Thanks so much for this story. It does cause one to put on his thinking cap. One issue I have with so many pastors today is not preaching about Hell. I also see a need to preach about pornography, responsible sex, homosexuality, love thy neighbor, helping (and giving) to the needy and other issues I grew up hearing about. I’m tired of those pastors who don’t preach these subjects out of fear of hurting people’s feelings. Those are what I refer to as the “politically correct” ministry. They need to get back to the real gospel and if it offends others then so be. Follow God and his word and not the feel good crowd.