In an earlier article this week, I noted nine things church members would like to say to their pastors. In this article, I represent the pastors. Please hear me clearly. Most pastors love church members dearly. They truly care for those they serve.
But pastors are human.
And there are times they would like church members to know some things about them. In my conversations with pastors via social media, in person, by phone, and by email, here are the nine most common themes.
- “When you criticize a family member, you hurt me deeply.” Please understand that neither my spouse nor my children are employed by the church. Do your best to treat them as regular church members, and do not place unreasonable expectations on them.
- “I will have bad days, and it will show at times.” A pastor is supposed to be “on” all the time. But it is difficult. I know there are times I speak out of turn. I know there are times when I’m too tired to listen well. I will try not to show my bad days, but I will slip at times.
- “Not all of my sermons will be ‘home runs.’” I wish they were. But with the number of different messages I have to prepare and preach in a year, I won’t always be the stellar preacher you want me to be. Indeed, I won’t always be the stellar preacher I want to be.
- “I am sensitive about my salary.” There are few people who work in a place where everyone in the organization is the boss. That is the nature of church work. But when you make disparaging comments about my pay and my related work, it cuts me to the core.
- “I struggle when the church numbers are down.” I know I shouldn’t. I know I shouldn’t derive my worth based on attendance and offerings. But when attendance declines or offerings drop, I question my own leadership at the church.
- “I would love a true friend in the church.” I’m talking about someone who would let me be myself, someone who wouldn’t mind if I let my hair down. It seems like everyone wants me to put on my pastor face all the time.
- “Please don’t criticize me or ask me to do something right before I preach.” I put many hours into sermon preparation. I have prayed with intensity about the message. Please don’t tell me the worship center is too cold right before I preach.
- “I cannot show up at every place all of you would like me to be.” I jokingly told a pastor friend that I wish I could be omnipresent, and he laughed and agreed. I love you church members, but it is physically impossible to be all the places you expect me to be.
- “I hurt deeply when good people don’t defend me.” Every leader will have his or her critics; and that is certainly the case with pastors. I don’t expect to be immune from criticisms. But what hurts me the most is the silence of “good” members when I am attacked unfairly. Please say a kind word about me in response to the negativity you hear. Don’t let the few critics dominate the conversation.
Most pastors do indeed love their church members. But most pastors have a challenging work, one that is impossible without God’s strength.
Pastors, what would you add or change on this list? Church members, what do you think about these nine items?
Posted on May 24, 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.
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I need some Oney to talk too
Thanks for the article! I am the pastor of a small church and I am the only paid staff member. This article was so spot on! Preaching 3-4 times per week gets overwhelming and you get to feeling alone, your article really let me see how many others feel the same way.
Since my husband is the pastor I can tell you he struggles with 1, 4,5,6,7 & 9. He don’t struggle with # 2 b/c he never lets them see him when he’s having a bad day or hard time & # 3, well he knows all his sermons won’t be home runs as you say. It does get him down but not that much. He definitely has a problem with 5,6 & 7. It truly bothers him a great deal when numbers are down. He starts questioning himself. No matter what I or our grown children say to him it’s hard for him to get over.
Also we both have talked about how nice if it would be if we both had a good friend we could just hang out with, do things with, go off with & just be ourselves but we don’t and I we never will. Once you are a preacher people will always see you as that & not someone that not the person you are inside. They look at your face and automatically see preacher. It’s so hard.
And about people coming to him before he goes out to preach. This happens to my husband about every Sunday. People seem to want to come up & start a conversation about something or complain or tell you what you should & shouldn’t do & it’s usually about 5 minutes before church starts. He wishes they wouldn’t but they will do it or bust.
Also he have been in the position where he wished some of the people would have backed him up but they didn’t.
People think preachers have it easy. They don’t, they don’t at all
P.S. Quite honestly, if a Pastor has not offended me in sermon, or I always leave like “Whew! I dunno who he was talkin about just glad it wasn’t me!” That pastors not doing the job, I expect to hear what I am doing and what I NEED to be or not be doing, not hearing how I’m doing great just keep coming on Sundays and you’ll be fine” I wanna feel that the message is about me because I want a pastor that will preach how hell IS not only that heavens great and thie sermons all be describing the beauty of Heaven, and there are churches in this very small rural town that will tell their pastor “we don’t like sinners in our church! If they aren’t here we don’t want them here don’t be telling us to go out and invite people in here, they are sinners!” What better place for a sinner to go!?!
I am not a Pastor or a deacon, but I have a Brother and uncle that are both pastors, what I find most is that members often do not care as much as who is chosen as a new pastor or new program, they simply feel “so and so” is a important member so if he votes this I’m voting the same, or if a member for any reason feels they don’t care much for the pastor, anything he encourages or supports, they vote against just out of spite. Well your not hurting the pastor by doing this, your dangerously interfering in GODS business, and perhaps causing one or more souls to miss out a opportunity to surrender to the Lords call. Furthermore, all members should actively pray and desire to express concerns and support for any actions taken in their home church, as their spiritual movement not because you don’t care so you vote however majority does or a certain person/group of persons vote, and those who get angry at a decison that attend another church yet leave membership at the church they leave so they can come back and vote the preacher out when and if the event arises, you shouldn’t get to cast a vote if your a member yet been attending other church for a year bc you hate the pastor, chances are the pastor isn’t the primary reason the vote that angered you was passed, apparently majority also voted in support, or be angry at what a pastor preaches on don’t be angry at the messenger, be angry at the author that the message was read from! And I’m certain if you meet a pastor in a store or outside of church he would prefer a hi how are you, fish biting good? Rather than “hey I talked to a person the other day and gave scripture let’s discuss scripture here in walmart” while pastors love members witnessing to lost and love the scriptures, they need a friend to talk to them about “normal things” as well, as they appreciate the love for God you have, they don’t always feel the need to carry conversations about only scripture 24/7. The pastor is a leader and messenger and deacons have specific roles also but do not expect that any issue idea or program or church business (especially finances) are entirely the pastors job, then people will say “that pastor just runs all the business and money”. Pastors are normal humans as well and deserve to be supported even if by one person against all others, stand for your beleifs and what’s right, even if you stand alone!
I have been mortified the way that our church recently rallied against our pastor. He was a Godly man the was sent to deliver me from my drug addiction and teach me to be a good husband, father and spiritual leader. He tried many things to get different people involved in the church. All to no avail. I’m sure he got discouraged and decided it was a waste of energy. I just want to say thank you to this author and all pastors for your hard work! I was a very scary looking man but pastor Jim approached me anyway. He told me the good news and prayed, prayed, prayed with me. Thank you for all you do guys. I know it’s exhausting at times but there are many that need you and what you have to offer! God bless you all!
Please clarify the purpose of this website. Since the title is “Pastors Today,” I thought it was for Pastors. I am surprised at the people commenting who are not in the ministry. Surely there is a place for their questions to be answered and their comments to be heard, but is this the place for it? If you intend this site to be a place for pastors to express themselves, then surely they don’t need to be subjected here to the rants of unhappy church members. Perhaps you could have two websites, one reserved solely for pastors.
I’m sorry for butting in where I am not welcome.
It may come as a surprise that I was invited here by a Pastor.
It may also come as a surprise that many Deacons, Elders and Leaders frequent sites like this to try and understand their Pastor and to understand the issues facing him and their church. We try to find that little tidbit that will make us better able to have productive board meetings, to help our Pastor, to be better members, to maybe help us know how to love our Pastor better, his wife, his children.
Because, face it guys, Pastors are not like the rest of us.
We desperately want to learn how to be a church that prospers and grows, that is effective and welcoming and loving. We crave the Pastoral leadership that such an endeavor requires. But, in order to get there we have to stop watching our Pastors leave every 3.8 years, to leave us in damage control, to bandage hurts hearts, to wonder why, to face the congregations questions with no good answers. To start the process once again of looking for another Pastor, hoping and praying fervently that he will come without prejudice, will learn to love us, will lead us without resentment
Jesus physically touched almost everyone he ministered to…pretty tough to do that for a position of prejudice and suspicion, and distance.
If my posts have seemed to be the “rants of an unhappy church member” then you have missed the point entirely.
By the way, there are blogs on his site from the perspective of the membership…did you know?
I particularly was convicted and thus benefitted by the blog on arrogance.
Perhaps a new hobby?
I would add #10. Don’t expect the Pastor to do everything around the church and then get upset when he doesn’t live up to your expectations.