Nine Heartfelt Things Pastors Would Like to Say to Their Church Members


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.

  1. “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.
  2. “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.
  3. “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.
  4. “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.
  5. “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.
  6. “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.
  7. “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.
  8. “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.
  9. “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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  • Number five hits the hardest and closest to home! The numbers and offering down can be one that really is hard. It keeps me praying and making sure I am doing all the right things that I think are supposed to be done. It also tempts me to dust of the resume too. Thanks Tom!

  • Greg Lloyd says on

    My mentor and friend has remarked how pastoral ministry is ‘BRUTIFUL’. Sometimes its brutal, other times its beautiful. I do agree with #5 too, but focus on making a consistent impact one soul, one day, one message and witness, one opportunity at a time. Wisdom is justified by her children. Thank God for His immeasurable gift!

  • I’m sure the every bi-vocational pastor could empathize when I say that it is frustrating when people will act or even say they are disappointed when you cannot make it to their event (Heartfelt Thing #8). It is usually the same people that rarely com to any church activities because they say they have to rest or take care of things at home because they had to work all week. After someone complained that I could not be at their event, I figured up my work hours not including the things that needed to be done at home. This is not something that I usually do but the comment spurred me to do so. I worked a total of 70 hours that week + 7 hours of travel time. It was a normal week. I know that many have commented that even though these heartfelt thing are common they have not heard a pastor communicate these feelings. I know that I have thought all of these things and the reason that I have not communicated these things is that I believe it would be perceived as whining. I may be wrong.

    • Some texts in the Pauline epistles address the subject of financial support for pastors, and I always use those texts to say a few words about bivocational pastors. I usually say something like, “If your pastor is bivocational, you can’t expect him to be available in every situation. He has obligations to his employer just like you do to yours. You can’t leave your job at the drop of a hat, so you shouldn’t expect your pastor to do so with his.”

  • Paul Curry says on

    Perhaps the hardest area to deal with as pastors is hospital visits and holidays. Nothing can be more frustrating when people expect the pastor to go visiting on a holiday( such as Memorial Day and Labor Day). The argument is always that they have to go work so why isn’t pastor working. Yes, some people have to work on these days, but if the church office is closed for observance; then that also should imply that the pastor is off observing the holiday.

    • I don’t mind making hospital visits on holidays if it’s an emergency and if I’m in town. If I’m out of town and it’s an emergency, I’ll at least try to get in touch with the family and let them know I’m praying for them. I always tell churches on the front end that while I always try to be available in emergencies, that doesn’t always apply in non-emergencies.

      What I really hate is when they don’t tell you they’re in the hospital, and then they get mad because you didn’t come to see them. Do people expect us to read their minds?

      • Just another pastor says on

        Yes, your forget the fine print; “extra-sensorial” skills are required for the pastoral office!

    • then maybe the church office shouldn’t be closed

  • I think this article is spot on, and several people have suggested some excellent additions to the list. Here is one I would add: how would you like it if your pastor came to your place of employment and tried to tell you how to do your job? How would you like it if he watched you every moment of every day, just waiting for you to step out of line? How would you like it if he found fault with every little thing you did, and always talked about how you don’t measure up to other members of your profession?

    We pastors feel the same way when you laypeople do it to us.

    • if he paid my salary, then he would have every right to do so–several of my real bosses have done just that very thing themselves, and never considered it out of line

  • Ed Mitchell says on

    After reading a sampling of the comments I’m inspired to take a moment and thank the Lord for the church I serve and the house my family and I are buying. Yes, I’ve said and felt a number of the issues brought up in the article. And my family has paid a high price in years past. But in God’s mercy, from the perspective of this article, we are in ‘pleasant places” just now. Yet still so many lost …

    • realitycheckinsc says on

      Agreed, so many are lost. I simply want to focus on seeing the lost saved and ‘making’ disciples. Certainly the latter involves all the ‘human’ circumstance from the ‘redeemed’. We can’t escape the trials and tribulations of this world, neither could the 1st century church fathers and people of the ‘way’. It is simplistic yet I yearn for exactly what the Bible says is the believers experience for Jesus to please come………it takes on great and wider understanding with me each day. My heart goes out to the ‘church attendees’ and I am reminded of what Billy Graham said in an interview…….he wondered just how many of those that came forward really had a ‘heart’ change……. These concerns listed by everyone are all indicators of the hearts of many……I am thankful to serve and know Christ as my savior, advocate, and keeper. I continue in that hope for all i meet. I am reminded of the absolute need of God in all we do, that simply His will be done.

  • realitycheckinsc says on

    I am reminded that until some one walks in another’s shoes it is really hard for them to relate….I have been a deacon…….and now a minister for many years…..well over 20…….ministers are held to many unreasonable expectations as are their families…….how many deacons families or sheep families could with stand what many many ministers deal with…….to simply say ‘that comes with the territory’ is to simply dilute the Biblical responsibility of each of us to ‘love each other as Christ loves us’. I have weathered many storms only to have ‘lay’ leadership to still not stand up for their minister/employee. Last time I looked in South Carolina, employment laws apply…..that say, you cannot have a hostile work environment…….but many ministers either don’t know or let it go…………churches want to have the protections of the law and yet don’t apply the work place laws? I do believe times are changing and ministers are recognizing that the ‘old status quo’ of just sucking it up and moving on most of the time is just wrong……..and changing…….. I have heard it said, when ministers are promised benefits and such, when later it was not delivered, it was not in writing…I have had that very statement said to me when promised pay increases/accrued vacation time…and other such blatant issues. Can we get a discussion started on the legalities in the church/minister employment relations and the literal meaning of this to ministers and churches? That i think is a very valid discussion in this thread too………emotional/spiritual supports are part of this issue…………yea, i know……but is it possible to leave the ‘law of the land’ out of the discussion? Just wondering.

  • These items have hit very close to home this morning. I have just recently gone through a “do not return” vote from the membership of the church I pastored. During the open discussion time prior to the vote, an individual stood and began condemning pay cut me and the work I had done over the last eight years. Another stood up and referred I was being paid too much, and asked me in a public forum if I would take a pay cut. (I had never received a pay increase in the 8 years of service there, actually I had taken an $11,000 cut). Another stood and said they had been overly generous toward me during the past 12 months following a personal major medical situation.

    I said all of this above to express, if only they knew how deeply I grieved over this issues personally prior to the open discussion. However, during these times of personal anguish, I had found a deep peace with God and empowerment beyond my ability to describe. I was seeing more fruit in the ministry in the last 12-18 months, than all of the previous months put together. Live were being changed, homes mending, and so forth. IF only I could have (would have) said what I was thinking during the open discussion, but I did not trusting others to speak for me, with the result of silence for the most part. Then the vote came and I did not receive the amount of votes needed to remain (missed by 1.3%) the pastor.

    If I can add to the list as well: We are human as well. When we are sick, we are sick. When a love one passes away, we need time to grieve as you would. (I had a board member tell me after my brother, 40 years old, suddenly pass away to stop grieving and set an example of strength and hope for the rest of the congregation. This came after 10 days after his death and my first Sunday back in the pulpit after I did his funeral).

  • Add to #6 I can not read all the books that you suggest I read. I can not buy them in my book budget so if you really want me to read one, buy it and give it to me.

  • Mitch Fisher says on

    I am a Director of Missions in Southwest Missouri…I love my Pastors and their churches…and I appreciate your posts…which I share often…this one hit to the core…and I pray that my office/phone/company will always be a safe place and they will always find a faithful friend…thanks for the information and encouragement…it really does help many many people…thanks again and have a great week…

  • 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.

  • My friends outside of the church seem interested in how I am doing in ministry more than my friends in the church. I am grateful for both – I certainly don’t feel friendless.

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