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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  • Heather says on

    I am a Pastor’s wife of 12 years and have ministered in 2 different churches with my husband. In both we have faced many of these challenges and have drawn closer together because of these challenges. I will say that even though I haven’t been in ministry an extremely long time, I have been in long enough to know that due to the nature of ministry and the need or lack of personal “Friend” relationships, it is often that the person serving as a confidant for the pastor is his wife. So often people stray outside of God’s will and as his role to do-is guide people back into God’s will by calling them out-privately of course but is often met with contempt and the old saying, “DON’T JUDGE ME!!” If I am wrong in my understanding of a pastor’s role, it is his job to “GUIDE” his flock. That means calling people out in a loving way. One thing I would add to this list is “Don’t confuse guidance and Godly counsel with judgement.” They are completely different and the guidance and counsel should be taken and accepted as a way of God telling you to “get back to HIM and seek HIS will”.
    Concerned Pastor’s Wife

  • Aimee Mulder says on

    I co-pastor with my husband and we have experienced all of these things. The best thing I do is have a life outside of the church with my invested friendships with women of faith not under my care. That helps me stay balanced but I don’t think our congregation knows how much we love them. We didn’t “end-up” as pastors, we were called and sacrificed much to fulfill God’s call on our lives. I love the church with a capital “C” and I want my three sons to love the church too.
    But we’re tired, my husband is bi-vocational and we are investing our lives into this calling. I want to desperately trust God will all the results of our efforts but sometimes-I want to see results.
    Aimee Mulder, Sr. Pastor, Breakwater Church of the Nazarene

  • Kay Wood says on

    what bothers me the most is when a congregation criticizes a Pastor when he is blessed financially. What makes that people think that Pastors should automatically go without some of the luxuries in life? As a child, our Pastor lived in a house that the church paid for — it was fairly modest. But towards the end of his ministry, he bought a new home in a very nice neighborhood. And I just remember that became such a scandal that eventually, our Pastor retired, sold the house, and moved to a different state. Unfortunate. The word pastor should not necessarily = poor as a church mouse and have to go to the board every time they want something new or nice or popular or whatever. It’s been years, yet I’ve never forgotten that incident. Nice post.

  • Reverend Fred Carlisle says on

    Maybe the words, ” I have not done a very good job as your pastor. I have asked the Lord’s forgiveness and now I ask yours. I will determine to do better from this moment on.

    • If the pastor has genuinely not done a good job, then those words would be in order. However, many pastors work themselves half to death and still get nothing but complaints. Let’s face it: many church members are not realistic in what they demand of their pastor.

  • Dr. Rainer,
    When are you going to write about the composition of the pastor search committee? If every person in the private sector were fired like pastors are, there would be so much turnover that no company could do anything but perpetually hire. This sounds to me like a significant issue.

  • As I was reading number eight, I was reminded that most pastors have lives, or better yet, need to have lives away from their church responsibilities. They have families that also need their attention and when the family is neglected, it will eventually show itself behind the pulpit when the fire goes out of the man’s eyes. I have been a traveling minister for many years and have seen this first hand at places where I have ministered. Most of the time, I have found myself ministering to the pastor and his family, not just the congregation.

  • Here’s an add: Please treat me the way you want to be treated.

    Pastors are a handy target for many church members. I have never demanded to be puffed up or praised, but I would like the same grace that you extend to your fellow church members. I think I show it to you.

    Slim (if you are still following this thread), here is one thing I say to a lot of deacons I meet who have a heart to see pastors stay longer. Defend them. Most people in your church are probably kind. Most people frankly don’t spend a lot of time worrying about the church or the pastor. However, in most churches there are a few people who are always on the attack. They complain, they gossip, they stir up trouble. They only love two pastors: the last guy and the next guy. What would happen if someone other than the pastor stood up to them? They might grow. They might leave. Would it be so bad if a troublemaker left and a good pastor stayed? Trust me, defend your pastor to the troublemakers and it will change things. Far too often, they are the only ones he hears and “they” often speak as though they speak for the church.

    • We have and we do. We have learned the hard way to use the Matthew Mandate for dealing with misbehaving members…and unfortunately with misbehaving Pastors too. We take our role as Deacons very seriously…thanks for the reminder.

      We know Pastors are an easy target. As we “Pastored” ourselves between real Pastors we experienced that, especially since the “leaving” was not clean and pretty. And members bear some culpability in that leaving as well. We take our role as helpers to the Pastor and the Church very seriously. We try to encourage our Pastor to engage and help himself when he would rather curl up and hide. We all need to grow and learn the skill set needed for any long term success.

      I appreciate you engaging me in a pleasant manner, without blame or presupposition. I really am a nice guy…

  • I couldn’t agree more with number 9. I am a pastor’s wife who is also employed by the church as secretary/Outreach Director. My biggest frustration is when people do not defend their leadership when they hear something that is simply not true. The lack of defense is almost an affirmation that the person slandering is correct in what they say. It hurts me to the very core on many levels….the main level being that perhaps the “good” person may think that as well and that is why they didn’t defend us.

    And I equally can relate to the “numbers” being down. With so much emphasis in this world on success equals the majority (or in this case, bigger numbers), I struggle when the numbers are down and the church people start sharing what “this” or “that” church is doing to get their numbers up. Success does not always mean big numbers. Sometimes big numbers are just numbers. It depends if the numbers are coming for a social club or are the numbers coming because you are doing what God has called you to do. The latter is the only thing God is concerned with…..

    That’s my thoughts as just a lowly preacher’s wife…..

    • and as a pastor’s wife, please know that church members see you as part of your husband’s package deal. In that, you deserve the same treatment that your husband deserves, and I sincerely hope that you’re getting that from your church. but the comment about the pastor’s family not being employees of the church is wrong for many of us. we DO see the wife as an extension of the husband, and she owes her time and loyalty to the church, just as much as her husband does. and this is true for the minister of music as much for the pastor.

  • Just another pastor says on

    Dr. Rainer, thank you, thank you, thank you..
    I even thought I was a rare animal. I know God is with me, but it feels comforting to know that other fellas on this journey.

  • RE: deacons & friends. I just want to say the deacons in my church are the most spiritual men in the church AND my closest friends. I’m saddened that it appears I am in a minority. I’m thankful for the church God has sent me to.

    • I’ve always been blessed with good deacons, too, but some of my friends haven’t been so fortunate.

    • you are most lucky if your deacons are what they’re called to be–servants. but many of us aren’t so fortunate. the deacons in my church are pretty much useless. they don’t visit, they don’t minister in any way, they are lifeless. the only time they ever do “deacon” things is once a month at deacon meeting time, when they meet, pat themselves on the back for being such good guys, talk about everybody, then eat–that’s it. no hospital visits, no funeral home visits, no phone calls or cards, even at a time of a loss. Yet pastor, from the pulpit, tells everybody how saintly, how ministering, how good his deacons are! I have a hard time going with the pastor, when he knows much better but pretends much worse.

  • Does anyone have the concern about less attendance when you are away from the church like vacation or away for a revival or sick?

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