What Do Pastors Like Most about Their Ministries?

The results are in!

As of this writing, 1,178 pastors responded to my social media poll asking what pastors liked most about their ministries. To be clear, I asked for their favorite aspect of ministry only. If I had asked for a ranking of the ministries, the results would have been more detailed. But, frankly, my team did not have the bandwidth to tabulate nearly 10,000 iterations in three days. So, we went with the favorite ministry only.

We had to discard 17 of the responses since they gave us more than one response. Our pleas to provide only one response were not heeded by this group.

Here are the responses in order of magnitude:

  1. Preaching, 40%. No surprises here. Perhaps the only surprise is that it did not represent a majority.
  2. Discipleship/Mentoring, 30%. Though my observations are anecdotal, there seems to be increased interest in this area by the Millennial pastors.
  3. Evangelism/Outreach, 9%. Note the big drop after the first two responses.
  4. Leadership/Vision, 7%. We did a similar poll with the Church Answers’ community. There was a major difference with their responses, albeit in a smaller sample. Of the Church Answers’ pastors, 37% ranked Leadership/Vision first. I am trying to grasp the significance of this disparity.
  5. Pastoral Care, 5%. Again, all of the responses are in the single digits after the first two.
  6. Administration, 2%. No big surprises here. I interact with a lot of pastors, and I rarely hear a great love for this aspect of ministry.
  7. Community involvement, 2%. In hindsight, I can see how this category possibly had too much overlap with others.
  8. Counseling, 1%. I am fascinated by this very small response. It does align with what I am hearing from pastors anecdotally. Many pastors do not feel equipped or enthused about counseling. And many are concerned about legal implications.
  9. Others (respondents were asked to specify), 4%. There were a wide variety of responses here. No single response accounted for 1% of the total.

Though we have stopped tabulating, I would love to hear your comments about the responses to this poll. We have so many informed readers at ThomRainer.com. I always learn a lot from you.

Posted on October 15, 2018

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 know for me, evangelism is an internal passion with an introverted inhibition, although I always pray for and push toward boldness.

    However, I was one of the respondents to this poll and I answered discipleship, but wrapped into that was evangelism.

    I am currently leading a training of some Discipleship Group leaders to launch groups in January. Part of our weekly group is to ask if we shared our testimony or the gospel with an unbeliever. Discipleship is married to evangelism: one births the other in a cyclical relationship.

    This is a new ministry for our church. I am hoping to see a lot of life revived and birthed through this ministry next year. We’ve already seen a lot during the training!

  • Thom, I am surprised and saddened to see Evangelism/Outreach received only 9%. This is our primary purpose.

    • George Turley says on

      I think you have identified an issue that has plagued the progress of many church bodies and triggered internal decline in others. If the passion to reach the lost is not accompanied by a strong desire to disciple the flock, particularly for the purpose of exponentially increasing the body’s evangelism effort, you end up with only one person doing evangelism, the pastor. Lacking a God-directed, (and therefore) balanced pastor need not cripple a body, but can be achieved through staff and lay leadership if encouraged by the pastor and leadership. The pastor can not do it all.

    • Christopher says on

      Is it possible to have evangelism without preaching the Word?
      (hint, the answer is no)

  • I wonder why you coupled leadership and visioning. From personal experience, my visioning capability isn’t always the best and takes a lot of work to formulate a vision. For instance, I was asked many years ago to head an evangelism ministry and I struggled to create a vision that resonated – mostly because I went to church and was faithful because I was (why does one go to church on Sunday? Because it’s Sunday.). But to formulate a way to lead in the process of evangelizing because I loved my faith and could talk about the benefits of our church and being immersed in scripture was easy (or easier).

    From my secular experience leadership and creating vision may be overlapping but not always.

    • Agree. It’s an imperfect social media survey

      • Surveys are very difficult. On the one hand “you” want as much detail as you can get; on the other hand the more options “you” offer the harder it is to find the details “you” are looking for. So I get why, but postulate that it may be helpful in followup questionnaires to possibly drill down on which aspect of the two options is preferred.

        Note: “you” is the collective not a specific person.

  • Christopher says on

    Community involvement and evangelism are not the same thing. Speaking from a small town perspective, community involvement is often nothing more than window dressing, and when the church views itself as just another community organization this can inhibit true evangelism.

    In the NT, because of the debauchery of the communities, commitment to Christ required separating yourself from the community, not being intertwined with it. That’s what the church was all about: believers called out from society to be the body of Christ, holy, set-apart. I believe we are fast getting to a point in this country where community involvement and holiness will not be compatible.

    • I hear what you’re saying but take the other side of that conversation. I am also in a small-town setting. I believe community involvement creates a believability and trust level that provides a platform for evangelism. If we aren’t willing to serve the community, why should they listen to what we have to say.

      I do agree with you that we must draw a line in the sand on some issues. But overall, I see community involvement as helping evangelism, not hindering it.

      • That’s true in our small community. If the pastor and members are not known in the community, they are deemed an “island”.

      • Christopher says on

        It is possible to be extremely involved in the community and do no evangelism. In fact I have seen community involvement used as a substitute for evangelism. That’s why I say they’re not the same thing.

  • I can understand the response in #4, having just retired after 47 years in full-time ministry. I was not a senior or lead pastor but worked with 12 different pastors. Of that group, only 3 had strong vision/leadership skills. So my experience would say that most pastors are gifted toward the serving/pastoral side of the skill set and for the most part dread the vision casting and leadership needs that so many churches need. This is why they need to understand this reality and put in place others around them that can fill this void. The problem is that many of these pastors do not want to spread out or weaken their authority in the church. The same can be said of those lead pastors who have those leadership skills and need the other more pastoral skills in other leadership, whether it be paid or volunteer. I have also observed that when you see a church that is healthy and consistently growing in numbers and ministry, you will see a lead pastor who has strong leadership/vision skills almost all of the time.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Gerald –

    I have a lot of that information in previous articles. I hope I can get some links to you, but I am pressed on some other deadlines right now.

  • Victor close says on

    When I read the response to your question, I was reminded that God gave some pastors and teachers and evangelists and some prophets and some apostles to the Church. With the exception of the prophet and the apostles, and if they are fulfilling the call that God has supernaturally placed on their life, you would expect those who have dedicated their lives to serving the Lord, to love that particular calling that has been given to them. If called to evangelize they would naturally love to evangelize. If called to etc. etc.
    Frankly, I would expect an almost unanimous vote to see everyone say the thing they liked most would be the leading of a lost soul to the saving grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. And to see that person accept the grace and forgivness that He provides. If that isn’t happening, then everything else is for nothing!

  • Gerard Kiemeney says on

    It would be interesting to find out what the members of these pastors liked most about their respective pastors and how that answer correlated with the pastors’ answers.

    It would also be interesting to discover how much time pastors actually spend on sermon preparation.

    It would also be interesting to discover what members would most like to see in the profile of pastors

    It seems to me that the low rating and interest on community involvement and evangelism is directly related to the decline in North American congregations.

    As the pastor goes, so does the congregation.

    • Gerard, my experience in the Lutheran church is that congregation want Pastoral Care to be high on the list of pastoral priorities, which would definitely differ from what this shows being pastor’s passions.

  • Mark Smith says on

    Thom, from the time I was at Church Answers I was surprised at how many people there were not the senior pastor, but were executive pastors or some equivalent. I think that is one reason why “vision casting” was so prevalent. Also, many pastoral ministry advice websites and programs stress “vision casting” as a primary function of the pastorate. I think that comes from a shift from absolute truths from your generation to a more relative approach with millennials. Just my $0.02 worth.

  • Gary Balfour says on

    I like interactions with people. There is more of that in visiting, discipleship, teaching than in preaching. I like evangelism if it is visiting people with whom I have some reason to visit them – visitor at church, church family member, etc. I don’t do well at cold calling.

  • Christina W. says on

    I’m not surprised about how low the number is for the evagelism/Outreach ministry. If you’re not feeding yourself with the Word nor coming out to Bible study, Christian Educatuonal Workshops are just being apart of the body. How can you evagelize or reach any of the unbelievers. We have to ask the Holy Spirit daily to lead and guide us in this area. If you profess that you are Christian you should be able to evagelize to someone even if they don’t want to hear it. You planted the seed.

  • Jay Hawes says on

    The disparity in #4 is interesting. Those who are seeking a community to grow in valued leadership the most. Not to say that others outside of CA don’t, but I think it’s telling WHY pastors gravitate towards a place where they can bounce ideas off of others in a safe place. Very striking. Would love to hear a podcast on this topic!

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