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 look at this and see preaching at the top partly because it goes only one way. When I lectured in university, the lecture was the easy part, the questions afterward could get difficult. I did not see teaching/leading a Bible study anywhere in the list. I look at the level of education of most preachers/pastors today and wonder why they don’t want to teach. I have wondered if they felt unprepared.

    • Christopher says on

      I thoroughly enjoy teaching the Bible and answering questions and having a good discussion. But I have never understood the distinction between preaching and teaching. I have always been called a good teacher even by those who have only heard me preach. Sometimes it’s a compliment, sometimes not. Either way, I respond, “Thank you,” because I don’t see the point in preaching if you’re not teaching.

  • Dominic Stockford says on

    Like best?

    That moment when someone comes to a saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • I am a little confused about the helpfulness of this. One English church leader has expressed concern that only 9% listed evangelism. However asking people to list their number 1 enjoyment in ministry is very different from rating a list in order of preference. I would expect discipleship and preaching to dominate the number one favourites. I would be concerned if evangelism was not in a top 4 or 5. I am concerned/ bemused that anyone would put administration as their favourite ( unless this includes executive pastors)

  • As an encouragement to many of the commenters, the survey only reveals pastors favorite part of ministry.

    A low percentage does not reflect how much pastors care about that topic. That percentage merely reflects the proportion of respondants that most enjoy that aspect of ministry.

    There is likely some “selection bias” in the survey as well. Most respondents are undoubtedly teaching pastors. If we were looking at a survey of those leading outreach ministries, we would probably see very different results.

    Readers, please don’t read “pastors don’t care about counseling” into this survey.

  • I noticed the phrasing of the statement and associated question in Thom’s statement “social media poll asking what pastors liked most about their ministries.” As humans there is near term feedback for the top responses: Preaching and mentoring. Even when most sermons receive “I liked your sermon” response there are lots who give constructive feedback to a sermon/preaching. Likewise, as a mentor I think it’s easier to see someone grow in their faith and profession. Since most people I know like to do things they can judge and do well it’s not surprising that preaching hits near the top.

  • This is what our ministry sees in the Columbus, OH area as well. Focus and vast majority of effort/resources is on weekend service(s) & related programs.

  • Joel Dison says on

    In your own words, you only wanted one answer. If allowed I would have ranked preaching and discipleship equally. If I had answered on a different day, I might have chosen discipleship over preaching. Both are so important – not to say the other elements are unimportant. Also, when you think about it, it is not surprising the CA group scored higher on vision. These are guys looking for that extra something for their ministry, so they are all already vision minded – even if they had not chosen vision as their #1.

  • It would be very revealing to restructure these same categories in a new survey asking respondents to rate how much percentage of time they estimate they spend in each category. Then compare the two surveys. Bet the most satisfied pastors spend their time doing more of what they enjoy about their calling.

  • Ernst Mompremier says on

    I must say that I am disappointed but not surprised that “Preaching” is the #1 answer with 40% while “Pastoral Care ” is 5th with only 5%, “community involvement” (2%) and “Counseling” (1%)

    Just to be extra sure, I looked up the word pastor. From its root it means to “shepherd”, to “tend to ” or to “to take care of”.

    After asking him 3 times ” Do you love me ” Jesus commanded Peter to “Feed my sheep”.

    I supposed that is the reason he clearly states in 1 P 5.2 and I quote: ” Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve.” (NIV).

    While it may be argued that “Preaching” is also “feeding the flock”, being a shepherd is hard work which not as glamorous. Sometimes it is done in confidential setting, unknown and unheralded, but it is what a shepherd do.

    It is no surprise that so many churches are failing. In my opinion, it is due in great part to the fact that so many of our pastors are not interested in “pastoring”. They are more attracted to the bright light beamed at the pulpit when they are preaching, more interested in being the star of the show.

    • How long have you been a pastor?

    • Joel Dison says on

      Earnst. I do feel your pain here but I’m not sure I would completely agree with you. Both preaching and discipleship are elements of feeding the sheep, so they are a part of the shepherd’s responsibility. After all, “he leads us to green pastures” is a metaphor for taking the sheep where they can be fed – I.e., preaching and discipleship. The question asked for what we enjoyed the most. Not everyone is naturally geared towards the one on one aspects of ministry. We do it, but it is not our natural inclination – and it probably isn’t the favorite part of our responsibilities. That does not mean we are not shepherding our people. It just means it is an area in which we struggle. Praise God that we do have people, presumably like yourself, that such things come naturally. For me, it is my better half. She keeps me honest in this area.

    • Christopher says on

      2 Timothy 4:1-5 ” … I solemnly charge you in the presence of Christ Jesus….Preach the Word…” Those verses are the job description of a pastor and “preach the word” is the very first thing. There are lots of aspects to taking care of sheep but if you’re not feeding them then everything else is pointless!

      We need more emphasis on preaching the Word, not less!

  • Interesting survey…I am currently a Director for a Baptist Association but spent a good amount of time as a pastor with a small staff or no other staff. The one thing I have the most control over is preaching, so that’s easy to like. The other for me would be counseling/pastoral care. Also, there are times when what we do or enjoy is determined by the circumstances, so there were times during a building project administration and ‘building’ were important and enjoyable. Other times during a national/regional/local crisis giving a vision through a tough season was fun. One other activity in which I find satisfaction is conflict ministry/resolution. This is probably one of the most rewarding for me personally. As a DOM I see pastors who excel in many areas, but none who excel in all. This is important for us to remember. Keep up the good work out there…What you do counts!

  • Is it possible that the dramatic rise in Reformed theology plays a part in the drop/placement in evangelism in this list? (Not trying to start a theological free-for-all). In any case, it’s sad. I know my evangelization is way below par, but to see such low numbers across the spectrum indicates what’s happening with baptism numbers. After this survey, cant really lay that issue at the feet of the lost world anymore, can we?

    • Anecdotal reflection: maybe evangelism takes a hit in the world of marketing. It is relatively new that churches are competing with secular opportunities for membership. While a church has no peer the currency between church and any other activity is time. Evangelism now is becoming a way to convince others why church is more meaningful than the next best opportunity; staying home, going to the kid’s soccer game, etc. as opposed to preaching the gospel of God’s love and people responding.
      Evangelism is difficult in a “have it right now” civilization.

    • Christopher says on

      The question was “what do you like most.” Just because a pastor thoroughly enjoys preaching the Word doesn’t mean he’s not diligent about evangelism and outreach. Besides, you can’t have evangelism without preaching the Word!

  • This is posed as an interesting question … what I LIKE most is preaching/worship leading, but what I think is most important in my role is Pastoral Care. So, it’s partly in what we’re after … what gives me life as an individual or what breathes life into my congregation – two very different questions.