Ten Sentences That Make Pastors Cringe

Let me take you behind the scenes again in the life of a pastor.

For sure, your pastor is not likely to let you know the pain these brief sentences cause.

But, for most pastors, they hurt. They really hurt.

Here are ten of the most common painful sentences uttered to pastors by church members:

  1. “I love you pastor, but . . .” The pastor will only hear the words after the “but.” And they usually are painful.
  2. “Why didn’t you visit her?” Of course, she’s not a member of the church. She was in a hospital 70 miles away. And she’s married to the third cousin of the church member.
  3. “Gotta minute?” This question is typically asked in the time frame of one to five minutes before the pastor preaches.
  4. “Have you heard this podcast pastor?” Meaning: That podcast pastor is better than you.
  5. “Pastor, people are saying . . .” Of course, there are no “people,” just the gutless person who won’t speak for himself.
  6. “We’ve never done it that way before.” And that is one of the key reasons the church is dying.
  7. “I do pay your salary, you know.” In other words, it’s not God’s money; it’s my money.
  8. “I wish she had heard that sermon.” And the pastor was hoping you heard the sermon.
  9. “I wish I worked just a few hours a week like you.” After all, the pastor just needs 30 minutes to prepare a sermon and 30 minutes to preach it.
  10. “Your kids need to behave like pastor’s kids should behave.” You can find those standards in the Bible: Hezekiah 3:16.

What do you think of this list? Pastors, what would you add?

Posted on April 25, 2016

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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  • Stephen Burkhart says on

    We won’t be there Sunday. I have family coming in this weekend and we are sleeping in and having special time together Sunday morning….followed often much later

    I don’t understand why being in Worship on Sunday is not a priority for my children.

    • Chris Singleton says on

      This one always riled me or, “I can’t be here Sunday, the children (2) are coming for lunch so I’ll be cooking”. My Grandmother had 10 children and never knew who would be there for Sunday dinner and never missed church. (That is the Southern mid-day meal.) Most of us went to church closer than her church so the women always went in and started finished whatever she had started – The best Sunday dinners!

      • Carolyn C Delahoussaye says on

        I am 81 years old, teach a Sunday School class, just recently had to quit the choir due to hearing issues and I cook a huge lunch for my family each Sunday. I also attend all church services. Where there is a will there is a way. Twice a year I go on a little trip with family and for those two Sundays, substitutes know well ahead of time of my absence. Be kind to your pastors!!!!

      • Blessed are the church members with hearts like yours!

      • Amen the lay pastors can make or break the pastors

      • Ms. Carolyn, I know you are a wonderful blessing to your church and pastor. Well done good and faithful servant!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      The children bear the fruit of the parents.

  • Mike Miller says on

    In a previous church, one man always approached me after everyone else was gone. He would begin one of two ways: 1. “One thing you failed to mention in your sermon was . . .” 2. “If I had preached that passage, here is how I would have done it.” This happened every single Sunday.

    Another of my favorites is, “Pastor, what you said was incorrect. Just Google it, and you’ll see.” The truth is that we have to be able to laugh at this kind of thing, or we’ll never make it.

  • In my first church. Almost 4 years. I’ve heard all of these in one form or another.

  • Scott Setzer says on

    “I’m not trying to tell you what to do, but…”

      • I always tell people nothing before the “but” counts because the but cancels it out.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        Good word, Debby!

      • “Everything before the ‘but’ is BS” is another way that’s phrased. Of course, this is not necessarily true, but often is.
        The trouble is, we’re not skilled at rebuking one another and letting our “yes” be “yes” and our “no” be “no”. That lack of skill is rooted in relationships that are not fully developed. In a well functioning relationship, you know the one offering rebuke cares for you; there’s no need of anything before the “but”. The constant context is love, and so a rebuke can simply be offered. When a pastor know he’s loved because of a solid relationship (and that is half his responsibility!), then critiques don’t hurt but help.

    • This one is closely related to one of my favorites: “I’m not trying to tell you how to do your job . . . ” and then they proceed to do just that.

  • 11. I just don’t feel like I am being fed. (then read YOUR Bible)
    12. Your wife should ______

    • “Fed” = entertained

      • I had that one – My leadership was deemed faulty because they weren’t being fed and growing in their faith. I gently pointed out that if they only came to church once a month and never went to house group and never read their Bible at home, then what exactly did they expect?

      • Ernie Jones says on

        My leadership asked me to ask those very same people, ‘Since when is it my job to do God’s job of feeding you?’ After I asked them the question they chose to not return.

    • I was going to suggest “I’m not being fed.” Such an excuse. A research project an acquaintance did for his doctorate revealed that people who fed themselves consistently felt more positive about the value of their pastor’s sermons and the overall health of the church they attended.

    • Preachers these days just preach what they think will bring in the most members and therefore the most money.

      God never intended the church to be one man paid ministry thereby depriving the rest of the congregation the chance to be led of God to exercise their gifts.

      If I go to a church and the same guy preaches every Sunday, I don’t go back.

  • Everybody has a great idea for someone else to do.

    • This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

      There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

      Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

      Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

      I never did find that elusive member that did all the work that flowed from all the other members minds. He did it all, but I never did meet this Someone Else fellow. Peculiar name, too, but your post also reminds me of the following poem, which could be the epitaph of the vast majority of congregations that have folded over the years:

      Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

      It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done

    • Thom Rainer says on

      So true.

    • Oh, is that ever one of my pet peeves!

  • Numbers 3, 5 and 10 were my greatest enemies. One that a chairman of deacons told me in an impromptu lunch was, “I’d like to give you some suggestions to help you bring healing to your ministry.” Sounds spiritual, right? It was an attempt to put some people back in leadership roles who did not belong. I stood my ground, gave reasons as to why I could not biblically follow through with his suggestions. I was told to eat crow, but I continued my lifelong record of not eating crow. I have been gone for over two years, and those divisive people are still in the church but not in leadership roles. The church is growing. I wish I could have been the one who didn’t have to fight, but I’m glad to see the fruit.

    • James Hunt says on

      Good job, Matthew

    • I’ve learned that some leaders break the organization, but it may not break down in their tenure, but under the next person’s tenure. And conversely, that some leaders who have to fight those battles to get organizations back on solid ground don’t/can’t remain long enough to see the fruits of their labors.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Thankful for your faithfulness, Matthew.

  • Robert Harmon says on

    “Well, my preacher says…” Give opinion rather than scripture. 🙂

  • We can’t be with you this Sunday, we will be at the beach.
    We will be with you in spirit.

  • Michael O'Neal says on

    “There’s a cow stuck in the creek!” – At a church in Louisville (off of Hopewell Road), a lady named Martha came running up to me while I was on the stage leading worship. Martha cried out to me, “Michael, there’s a cow stuck in the creek!” Apparently, there was a cow stuck in the creek across the street from the church campus. What was I going to do about it while I was trying to lead the worship service?!? After my initial shock, I encouraged her to talk to a deacon in the back of the sanctuary. I hopped back up on the stage and continued to lead worship. I never found out what happened to the cow.

  • I’ve been at my church for 20 years. During a particularly rough time, I hated hearing, “Are you free for lunch? I need to talk to you.” I would ask them (before we ordered our food), do I need to order? I don’t want to pay for food I won’t eat, so if you’re going to ruin my lunch, tell me before I order it.” After things got better, it became kind of a joke.

    • Tough times. I’m glad they are passed.

    • Elwyn Luber says on

      Thanks. That was rich. I wish I had thought of that before a couple of lunches.

    • Very helpful. I need to remember this.

    • My husband (who is a former pastor) asked our pastor out for breakfast and it was just for that– breakfast! But the poor man was nervous the days before as he thought my husband was going to say we were leaving the church or something 🙁

      • Dougald McLaurin says on

        Unfortunately that is the case sometimes in my shoes. Even when I – as an Associational Missionary – visit the church, I’m asked, “Has anyone been talking with you?” I love worshipping with my pastors in their churches. I hope I am an encouragement, but I see so many that are hurting due to some of these comments.

  • Pastor, we’ll see you tomorrow (Sunday).

    Only to never show up.

    Of course, I’m speaking of hearing that over and over again.

      • Micah Wells says on

        One of my favorites is, “pastor, you know I/we support you, but…”

      • Thom, seems that you are surprised at sin being in the church. Please explain how Matt 18 was used in your encouraging pastors to complain about their flock! Tell me how this furthers God’s kingdom?

      • Les:

        1. I am not surprised.
        2. These types of posts are used to allow pastors an outlet. Hundreds have told me they have encouraged them to stay in ministry.
        3. Pastors see they aren’t alone.
        4. Hundreds of laypersons have shared with me these type posts help them to understand pastors better, to pray for pastors more intentionally, and to encourage pastors more readily.
        5. It helps pastors understand better conflict management.
        6. I don’t understand your question about Matthew 18.

        The great thing about blogs is they are free. And you can choose to read them or ignore them. Several million people each year choose to read this one.

      • well said!! I LOVE your blog and it’s extremely revealing and encouraging!! Keep them coming.

      • Les,

        Please tell me how Pastor who spend 60-80 hrs a week ministering to you while nobody ministers to them furthers God’s kingdom.

      • #11 – see above comment

      • Mark Santillanes says on

        Keep up God’s good work Thom by encouraging and mentoring us! God bless.

      • Thank you, Mark.

      • Stephen Sterner says on

        Thom, I have learned so many things by reading the books you write, and from listening to your podcasts. I have also learned from reading God’s word, that I should love my pastor, and the people he serves. I don’t do this because my pastor is special among people, but because he is my friend and because God has commanded me to do so. I will do everything I can to support my pastor, his wife, and family. Pastors work extremely hard and put in more hours than people realize. It breaks my heart when I hear cringeworthy comments.

      • Thank you, Stephen.

      • Gordon says on

        Sarah, I wish I could tell you in private that I am a little offended by your reply to Mr. Rainer. On a Monday morning we pastors needs a bit of laugh or an outlet.

      • A woman once told me she couldn’t be in church Sunday because she didn’t have any peanut butter. I went and bought her a jar.

    • David Hendrix says on

      A common ploy – the member knows what you want – a commitment to show up Sunday morning for worship. By saying “I’ll be there.” there is no further need for an uncomfortable conversation.

      • You let that pass on the first time.

        Some time well after the second time:

        “Why not be truthful, and just tell me that you don’t want to be bothered with a “religious conversation”? There’s no need to add a lie to top off whatever other wring you’re doing.

    • Everyone prefers the associate. He’s so dynamic [and good looking] and loves the Lord. [As if the Senior pastor does not??!!}

    • I’ve been at my current church almost 3 years. Still, very often, I’ll meet someone new and tell them I’m the pastor of this church and their response will be, “Oh, that’s my church.” I want to say something to the effect of it not really being their church anymore then, but I’ve gotten much better in my tactfulness.

    • Mike Cannon says on

      My absolute favorite is, “I’ve been in your shoes and I don’t want to throw stones…but”

    • Martin Jameson says on

      According to a note in the margin of my Bible, you preached that message here two years ago.

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