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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Steven Morgan says on

    Quite honestly I cringe when someone leaves and says nothing! It might be tough to hear but I feel it would help me grow as a leader and give opportunity for an open door for return if they ever desired to come back. I just can’t imagine vanishing and not letting the leadership know why.

    • I agree when the feedback is honest and has merit. These are nonsensical sentences.

      • I did the hard thing and wrote that letter to the pastoral team and elder board after many discussions in 18 months to discuss how the Word of God was missing from a many sermons per month and how the gospel was not being presented–even during sermon series about sharing the gospel. I have friend who aren’t believers and wanted them to come to church with me, but was afraid they’d never hear the church repeat and support what I’ve already been talking about in my relationships.

        How would you have responded to a letter like this?

        I received a return letter simply stating we received and read your letter. Thank you.

        I had been there 14 years and was actively involved. It felt like death to leave.

        Now we see it that God wanted us to serve elsewhere, even though the letting go process required a lot of mourning.

        I know you’ve said it helps with growth on the pastoral side, but what’s best for the response–if any at all– when someone does explain why they are leaving.

    • I’ve found that most people who give a reason for leaving (and that’s very few) give me a different reason from the one I hear about from their friends who were told the real reasons.

      • In one dark season I had a string of people come in over a few weeks each of whom began their telling me they were leaving with “We just want to begin by telling you how much we love you, Pastor …”
        After the last one, I told our Admin Asst. I was going to kill the next person who told me they loved me!

  • Another: “When Pastor _________ was here, he would always ____________. We should do that again.

  • “Bro. (insert name) was so wonderful. He would (insert pet activity or program here).”

  • Rev. E. Dale Turner says on

    I have been in the ministry over 50 years. Don’t forget our people put up with the same things we do on their job. They also hear 10 sentences from their employer, co-workers, etc. So, Pastor, stop complaining so much and get back to doing what God called you to do.

    • Pastors aren’t complaining, Dale. This forum is an outlet for humorous and practical issues in ministry. I am grateful they feel the freedom to share and laugh. It is good when we all can lighten up.

      • E Dale Turner says on

        Kindly, I submit, yes Pastors are complaining. Me being an older pastor, I encourage other Pastors almost weekly. As you know many Pastors are leaving the ministry and often the reasons are the 10 things you mentioned. I agree it is humorous at a certain level, but, there is a dark reality to the 10 sentences. As of today I am counseling 3 Pastors who want out of their church. Pray for me that I will give them wise counsel.

    • Pompous comment. Exacerbated by the fact that you’re the only member of ministry who included the title “Rev”.

      Holier-than-thou attitudes don’t win brownie points with Jesus, sir. Humility does.

      • E Dale Turner says on

        Martha, I apologize if I was pompous. It was not my intent. Regarding my use of “Rev.”, if you go to a SBC convention, a BGCT convention or a SBCT convention you will see ” Rev’ and “Dr” in every program. It simply implies I am a minister/Pastor. I add, all the things Thomas mentioned, I have experienced, but as Pastors we must be faithful to our calling. I’ve seen many Pastors leave the ministry because one of the 10 things Thomas mentioned offended them. Pastors leaving churches after a brief tenure has become an epidemic.

      • Rev. Michael M. says on

        Sure, let’s blame the victim instead of expecting people to act appropriately toward their pastors. Even if parishioners are receiving abuse at their work it doesn’t make their behavior any less hurtful or harmful. Even if a pastor is complaining, so what? We have a right to express how we feel. I found your comment Pharisaic and judgmental.

      • E Dale Turner says on

        Rev. Michael, it is not my intent to be judgemental. All parties should behave in a civil manner with no name calling. Satan is the root of this and let’s not give him a foothold.

    • Wesley Ingle says on

      Hi Dale. I understand what you are saying. It seems as if people expect a minister to have thicker skin than most people and somehow not be as sensitive to the comments of others. As someone who is in his first pastorate (still in the “honeymoon” phase here) I applaud you for mentoring other pastors. The pastor that just retired from the church I am now serving meets me for breakfast every few weeks and we talk. It has been great. But also, it’s okay to take a breath and laugh about things that we have to deal with. The fact that so many ministers are relating to these comments can help to encourage the ones that are at their wits end by realizing that they are not alone. You have my prayers brother as you seek to lift up those serving around you.

      • D. C. Wheeler says on

        Someone asked my mentor (in my presence), “What does it take to be a pastor?” His reply: “A hard head, a thick skin, and a pastor’s heart.”

      • When I was ordained in 1972, my pastor told me, “Brother Bob, to be a good pastor you’ve got to be as mean as the devil.”

        OK, he didn’t mean it that way. He just meant I would need a tough skin because a lot of church people say heartless things to their pastors without trying to hurt, and others are just plain malicious. I guess I wasn’t mean enough. I was actually deported from Canada because a group of people who wanted to undermine my ministry started a letter-writing campaign to the Canadian immigration authorities.

      • E Dale Turner says on

        God Bless You Wesley. As a Pastor in your first church, Wow! You have so much to look forward to and you will have many wonderful experiences. I appreciate your kind words and pray the best for you.

    • Dale, every time Thom posts something like this, there’s always one guy who comes on and leave a comment like, “suck it up, have thick skin, stop whining” and so on. Congratulations. Today, you’re “that” guy. I hope you don’t tell your Timothys to “stop complaining” when they get discouraged….

    • Gee Dr Ranier could add this to his list. “Pastor stop complaining”.

  • Jeremy S. says on

    Thanks Thom! This is great!

    Here’s one I’ve recently encountered, and this after 5 people made professions of faith, and 18 came forward to take their next step in serving in a particular area of ministry: “I believe I can help you with your mission, but I’m going to need to see some fruit first.” BTW, he was a first time guest. ????

  • Bruce Farnsley says on

    The pastor doesn’t have much to do. Why can’t he cut the grass? By the way I have had to.
    A pastor friend of mind was ask by an elderly lady if he could come over to her house before she went to bed and preach to her so she could fall asleep. She usually slept through the church service.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Funny. I did cut the grass in my first church. But I sure wanted to be doing other “ministries.”

      • I cut the grass early in my ministry and then pointed out what they were paying for mowing (Using me) They quickly decided that hourly rate was better used doing ministry.

    • Wesley Ingle says on

      I almost (ALMOST) wish the church would let me cut my grass. I have done some of my best thinking on a riding mower. For some reason, it relaxes me. Now, they can do all the weed-eating that they want to, that’s a different story. Haha.

      • I want desperately to cut the grass, and every few years I try. And every time my allergy to grass knocks me out for 2-3 days–even when I use my allergy relief and a dust mask (which makes the work so much hotter).

  • From a leadership rather than a pastoral perspective, #5. I would amend it to “There are those who are saying xxxxxx about the pastor”. I would politely reply that when “those” had names and faces, I would be more than happy to discuss their concerns, but not before. I would then confirm that the person speaking to me had my contact information, and then I walked away. Very rarely did “those” folks come forward, but sadly they would go to other members of leadership in search of an advocate.

    • Maria Hollis says on

      “They” or “Him” or “Her” might want to remain anonymous. There is some value to “they.” maybe it is something a pastor should address and yet “they” are afraid, or timid, or don’t want to start confusion–just would like to make it known. As person elected to Church council, sometimes “they” is important.

      • Respectfully but totally disagree. Anonymous “people are saying” comments are a reflection of biblical disobedience (going directly to the party who offends you) and cowardice. There is no reason for such unethical and unbiblical behavior to be tolerated.

      • T. Larry Raines says on

        AMEN, Thom! “They” kill more churches and ministries, and hurt more leaders than any thing else! If a person has a grievance, he/she should go directly to that person, not “gossip” with others!

      • Gregory D Lake says on

        Matt 18 is very clear!

      • When I arrived at my church 4 years ago and started a revitalization project, this is something I had to tackle first. Trained the deacons to say that any “they” could be free to speak to me. If they felt they couldn’t then they could speak to the deacon and he would help them talk to me. The second thing they were instructed to do was communicate to the person that continuing this course of action was gossip and would no longer be tolerated in the church. It took a few months to get the deacons to learn this response. But since then things are much improved!!

      • What about when the Pastor uses this excuse?

        Pastor: “Some people in the congregation would be upset if we allowed you on the Elder board.”

        Me: “Who? I would love to talk to them.”a

        Pastor: “Well, just some people. You don’t need to talk to them.”


        Pastor: “Some people were offended by your Facebook post. Please take it down.” (A post on church health quoting Thom Rainer)

        Me: “Who? I would love to talk to them.”

        Pastor: “Who is not important. Just please take down your Facebook post.”

      • Gotta go with Dr. Rainer on this one. If a pastor chases down every complaint from nameless “others”, he won’t have time to do anything else. My policy is very simple: if a complaint or a suggestion doesn’t have a name attached to it, it’s not worth my time.

      • D. C. Wheeler says on

        I once received an anonymous letter (left on the secretary’s desk) between Sunday School and church involving the “same old-same old” issue: the worship style. I took it to the pulpit with me and publicly tore it up. I got some heat from that one!

      • Once I got a written complaint in the offering plate (unsigned, of course). At the next service I made two things clear: (1) The offering plate is not a suggestion box, and (2) I pay no attention to unsigned notes.

      • Michael M. says on

        Absolutely not. These are adults who must take responsibility for their actions instead of triangling you in to do what they want without having to get their hands dirty. As an elected member of your church’s council, it is your job to lead them to handle their own issues according to Matthew 18. The anonymous person is abusing their relationship with you and the pastor by doing this.

      • As an English teacher, we always teach that pronouns need an antecedent. If there is no antecedent named then…

      • Good one, Lynn!

  • Chris Singleton says on

    “That’s not how our last pastor did it.”

  • “The Insurance won’t allow it…”

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Dave –

      I’m curious about the meaning of that (I’m probably just slow).

      • Justin McCall says on

        Usually, it’s things like leaving a door unlocked so people can come in and pray. Or having a stocked kitchen for anyone to use. You know, things that help people “who don’t belong there”

  • I began a new personal policy when someone asks in one form or another…”Do you have time to talk this week?” I reply with, “what would you like to meet about” and politely explain that when people want to meet, it’s often something I need to pray about first and insist on knowing the subject of the meeting. It was hard at first but now the church just tells me.

    • I like that, Doug.

    • Never go to a meeting until you know the subject matter. If it changes when you get there, call em on it. Took me 20 years to learn that one.

    • Yes! That is the sentence that makes me cringe “I really need to talk to you, but can’t meet until tomorrow evening.” Man, I will worry about that every hour until the meeting and play out every scenario. Thank for the great tip on how to respond. (16 yrs of local church ministry, but only 3 1/2 as lead pastor).

      • Over the past 13 or so years serving under the same pastor and becoming great friends with him, my husband and I have been able to teach him a little lesson about meetings. We’ve all been through a lot together and separate but pastor had a habit of calling and saying, “we need to talk when you have time”. No idea about what-did we do something?not do something?say the wrong thing?not say the right thing? You get the idea. Well, recently my husband turned the table on him and said the same to him. Pastor said he sweated it out until the meeting! We had to laugh because the meeting had to do with some building improvement of the minor kind. Lesson learned!
        On the other hand, being the music director, I also, have seen or heard people say these things to the pastor. If they only realized the amount of time he puts in for prayer (all the time), study (as often as possible) and outreach (daily, in one form or another), then they’d never complain again. Nobody’s perfect, folks! If they were, they wouldn’t be here. God bless.

  • #3 seems to be a natural condition if you are seen even 30 seconds before worship begins !

  • Robert Buchanan says on

    One more: “Pastor, do you know what we used to do in our last church?” Always wanted to say, “No, of course I don’t but I bet you’re going to tell me how we should do it.”

    Another one: After a Christmas outreach event at our church which was meant to be used by the congregation to invite family and friends, one long time member (who came alone) patted me on the shoulder and said, “I’m glad to see you’re finally doing some outreach here”! Speechless.

1 2 3 4 10