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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311 Comments

  • David Coffin says on

    Nobody is out to get your pastor…..but….I just want to give you some words of advice….

  • Just a few days ago: Pastor, you know you were going to marry off your daughter in 7 weeks’ time? Well, we deacons just decided you can’t use our church hall, you’ll have to find a new venue.
    (Daughter is also a church member, and in England you have to give notice of marriage to the registrar at least 8 weeks before the wedding. New venue means new notice of marriage, hence my daughter’s marriage was effectively cancelled.)

  • I am a worship pastor and I once had a church member tell me that she wanted to come back to choir but had to wait until after football season, because after all, she had priorities.

    Another time, same church, my then pastor said
    “You seem to exist in a deep state of worship” … This was not intended as a compliment.

  • Pastors are in need of armor barriers and Jonathan’s to support and protect the them. I have been pastoring for 27 years and the psychological abuse from mentally ill parishioners continues to increase every year. Their tactics of mobbing and bullying are causing pastors to leave ministry in the droves. It is so bad I wrote a book to educate people to fight and stop this cycle of toxic bad behavior that targets clergy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-7emyInIyi8 My favorite line…”People are going to stop giving if you do not leave.”

    • Another good one.

    • “Cut his pay and starve him out!” That’s a saying I used to hear when I was a pastor in Missouri. The people that said it were joking (I think), but that does seem to be the policy in some churches.

    • D. C. Wheeler says on

      A church member once told a beleaguered friend of mine, “Well, I’d love to support you, Pastor, but one day you’ll be gone and he (the person the pastor was beleaguered by) will still be my next door neighbor.”

  • What’s especially cringeworthy is when you’ve been hired to help lead a church revitalization and the Sr. Pastor says #6 about one of your new outreach ideas in front of the congregation.

  • Elwyn Luber says on

    While serving in my first congregation as an associate pastor, after five years I was asked “”when are you going to get your own church?” As a called and ordained minister of that congregation, I responded “I have a church of my own. It’s this one. ” Sadly, the question came from my Bishop. Do we really understand the doctrine of the call?

  • Barry Ballard says on

    “I don’t know why my boys want don’t go to church,” says the woman whose husband never attends church.

    “Why do WE have to come to Sunday School?” ask the junior high Sunday School class whose parents drop them off, go to breakfast, and pick them up before worship.

    “We have a problem. [INSERT PROBLEM HERE]. What are YOU going to do about it?”

  • Frankly Frank says on

    In the Presbyterian church, we always say, “You know why the pastors’ kids are so bad?” “They play with the elders kids!” Ha Ha!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      I like it.

    • The Baptist version is, “It’s because they run around with the deacons’ kids” (same general idea, though). I’m a Baptist pastor who comes from a long line of Baptist deacons, so I have to admit there’s some truth in that statement! 🙂

  • One Sunday morning in a church I pastored in a galaxy far, far away, a lady came forward and got my attention just as I was about to step up to preach. I thought something must be terribly wrong for such an awkward interruption in the flow of worship. She said, “There’s no toilet paper in the ladies restroom.” I was caught so off-guard, I said, “What am I supposed to do about that at this moment?” She said, “Nothing. I just thought you needed to know.” Ha! In this same church, I was informed shortly before my first Christmas there that I wouldn’t be preaching on the Sunday before Christmas. “That’s when Santa Claus leads the service.” 24-years old and just ignorance on fire, I said, “Uh, I don’t think so.” One guy from the community was so upset that I wouldn’t let Santa Claus preach in our church that he met me on the front porch of the church and wanted to fight! You can’t make this stuff up…

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Wow. Double wow.

    • Reminds me of a story one of my seminary professors used to tell. He said when he was a young pastor, he once told his congregation that the only thing they should do with the Easter Bunny is shoot him, skin him, and cook him up in a stew. He said he got in a lot of trouble for that one!

      In all seriousness, one thing I always insist on is absolute control of the pulpit. That means I have to approve all – and I mean ALL – guest speakers in the service. Of course, I realize some churches will agree to that in advance and not really mean it. I’m sorry if that’s what happened in your case.

      • D. C. Wheeler says on

        I used to say a lot of things when I was young and still knew everything!

      • I try to be careful with my comments about the fat guy in the red suit, but I think I’d draw the line at letting him fill the pulpit.

  • Charlotte Llewellyn says on

    I love your scripture reference on #10. There are so many good verses in that book, like “God helps those who help themselves” and “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” I laughed out loud!

  • For over 35 years I attended a non-denominational church & attended our Tuesday morning Men’s Bible study for the same amount of time. Our men group always met at the church & it provided a central location for all to attend my former church encompasses over 5 acres of Sunday School rooms plus during the week they are used for Christian school pre school, K -12 , 2 Chapels, Main sanguinary that seat over 2,500 people In 2011 our senior pastor pass on after 45 years serving as Pastor Not only was he my pastor but my friend & my client 2 years before passing on he retired and we had interim pastor while we had search committee made of up deacons & church council member (10) this search took almost 2 years to do. We installed a new lead pastor in 2009 and we assumed things would progress as normal. But was not the case The new pastor wanted to do away with certain ministries that have been the main stay there such as Evangel Explosion, Doing away with Pastor’s prayer partners, School Sunday classes ect. Which sad to say he done most of that within a few short years. Then he decided that our Tuesday morning men’s bible study had to go for over 50 years 🙁 With no real reasons for that to be done & when many of us tried to meet with him he would not even agree to do that to explain his reasoning for doing so. Since he took over the church has lost over 1000 members, and has gone from a 2million dollar debt ceiling to 7million 🙁 Many of those who left such as myself were the tithers & payers of his $300,000 Salary 🙁 So sometime it is good for us to question the pastor. Perhaps this fellow would not be facing so many alienated people

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Wayne –

      Your comments are hardly relevant to the topic. You are misusing this forum to air your grievances against a previous pastor of yours. I’ll let the comment stand, but I’m calling a foul.

      • OK Sorry since this was on Facebook & I my 1st post on your forum did not read any caveats. I stand corrected and should of ask permission before I posted. On more humorous note I mention my late pastor/friend & I had many opportunities to visit with him while we were having the Billy Graham Crusade here in Fresno, CA 2001 and we needed to have pictures taken for our upcoming elections for Deacons /Church councilmen I said Pastor I do not like taking pictures & His reply was Wayne your like me & there just not that much to work with” God Bless & thanks for your time

    • Jim Goins says on

      I was a pastor for many years and I know and have known many pastors. The Good ones are humble and willing to ponder and consider that some decision They made or something They preached may not be correct. All followers of Christ are fallible. Dismissive arrogance toward others from pastors is wrong.

      • Thanks Jim how true That what I so admired about my late pastor he was always willing to hear you out even pastoring a large church 7000 member plus He made time for his flock me included God Bless

  • Kelly Ott says on

    Love # 10 as a PK myself and also my children!! It’s also nice when someone says “Pastor, I need to talk to you about a few points you made in your sermon.” Right after service as they leave for Sunday Lunch.

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