Ten Things Church Members Desire in a Pastor

January 14, 2013

Many of my articles come from the perspective of pastors. That will not change in the future. I am an advocate of pastors and I desire God’s best for them. I have no plans to change my advocacy role.

As a change of pace, however, I recently asked a few hundred laypersons to write down what they desired of a pastor. Their responses were open-ended, and there was no limitation on the number of items they could list. Though my approach was not scientific, these laypersons did represent over sixty churches.

Here are their top ten responses in order of frequency. Since many of them gave one or more sentences as a response, I can provide a representative comment by each of the responses.

  1. Love of congregation. “If we know that our pastor loves us, everything else falls in place. If he doesn’t, nothing else matters.”
  2. Effective preaching. “I don’t have any expectation that my preacher be one of the best in the world, I just want to know that he has spent time in the Word each week to teach us effectively and consistently.”
  3. Strong character. “No pastor is perfect, but I do want a pastor whose character is above reproach on moral, family, and financial issues.”
  4. Good work ethic. “I don’t want either a workaholic pastor or a lazy pastor.  Unfortunately, our last two pastors have been obviously lazy.”
  5. Casts a vision. “Our church has so much possibility; I want to hear what we will do to make a difference in our community and the world.”
  6. Demonstrates healthy leadership. “Most of the pastors in my church have demonstrated a good balance; they have been strong leaders but not dictators.”
  7. Joyous. “Our current pastor is a man of joy. His joy and enthusiasm are contagious. I love him for that!”
  8. Does not yield to critics. “I know that every pastor serving today has his critics. And I know it’s tough to deal with them. I just want these pastors to know that we supporters are in the majority. Please don’t let the minority critics dictate how you lead and serve.”
  9. Transparent. “Every pastor that I have had has been open and transparent about the church and the direction we are headed. It sure has made our church healthier.”
  10. Models evangelism. “Our pastor is passionate about sharing the gospel. His heart and attitude are contagious.”

What do you think about this list? What would you add from the perspective of either a pastor or a layperson?

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180 Comments

  • From Ephesians 4, training would make the top of my list. I think that’s part of leadership.

  • Gerald Greenlee says on

    I like #8 but it seems unfortunate in my experience that the critics are always more vocal than the supporters. Good thoughts Brother!

    • And the critics are the ones who make it a point to be at every business meeting or in the pastors office once a week. If you support the Pastor be public about it and be vocal about it, but don’t say I support you and not be there when he needs you the most!

      • It goes both ways on this one….if a pastor says he supports you and then he is not there when you need him. It gives you that sense you are not loved. Then only to find out they went to their favorite family in the churches party, confirms it. So # 1 is important…if you don’t feel loved by the one that is ordained to love his sheep then you are just lost…wondering around looking for the love you will never receive.

      • So how much faith do you have in GoddeDD

  • As a pastor, my thoughts on pastoral wants from a congregational assembly should be a pastor who knows his first love MUST revolve around a solid relationship with Jesus. This implies alone time in prayer and meditation in the word — beyond sermon prep and Bible study lessons. It implies a pastor who gives what the Holy Spirit gives him to say from God’s word. In other words, it’s all about God agenda rather than pastoral agenda.

    — Pastor Zach

    • As a layperson, I completely agree with you, Pastor Zach.

      I definitely want my pastor to be a man who seeks after God with all his heart, who values prayer and personal meditation in the Word more than anything, and who helps the congregation become passionate about prayer – dynamic prayer – conversation with Jesus where you hear His heart and His desire become your desires.

    • Pastor Zach: When I first looked at this list from the top and stopped and said to myself, doesn’t the congregants want a pastor who loves the Lord, worship the Lord with their whole heart, prays and lives a life pleasing unto God. It is imperative that a pastor’s heart be filled with compassion for not only his congregants for all men and women, great or small. Congregants should not only see joy in the pastor but his humility/obedience to the Lord our God in the name of JESUS.

      • I so agree with you! I want to see a worshiper first in my pastor before I see him as the leader of my church.

  • Good counselor.

  • Just an added thought … Aaron points out that evangelism is at the end of the list … but maybe not. You see, if some of the other qualities aren’t present first, the evangelism will be empty. Got to have a proper atmosphere of training, loving and challenging in place to disciple the new convert. Good point, though, Aaron. My comment comes from 60 plus years in the ministry .. several spent trying to salvage situations created by a leader who was over-zealous in on area and so weak in another.

    • Bro. Rick says on

      Paul listed love last in I Corinthians 13 and then said, “the greatest of these is love” signifying that the greatest is not always the first.

  • Dr. Rainer-
    Tangentially, do you think pastors feel pressure that these desires come across as “performance indicators” from the members of the church?

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Marty –

      Absolutely. These issues could be signs of health accompanied by the right motivation. Otherwise they become issues that cause stress when the pastor only seeks to please the congregation.

  • Aaron Meraz says on

    This list shows why many of our churches are not growing. Evangelism is 10th while “love of congregation” is first. I may be reading this wrong, but when the flock is more concerned about being loved than loving the lost, there seems to be an inward focus. Further, when our people are dependent on us to feed them vs. feeding themselves, we are not doing our job effectively. Evangelism & love for congregation should be the top two.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      I don’t disagree Aaron. I’m just happy evangelism made the top ten!

      • INteresting says on

        It is interesting that it’s often the case that more effort is put on evangelism than creating good Christians.

      • I like what you said, INteresting! Heidi Baker comes to mind; she doesn’t evangelize, she loves people out of a transformed mind and heart. That’s what we ought to teach in our churches to be come laid down lovers (as Heidi would say).

      • Anynonomous says on

        Love my Pastor, behind the pulpit he’ s the best I’ve ever heard. Strong Biblical preaching. The problem is that he is more of an Evangelist than my Pastor. My question: How often is it acceptable for a Pastor to be away from his flock preaching elsewhere during the course of a year ? It is usually unannounced when he’ll be gone and that has become 100% frustrating, especially when you invite visitors on a Wednesday or Sunday and he’s not there. When I say away from his flock, I’m referring to Sunday-Saturday/ a 7 day week. Many want to seek his counseling but he’s away and the congregation is rarely told where he is ? I would say he makes more preaching away from his church than what we pay him and our church is large. If he were here 25% of the time, I’d be satisfied but our deacon board gives him leeway to come and go as he pleases without telling us……

    • This is a wonderful article with challenging insight. In response to some of the critical, let me remind you that if you don’t love the flock you have then you will never be able to reach out to the lost. A healthy flock births more sheep. Secondly, the first command Peter gave in his admonition to the Shepherds in ch 5 was “feed the flock of God.”
      Thanks again for this awesome article!
      Pastor Tim

      • Definitely true love is important. I see many leaders loving the people outside until they get them inside the church and the love disappears after a while. Those are the ones with hidden agendas.

    • David Boulton says on

      While I wholeheartedly agree that evangelism should be at the top of the list of importance to any individual follower of Christ, I do not agree with your assertion that the placement of “models evangelism” in the number 10 spot is such a shaming reflection on us (lay-people). Rather, I believe that it is the job of the pastor to lead the church through the display of Christian character, the setting of clear goals for the church (and the FACILITATION of the execution of those goals), and to love all of the congregants (especially the lost). I believe it is the job of the lay person to draw the bulk of people in through engaging in their lives, and the daily demonstration of holy living. The honest truth of the matter is that too many are relient on their pastoral staff (I have been guilty of this) to do the bulk of the evangelism.
      Furthermore, having been part of a church whose pastor was the primary evangelist (he wanted that role, and openly expressed it regularly), I can attest that the pastor is ineffective in leading and guiding the congregation, cannot focus clearly on goals, and is entirely overwhelmed. In that church, the congregation was ineffective in worship, full of gossip, unwelcoming, and failed the entire community around them.

      I think the real problem is that we look to our leaders to do all the work and solve all our own problems. We (pastors and lay people) should be committed to one another in love and prayer, and work to clearly identify and live-out the best solution for each individual situation.

      Also, this article was fantastic, and lined up almost exactly with how our house views the church’s needs of a pastor.

    • Newton Okewoye says on

      Hello Aaron, the job of a pastor is to mature the saints. To cater for the people in the household of God. A pastor must primarily have a passion for the flock not the flock-to-be. I saw a trend in some churches I visited in America, the leadership is busy evangelizing while their congregation don’t even know what the bible says about important subjects in the society. A pastor who has other priorities other than tending the sheep is not an effective one.
      I strongly believe in soul-winning but it is not a pastor’s primary assignment. His job is soul-keeping. A shepherd keeps the sheep or tries to find the lost sheep; it must be a sheep in any way.
      So I think the congregation rightly know what their pastor should have. Love for the sheep. No shepherd can love the sheep, if he does not love the owner of the sheep.

    • Deb Poole says on

      Perhaps the order in which these appear are reflective of the experiences of church members and not priorities. In other words, church members aren’t feeling loved by the pastor, which is a need, while evangelism is a practical thing – “of course we want a pastor who shares out heart for the lost”.

    • I agree with you to a certain extent, but the bibl says if you have ALL of everything else, but has not Love, you dont have anythng.

  • Great list! I would like to see how this list might differ if it were for a para-church organization or a denominational leader.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      I bet many of them would be the same.

      • Bob Ingram says on

        I am a full time missionary to the Military. Everyone of these apply in dealing with Chaplains and with soldiers. I believe these are / should be fundamental traits for all Christians

    • Thanks for the point/question, Sean! I pastor a church-plant, but also work part time with a para-church organization (Youth for Christ), specializing in youth outreach. The only point I would add to this list (which is quite good, btw) is that an effective pastor will know how to relate to his/her “audience”. This has been particularly true in my work with YFC. We do not preach to existing Christians, but primarily to the “unChristian” masses. We dive into the trenches of high schools, middle schools, juvenile delinquent facilities, etc. to touch the lives of broken kids. In many ways I’ve had to unlearn my “church” heritage, just to learn the language, the culture of those without Christ. It’s been a truly humble experience, and one that is far from over. Also, it has helped shape my role as an effective pastor of our new local church.

      Thanks and Blessings to both of you!

  • Great thoughts, Thom. thanks for sharing.

    One more seems obvious, but worth noting: an intense love of Jesus. When Jesus called Peter to “feed my sheep”, He didn’t ask Peter if he loved sheep; He asked him “Do you love me?”

    • Thom Rainer says on

      That has to be the most important Paul. Thanks.

    • Love for Jesus is number one. To show our love for Jesus is that we love Gods people and serve them with a pure heart a not looking for what we can gain from it. By truly loving the sheep we do it unto the Lord. If Pastors have clicks or favorites and treat them better than the least of these, then I would question if the pastor truly loves Jesus.

  • Les Fogleman says on

    Disciples and mentors.

  • Great list. I agree with everything and especially love the 2nd point. Effective preaching is imperative. Not agenda preaching, but being effective in the pulpit. Thank you for the posting this.

    Pastor Livingston

  • Team Builder. A good pastor engages the congregation by building teams and releasing ministry. Ephesians 4:12

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Good one Jim.

    • Rubygarlick says on

      I really just want my pastor to be real, and if hes tore up from the floor up confess that and change. it bothers me when pastores hide behind man made tradition

    • Totally agree.

    • Realize that they are not multitaskers. Jesus set the example by calling 12 disciples and many others. Each one was given the responsibility to reach others. A good team builder also releases the team to do the work of ministry they have been assigned. Recognize and build up the apostles, preachers, pastors, teachers and evangelist within the ministry; give them the authority to operate within their calling; lead them and guide them into the sprit of excellence portrayed in the life of the leader. Recognize the help God has sent, trust their calling and ability and care for the sheep. Pastor Lenda

    • I would add that a pastor needs to have ALL the fruits of the spirit towards everyone. Please pray for me because I am a member at my brother’s church, and I don’t feel very loved or welcomed sometimes, as well as my husband and children. We feel like he shows more love and appreciation to other’s more than us. There has been several incidents where he has been very very nasty towards me, and although we have reconciled, I still feel like something is not quite right. I have been missing quite a few Sundays from church because I just do not feel like he genuinely loves me being there like the rest of his congregation, I just feel he wants me there because I am a great worshipper, and sings in the choir. Please once again, pray for me, because I am at the point where I may leave his church.

      • Please Remember why u r there to serve Christ Nothing will rob us of our joy faster than losing sight of that

      • New Pastor says on

        I am dealing with a similiar issuse. 8 families have left our small church this past year. Our pastor shows favortism in fact there is the “flavor of the month club”. I to am active in the church. I coordinate a small group. i would like to use my music but Pastor says I cannot. I have a degree as a Ministeer of Music from seminary. Seven months ago I was ordained. Things rapidly declined. i am not attending worship now because I feel hated and unwanted by the pastor, his wife and the click. i thought I was misreading things and prayering for help from God. concerned I had become arrogant. God answere. Six people have come to me a offered apologies for “exclusion”. No one in church knows I am ordained but pastor. 2 Baby christians have come to me for help understanding why prayer and reading scripture doesn’t work for them. rhinking they will give up Christianity not just leave church. I am helping them learn how to pray,, how the Trinity works, etc. They see the favortism of others.

        Problem, our church is owned by the pastor. He answers to no onr but his wife and God. There is no earthly being to help us.. so, gave it to God. ask if I should go. The reply. “Wait”.

      • New Pastor, I pray that you focus on Lord Jesus and WORSHIP God alone. Sometimes our beginnings are painful and we mustn’t quit. Do not quit ministry. I pray you focus on ministry and try to minister to all the people equally and not appear to be playing favorites.
        Bless you.

      • Evan. ossai chuks joseph says on

        you must pray to God for you to be strong
        you are a call minister with great uniqueness ok
        so you are there to get to your destination ok

      • Theresa, I pray you do not let your brother define you. Everyone needs freedom to worship and grow in the Body of Christ. You are free to go to church wherever you want. If your family member isn’t righteous enough and is sinful toward you, I’d find someone I could respect as my pastor and mentor.

      • Theresa, I pray you do not let your brother define you. Everyone needs freedom to worship and grow in the Body of Christ. You are free to go to church wherever you want. If your family member isn’t righteous enough and is sinful toward you, I’d find someone I could respect as my pastor and mentor.

      • Be of good cheer .. James 1:2 not talking about the issues gives more power to the enemy to separate and conquer…. since the beginning of time, (Cain and Able), there has been dysfunction among the siblings. Thats where the devil likes to attack. In our families. Ask God to give you the words and His heart to speak to your brother….. if God says stay after you talk to him then stay, but God could be telling you to move … Act in His Will and you cannot fail! Praying for you ….

      • It could be that your brother already knows you love him and he doesn’t need to invest in you like he has to in others. Just a thought. He knows you are on his side already but no excuse for being nasty. I think he just simply knows you are with him. ( ? ).

      • Donald Chirambo says on

        I feel with you my sister.It is so unfortunate. Am a pastor too with a lot of family members in the church. I would advise that you build a healthy constant fellowship as a family. Stop looking at yourself as a great worship leader. Look at yourself as a gift to the body of Christ where your gift is being expressed. I can assure you that your brother needs you more than you think. Show him that you appreciate him and you are a proud member of his church. Be available for an extra hand than just in worship programs.
        Praying for you. God bless your ministry.

      • Trying to decide. says on

        I am with you on the above comment, I am still having a hard time deciding what to do. Sometimes it would be great if they would just step back and remember that you have tried many times to talk and clear the air, but you always either get passed over or they just seem like the really don’t care, even though they tell you they love you. It would be great if they sometimes could listen to you and your views on matters going on at church and even if you don’t agree, talk it out. It’s sad when you feel like they don’t want to hear what the problem is. Also, it doesn’t always mean they are right about what they are saying, but it would be nice to know exactly what they believe and not be wishy washy. Don’t say one thing and then say it different to everyone else. Don’t tell what a person’s problem is to other’s because it should only be between you and them.

    • zechariah says on

      For a pastor to feel and believe that he knows better than anyone else in the church isn’t healthy for his ministry. It is impossible for a pastor to be an exact replica of Jesus — Thus, opportunity for him to strive for exellence and an opportunity for the congregation to be supportive and forgiving. A church can use some principles in running a corporation but should not treat is as one. Instead, as one big family bound in both Spirit and respect for one another.

      Among the many characters of Christ that we want from a pastor or any church leader: Holiness, humility, and compassion — miss one and the rest become futile.

    • Trustworthy. Someone you are able to share your deepest troubles, sins with and know your “secrets” are safe with them. Of course, along with that is Godly counsel to overcome those sins.

    • Lameck A. Mboje says on

      I want to communicate with person who passionate for the pastors. I have a work to do with him, its a blessing meeting this article.
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    • Rachael L Vreeke says on

      “Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:12

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