Ten Things Pastors Desire in a Church Member

I was surprised at the stir created by my blogpost earlier this week, “Ten Things Church Members Desire in a Pastor.” When I did the initial survey and wrote an article on it, I viewed it as just a fun exercise that would get minimal attention. I was wrong. The article hit a nerve.

One of the many commenters suggested I conduct a similar exercise and find out what pastors desire in a church member. I took that as a friendly and helpful suggestion. As a result, I interviewed 23 pastors with a simple and open-ended question, “What do you desire in church member?” The pastors could respond with an unlimited number of desires, but most pastors mentioned fewer than four.

Here are their responses in order of frequency. As in my previous article, I note the desire and follow it with a representative quote.

  1. Vibrant prayer life. “While I do want church members to pray for me specifically, I really want them to pray faithfully in all matters.”
  2. Spirit of unity. “I want our church members to be uncompromising on cardinal issues, but I also want them to be willing to yield to others on minor issues and issues of preference.”
  3. Respect of pastor’s family. “It’s okay if my family is not given preferential treatment by the church. We really want it that way. But I don’t want church members to have unreasonable expectations on my wife and kids just because their husband and dad is the pastor.”
  4. Members who are critical to my face. “Like most people, I don’t like criticism. But I know it goes with the territory. I would just ask that any critics speak to me directly instead of speaking about me behind my back.”
  5. Encouragers. “I don’t have to be applauded for everything I do, but I sure do appreciate those members who are the encouragers in my life. I don’t know what I would do without them.”
  6. Faithful attendees. “I’m really not numbers obsessed, but when people faithfully attend worship services and small groups, I know the church is important to their lives.”
  7. Members who share their faith. “I’ve been in ministry 34 years. The most faithful church members who make a difference in my life and the church are those who are consistent in sharing their faith.”
  8. Members who lead their families spiritually. “The church can only do so much for families spiritually. But it’s great when both the church and family leaders work together to grow disciples in their own families.”
  9. Members who confront other members for being negative and critical. “It really is a great feeling to know there are members in the church that have my back. Sometimes criticism of me is justified; but on other occasions the criticism comes from one of a small number of people.”
  10. Members who read the Bible regularly. “I can’t ever remember a member who reads the Bible daily who became a challenge in the church. It just seems like people in the Word don’t act like people in the world.”

Now we have heard two perspectives: those of church members and those of pastors. What do you think of this “top ten”?

Posted on January 19, 2013

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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  • Pat Purdy says on

    I found no surprises in this top ten list. This is an accurate snapshot of what makes pastoral ministry perhaps the most difficult, often frustrating, and sometimes discouraging endeavor I’ve ever taken on. At the same time, it is also the most rewarding and important thing that God has ever called me to do. Attempting to do it on your own, in your own strength is a recipe for failure. Only through the leading of the Holy Spirit and with the support of the Body of Christ can we succeed in the calling. And when we are tempted to judge that success or failure on a daily basis, anyone of these ten things can either be a friend or our tormentor. I believe that pastoral ministry requires an odd combination of spiritual caution and daring, biblically guided truthfulness, and above all else loving kindness and grace.

  • I love it when members add to the creativity, have and share ideas for growing the work and then invest in them themselves and recruit to them without feeling the idea is a failure if I don’t get fully involved. I love it when people have questions and share them. I love it when people ask to see me and we make an appointment rather than assuming I will somehow know they need attention. Most of all I love the beautiful, mixed-up faithful and faith-struggling creative mess that is #trendlewoodchurch and wouldn’t swap it for the world (unless the members felt it was right to ask me to consider succession).

  • Benjamin Carroll says on

    Great to see transparency that helps thx for sharing these responses to let us know we are not alone in the work!

  • Rick Wolgamott says on

    A consumer atmosphere seems to predominate in church goers today. I think pastors struggle to be faithful to the Word and keep so many different personalities content. I have been speaking frankly to those in the church I am pastor at and they are being ministered to by the Spirit instead of tradition and comfort, and even though it is convicting it is being received well. People need truth as a proof of love rather than consumerism.

  • I wish my members all read this,may be i’ll teach them these or send to here to read it

  • Christopher M. Webb says on

    I too long for the desires listed from both viewpoints. I serve full time in vocational ministry as a pastor at a prodometely Native Amercian church in NC. Our Sunday worship averages a little over 200. Among our people, I have found a vast difference in perspectives concerning both viewpoints. However, demonstrating servant leadership as Christ did in His eartly ministry, I’m finding that our people are understanding the desires listed on both blogs. Please continue to pray for our church family.

    Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Gene Turner says on

    Hi Thom. I am not a pastor. I am a father, husband, and business owner. As I read your list of attributes that are desirable in church members I could not help but to think I could apply that list to my family and business. I can’t think of but one way to truly accomplish that desire. Be an enthusiastic model. God bless!

  • Will Haworth says on

    Blessings… thanks for the very interesting list!

  • Excellent article Thom, thank you for both viewpoints!
    Each of these points are what I desire and pray for in my small church family!

  • I say “ditto” to all of them!! Great article! Is there any way to forward that everyone in our churches?!

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Tim –


      I wish I knew a way to get this list to all church members. I guess we can assume that not all 200 million U.S. church members read my blog : )

      • Rick Wolgamott says on

        Thanks Thom. I like your approach and books on church growth and health. You make much more sense than most. This survey is more realistic than the one asking members what they want. I wish most church goers could read this survey.

      • Thom Rainer says on

        Thanks Rick.

  • Steve Drake says on

    I share each of these desires; what pastor would not? I have one other to mention. I love it when I see a hunger for the preached word. I love to have people come to me after the sermon and tell me how some aspect of the sermon relatesto their experience. I can tell they were listening carefully. I love it when they ask questions for clarification. I certainly love it when they share a commitment to apply the sermon. I have said every sermon is a matter of 1. investigation (what does the Word say) 2. Interpretation (What does the Word mean & 3. Application (How can I apply the Word to my life. When someone tells me a sermon has led them to a commitment of application, I feel like I have been obedient in my calling and God has done what only He can do.

  • emm.calvary atamudzi says on

    thank God for the insight ,these are a blessed tools for me.thank you.

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