Ten Things Pastors Wish They Knew Before They Became Pastors


In an informal survey of pastors, I asked a simple question:

What do you wish you had been told before you became a pastor?

Some of the responses were obvious. For me, a few were surprises.

I note them in order of frequency of response, not necessarily in order of importance. After each item, I offer a representative quote from a pastor.

  1. I wish someone had taught me basic leadership skills. “I was well-grounded in theology and Bible exegesis, but seminary did not prepare me for the real world of real people. It would have been great to have someone walk alongside me before my first church.”
  2. I needed to know a lot more about personal financial issues. “No one ever told me about minister’s housing, social security, automobile reimbursement, and the difference between a package and a salary. I got burned in my first church.”
  3. I wish I had been given advice on how to deal with power groups and power people in the church. “I got it all wrong in my first two churches. I was fired outright from the first one and pressured out in the second one. Someone finally and courageously pointed out how I was messing things up almost from the moment I began in a new church. I am so thankful that I am in the ninth year of a happy pastorate in my third church.”
  4. Don’t give up your time in prayer and the Word. “I really don’t ever remember anyone pointing me in that direction. The busier I became at the church, the more I neglected my primary calling. It was a subtle process; I wish I had been forewarned.”
  5. I wish someone had told me I needed some business training. “I felt inadequate and embarrassed in the first budget meetings. And it really hit home when we looked at a building program that involved fundraising and debt. I had no clue what the bankers were saying.”
  6. Someone should have told me that there are mean people in the church. “Look, I was prepared to deal with critics. That’s the reality of any leadership position. But I never expected a few of the members to be so mean and cruel. One church member wrote something really cruel on my Facebook wall. Both my wife and children cried when they read it.”
  7. Show me how to help my kids grow up like normal kids. “I really worry about the glasshouse syndrome with my wife and kids. I’m particularly worried that my children will see so much of the negative that they will grow up hating the church. I’ve seen it happen too many times.”
  8. I wish I had been told to continue to date my wife. “I was diligent in dating my wife before I became a pastor. I then got so busy helping others with their needs that I neglected her. I almost lost my marriage. She felt so alone as I tried to meet everyone’s needs but hers.”
  9. Someone needed to tell me about the expectation of being omnipresent. “I had no idea that people would expect me to be at so many meetings, so many church socials, and so many sports and civic functions. It is impossible to meet all those expectations, so I left some folks disappointed or mad.”
  10. I really needed help knowing how to minister to dying people. “Some of those who have terminal illnesses have such a strong faith that they minister to me. But many of them are scared and have questions I never anticipated. I was totally unprepared for these pastoral care issues when I first became a pastor.”

How do you respond to this list? What would you add?


Posted on March 9, 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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

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


  • Donald Broadwater says on

    Excellent summary of some key issues. Thanks for sharing. I recently retired after 40 years ministry in the States and in Australia. I’ve written three books including, “Living Portraits of Grace.”

  • Good list. I especially think the need for leadership and business training when pastors get to larger churches. Every pastor needs preparation on dealing with power plays and mean people, whatever the size church. One thing I would add is better training in counseling and ministry to the sick. I was a pastor for 33 years who frequently visited the sick and did counseling, but after 6 years as a hospital chaplain, I saw that I still had a lot to learn to be a healthcare chaplain.

  • I agree at least in part with all the ten things listes. I would like to add that although there are some very mean people in some churches, there are also some very wonderful, understanding, beautiful saints. Although we need training in the áreas mentioned, a prayerful fully dedicated pastor will throught prayer and some patience learn how to handle the various problems encountered. The other side of the coin is that God is there by his Spirit to encourage and strengthen us. I remember coming under criticism for stoping a singing group because a male and a female member in the group where haveing an illicit
    affair. As I prayed I got an answer from the Lord, ” But I don’t criticize you.” What comfort it gave me! Also, although it is tough being a pastor, it is also very rewording. I say this after 50 years of pastoral ministry plus 12 years as President of a Bible
    college. I am still a pastor of a lovely congretation.

  • Hello, I am Glenn. To answer the initial question, I would have liked to have known more of and been taught the actual Truth! Thank goodness I already knew to test all pastors, which I learned by reading scripture, and anyting I was taught bye man so that I could be founded in the His truth or come to the that truth by reading the living Word for myself.

    Furthermore, Ben Wilson and others, by being in fellowship with an assembly of like minded believers is necessary on a weekly basis but going to Him for help is primarily our source when we feel inadequate. It’s my belief that if we as pastors need a fill-in pastor due to exhaustion or the like then we may not be in His yoke as it is light.

    The majority of assemblies in this day are businesses called church. Typically a board and pastor are most concerned about position, congregation following and or money.

    I am the type to test everything and to share everything directly from inspired scripture from the front of the book to the back! You should also. I invite you to find real Truth for teachings for every single pastor and congregation member involved in this commentary here at: HebrewMindset.info

    What you will find are Scriptures unfolded utilizing the same Hebrew Mindset used as all writers wrote the inspired word of our Creator not dictated by the perspective of Christian doctrine derived from Roman Catholic that actually leads to a great deception. Nothing more nothing less.

    Shalom and Yah bless,

1 9 10 11