The expectations of a pastor are endless. Many members expect them to be omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent. But different pastors are wired differently. One pastor may get great fulfillment out of counseling, while another dreads every minute of it.
So I did an informal and unscientific survey of pastors. I asked them a simple question: “What do you like least about being a pastor?” The question was opened-ended and they could give more than one response.
I learned two things from this survey. First, pastors can have strong opinions about what they don’t like. Second, pastors are really different. The responses were wide-ranged and often in opposition to each other.
So here are the top ten things pastors don’t like about pastoring. I’ve listed them in reverse order. I then follow each dislike with a comment from a representative pastor.
10. Dealing with budgets and finance. “I have a pastor friend who has a finance major. He was in business before he went to seminary and he loves working with numbers. Not me. I get nauseas at the thought of working on the church budget.”
9. Weddings. “Emotions are usually high at weddings. Some people are difficult to handle. Plus the rehearsal, ceremony, and reception take away my whole weekend. I wish we could pass a law that no weddings can take place during college football season.”
8. Announcements in the worship service. “This past Sunday I was asked to announce that one of the older Sunday school classes was having a garage sale to raise money to repair the pipe organ. Their hearts were right, but I had to talk about a garage sale and a pipe organ right before I preached.”
7. Persistent critics. “You have to deal with critics if you are a pastor. I just struggle with those who are always on me about something. They never let up. It can be demoralizing.”
6. Anonymous critics. “I shouldn’t even let anonymous critics bother me. If they don’t have the courage to use their name, I have no reason to dwell on it. But, I’ve got to admit, it really bugs me. I find myself wondering throughout the day who it might be.”
5. Counseling. “I really envy those pastors who are counselors. They get energized by listening to people at their points of need and hurt. I have to admit that my mind wanders and I watch the clock. I don’t think I really help anybody when I counsel.”
4. Treating spouses like they are paid staff members. “I really hurt for my wife because we have one church member that expects her to put in the same amount of hours at church as I do. My wife is taking care of our three preschool children at home, but she feels guilty every time the church member talks to her.”
3. Supporters who don’t support pastors publicly. “One guy was ripping into me at our last business meeting. But he didn’t bother me as much as my so-called supporters who remained silent the whole time. They’ve told me that they are behind me, but they weren’t there for me when I needed them the most.”
2. Funerals of non-Christians. “I’ve been a pastor for nearly thirty years, and I still struggle when I’m asked to do the funeral of someone who never professed Christ. Most of the time my funeral message is directed at the family, and how God will comfort them. It’s still not easy.”
1. Business meetings. “Let me know if you come across a pastor that actually likes church business meetings. I want to find the secret to his moments of delusion.”
What do you think of this list? What would you add?
Pastor to Pastor is the Saturday blog series at ThomRainer.com. Pastors and staff, if we can help in any way, contact Steve Drake, our director of pastoral relations, at [email protected]. We also welcome contacts from laypersons in churches asking questions about pastors, churches, or the pastor search process.
Posted on October 6, 2012
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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I’m not a pastor, but a seminary student and preacher. The announcement thing is a killer. This past Sunday, my pastor called at 6 am for me to fill in for him in an emergency. No problem, relish the opportunity to serve. But knowing the situation, a beloved senior saint exhorted me, not about the power of the Spirit, but not to forget to announce the monthly Happy Hearts luncheon. This luncheon had been announced in no less than three services and is always attended by around 100. Is it that people’s view of the church is so impoverished, or what is the deal with the civic club mentality?
Apathy. Can’t stand it. At least fake that you enjoy things.
If none of these frustrations were a part of my life i would be soaring on eagles wings! Thanks Tom. Your posts are always spot on.
What I do not like are all the excuses for not serving. Too old, don’t like knocking on doors, not enough time, not enough money…
I must agree with all of your points. I do, however, agree whole heartily on point #3. How many times have I walked out of a business meeting and someone walk up and say, “I agree with you” and then walk away.
I would really love to see a follow-up survey on pastor’s kids. The kids of pastors have lots of stresses.
#1 is one I certainly agree with, mainly because it gives an idea of where the heart of the church is and it can be discouraging. These meetings often end up being unorganized vent sessions about things that noone ends up doing and I get emails about later and end up doing(i.e., there are dead spiders and webs in between windows and it needs to be cleaned). The main reason it bothers me is because there is rarely any talk of things that matter, such as how to reach the lost, but instead are things focused on us. it can be discouraging at times. The ciritcs bother me, but I agree with others that it bothers me more when those who say they support me do not do so when I have been criticized. Some of the other things are mere annoyances or opportunities. Not to sound corny, but I thank God everyday for being called to do what I do, it takes a toll at times, but many times it is due to pressure I put on myself and not something the church expects. I think I am my toughest critic at times and it is due to a sinful desire to please all people.
Surprisingly I don’t agree with many of these. I enjoy finances. Announcements are vital to the life of the congregation. Weddings of all sorts and funerals of non members are the most important outreach I have to the community. Yes weddings can be a pain. But if you hang in there you can make any wedding a teachable moment and an opportunity to build bridges. I am disappointed by folks who say they support the Pastor but then allow the Pastor to be bullied and won’t speak up. And altho I hate criticism too, I try to deal with it by finding what part(s) may be valid and what parts(s) are not valid.
So altho I see some truth in this list, it seems slightly overstated in many areas.
I love the way you love your pastor.