Ten Things Pastors Don’t Like about Pastoring

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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  • Good list and feed back for members. A lot of times members and family don’t get this kind of info. Communication can be tough. As a leader, being a good communicator, can be a tough skill to master. Props on the list. So that people can know. Along with family giving feed back, the pastor should give feed back too.
    On # 3 there’s about 3-5 different issues that you are dealing with at once and they should be seperated.
    I think it’s a ligit ament issue if the pastor doesn’t feel supported at all or is not getting any thank yous, or appreciation, it’s okay to ask for it. People for get to say thank you, or don’t realize how they come across. It’s a matter of maturity. And you should tell them. Let them know how it feels. So they will know. And can grow.
    When people are talking about issues, you can’t take them all personally. You will end up in a mental institution downing handfuls of Prozac. Part of being a leader is a lot of issues will land on your desk, that’s just part of being a leader. It’s just like a store manager. They have a lot of stuff on their plate, and its up to them to deal with them and delegate. Keep things flowing.
    Or customer service, the person your serving may not be mad at you, but trying to solve a problem.
    A lot of times it’s nothing personal, it’s a problem people are trying to work on.
    As far as critism about one’s self or what’s going on, heavy critism is an acid test of leadership. Unfortunately, it goes with the territory . People don’t get to be mean, or immature or insulting about it, but if you find your white washing things or people pleasing to make people happy or being a dictator, leadership may not be the right job for you. Part of reality.
    Some people don’t realize how they are coming across and not mean to sound critical. It’s a good idea to let others know how you like critism. So you make it an enviroment of safety to aid communication.
    Props to all the pastors out there. Thank you and thanks for serving, even when it’s hard. x

  • Dr. Rainer,
    I’m the guy who likes business meetings. Let me tell you why. 1) I don’t moderate. Our deacon chair handles that, and I get to sit back and participate. 2) We share a meal before our business meetings. Everyone arrives relaxed and in a good mood. 3) While we conduct business, the main focus is on celebrating mission and ministry. We hear reports from youth and children, music and worship, Bible study and discipleship, etc. 4) Business decisions are handled with thorough communication and full disclosure. If it threatens to divide us, we’ll walk away or wait.
    Our Sunday a.m. attendance is 154. Conference attendance averages 80. We meet once a month for business.

  • Thom Rainer says on

    Randy –
    Good words and great to hear from you friend.

  • Steve Drake says on

    Hank, Thanks. I wish I could blame it on the spellchecker. It’s more likely the result of an oversight due to cold medication.

  • I think is speaks volumes when three of the top ten relate directly with critics (#s 3,6,&7). I’m going to use this for my Pastor Appreciation message this month when I preach in support of my pastor. The congregation needs to know how their negativity effects the pastor and a simple change in attitude will revolutionize this man’s ability to effectively lead his congregation. Great stuff.

  • Terry Leap says on

    Generally speaking, I think this list is pretty accurate to greater or lesser degrees. I don’t struggle with ALL of these things though. For example, I enjoy weddings, don’t mind finances and budgeting, and have never minded doing funerals even for unsaved people. And, I actually enjoy counseling. But all the others resonate LOUDLY with me and I think church members need to understand the undue amounts of stress and strain that these factors put on pastors especially when they’re young pastors! I personally DESPISE business meetings and would love to serve a church that only met once per year. They are nothing more in most churches than open invitations, held monthly, for folks to gripe and cause division. As for the critics, (and the announcements!) people need to grow up in Christ. Finally, I would add that the “silent supporters” are a huge problem as well. One of the greatest factors in my recent resignation of a divided church.

  • Hank Gandsey says on

    Steve –
    I think we are all on the same page about the call. We just appreciate Dr. Rainer expressing some things we often are unable to say. On a humorous note, get your Lifeway spellcheck to work on “aggrivations.” : )

  • Steve Drake says on

    Wow! great discussion this morning. Dr. Rainer, you have certainly scratched an itch that most pastors live with daily. With these and other aggrivations that pastors and staff ministers put up with, it’s amazing that any of us survive in this calling for long. Sadly, many do leave vocational ministry for some of these reasons. The fact that ours is not a career choice, but a genuine call from God makes all the difference. I have found the courage to press on many times after I took a pause to recall God’s call upon my life; it even helped me respond in grace when vengence looked very appealing. I look forward to next week’s blog, because through it all, as shepherds of God’s people, we have been blessed in unspeakable ways.

  • Good post. As one of the associate pastors at my church, I deal with all listed issues to a certain extent; not as much as a lead pastor. Prior to being a pastor full time, I worked as an engineer and management so the ‘business’ side of ministry is not foreign. Perhaps it’s a bit naïve, but the thing I dislike most about pastoring is the realization that you can’t help everyone. I still find funerals a bit intimidating; I just did a bilingual funeral … all elements in two languages … that was tough.

  • I would add one more: The negativity and apathy of members! I love my people dearly. But I detest their negative spirit and their apathetic attitude. Many of my members are senior adults and they feel they have “paid their dues.” Therefore, they believe it is now time to sit back and rest and let someone else do the “work.” There are days these negative comments and apathetic attitudes just appear to overwhelm me. Rather than focus on what God is doing in our midst and praising Him for that work, their focus is on all the negative. As a pastor, there are days I dread going to the office because of all the negative comments and expressions of apathy I will, inevitably, hear. Thanks for your post. It’s such encouragement to me. Oh, and by the way, I am not coming down on senior adults… “I are 0ne!”!

  • Hank Gandsey says on

    Louis –
    I agree with you . . . if your church allows it to happen. I have almost no say in what we do in the worship service except my sermon.

  • Louis Cook says on

    Number 8 has a couple of easy fixes: delegate announcements to a member of the church at some point in the service prior to the sermon and add it to the bulletin.