The Twelve Biggest Challenges Pastors and Church Staff Face

In my latest non-scientific Twitter survey, I asked the following question of pastors and church staff: What is your biggest challenge in ministry? Here are the top twelve responses with representative quotes. I’ve taken the liberty to expand most of the quotes from their abbreviated form in Twitter.

  1. Apathy and internal focus.  “I have been in ministry for over twenty years, and I’ve never seen church members more apathetic and internally focused.”
  2. Staff issues. “I inherited staff from the previous pastor. It’s not a good match, but I don’t have the credibility to do anything about it.”
  3. Leading and keeping volunteers. “It’s a fulltime job itself.”
  4. General time constraints. “I end every week wondering why I got so little done.”
  5. Getting buy-in from members. “I spend half my time developing a consensus from members about decisions from the mundane to the critical.”
  6. Generational challenges. “It seems like the older generation is determined to nix any new ideas or excitement from the younger generation.”
  7. Finances. “You can sum up our challenge in four simple words: We need more money.”
  8. Holding on to traditions. “I wish our members would put as much effort into reaching people for Christ as they do holding on to their traditions.”
  9. Criticism. “Some leaders in the church have appointed themselves to be my weekly critics.”
  10. Leadership development. “We miss too many opportunities in ministry because we don’t have enough leaders ready.”
  11. Majoring on minors. “We spent an hour in our last business conference discussing the fonts in our bulletins.”
  12. Lack of true friends. “One of the toughest realities for me as pastor was the awareness that I have no true friends in the church.”

What is fascinating, if not discouraging, about this survey is that virtually all of the challenges noted by these pastors and staff were internal challenges. It appears that many of our churches in America are not effective conduits of the gospel because the members spend so much energy concerned about their own needs and preferences.

What do you think about this list? What would you add?

Posted on June 26, 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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  • pastorbenard omare says on

    Thanks for the work that you are doing, may the Lord bless you and open all blessings to your ministry in the name of Jesus Christ. Kindly continue to pray for our church to grow, may the Lord bless you in the name of Jesus Christ.

  • Joshua Asime Hope says on

    i need more books on the pastor and the member relationship

  • James Mukiza says on

    Thank you so much for writing this book after the tragic event of this plague Covid-19.
    I hope this book will provide much teachings to people affected and not affected by this pandemic.
    May God richly bless you for the knowledge from above!

  • Pastors reaching out to the sheep is a kind of sacrificial job. I’m concern about the #7. It can never be eliminated. Let’s pray for Pastors and Christians, in general, to fight the good fight because the reward from God will always be great.

  • Sounds like a lot of pastors are trying to run a church. A spirit filled pastor who listens to God and obeys his lead will allow the. Lord to handle the church, after all it is his. Totally surrender yourself to God in all things and he will bring victory. I think the training for most pastor is not sufficient. On the other hand it will depend whether the pastor has been called by God to preach or he has made himself a pastor for some reasons best known to him.

  • Dear Brother/ Sister in Christ ,

    Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ ,

    It’s my privilege to have an email with you. I am Edward Qaser from Lahore , Pakistan.

    I am serving the Lord Jesus Christ with Christian based Humanitarian Organization, to glorify His name . Our main focus is reach to unreached with Love of Christ.

    Millions of Non- believer need of knowing about the truth and Love of our Lord Jesus Christ especially the poor people are deprived one. EGM Pakistan is a Humanity base organization and working for the development of the human beings, its major object is to mitigate the effects of poverty, disease , illiteracy and disasters.
    We accomplish this mission by implementing various community based programs ( Projects ) like Empowerment projects , Computer Centers, Sewing Centers, Relief in disasters, Provide food to Poor , Orphan Center, Scholarship for Poor and Needy Students .we have 85 pastors in around Pakistan who are serving in remote and rural areas of Pakistan . we are sharing the word of God in every part of Pakistan ;

    I want to invite you with great love and encouraging words to come to Pakistan , and bring the Good News of Lord Jesus with people of Pakistan.

    May Lord lay burden on your heart for your Pakistani brethren .

    Hope to hear from you as soon as….

    God Bless you

    Edward Qaser ( Executive Director )

    Cell :- +92-300-843-7639

    Office :- +92-423-596-5371

  • With due respect for fellow men of God who are seeking to be faithful, perhaps this is not a list of problems “in” discipleship. It reads like a list of problems for CEOs. Disciples and disciple-making involves building friendships around the Body, not merely accomplishing tasks. I hate to sound like Jerry McGuire, but maybe it’s time the Church gets back to being about people? Like so much so where you encounter at least – lets say three – interactions outside of the worship service weekly where we have meaningful conversation with someone whose grandparents’ names and stories you know. If the Church is not building these relationships, perhaps it isn’t because they’re apathetic. Perhaps it’s because they’re really good students and the Pastors are focused on the wrong things?

  • Ben K. Collins says on

    I am an Associate Pastor in my Church. I have experienced most of the points listed here as challenges. They are indeed practical realities one faces as a Pastor in running a ministry.
    Can we expand on them one by one and share our experiences about how we overcame these challenges. It can help others handle similar challenges.

  • Ssegujja Emmanuel says on

    I am glad you have pointed out that Leadership is gap in most of our ministries and i strongly agree with you. We have witnessed some cases where a minister wants to become everything in a ministry which is not a good thing because it cripples growth and use of gifts God has given to the Church. Today like never before Ministry demands collaboration and continuous growth in skill on the side of ministers and those ministered to and this will call on most of our Churches to invest in capacity building of our leaders and reading well the signs of the time.

  • Bosei Jacob Odiowei says on

    Some problem which some pastors are having in the work of God in their is working with wrong appointings, looking the appearanse of men, the work of God is not by English but by God intervention, you dont appoint people of your family or people wit wealth, you dont honour only the rich but both the poor, in fact! It is The poor that God honour more than others, you dont hear from man because anything but from God and His Word. You dont raise yourself so much as if you are their God, you should know that it is the same blood water that flows through you. In everything you do, hear from God.

  • Every problem is a leadership problem. I would move #10 up to #1. The hardest person to lead is ourselves. if we trained pastors both spiritually AND in correct leadership principles, they would know better how to deal with people. Many (possibly most) lead pastors/preachers are dominant personalities and task oriented—so most are only forward thinking and not very people oriented. So problems with staff, problems with youth, problems with parents. To influence others we need to understand others. Since most pastors have decent (usually) biblical training, I start by teaching the 5 Levels of Leadership (John Maxwell). It’s extremely eye opening to church leaders and points to similar things in scripture. Learn to lead people instead of manage processes. It will make all the difference in the world…

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