Top Ten Sources of Discouragement of Pastors and Church Staff

I love those men and women who serve local churches. I love their commitment and sacrifice. And I wish I could do more to help them remain energized and encouraged.

In this post, I share the results of an informal Twitter poll where I asked pastors and church staff to share with me those areas of ministry that discouraged them most. My motivation for doing so is primarily my love and concern for these church leaders. It is my prayer that this awareness will encourage church members to be even more supportive of and prayerful for these leaders.

Here are the top ten sources of discouragement of pastors and church staff listed in order of frequency. Admittedly, there is overlap in some of these responses, but those who responded often made their own distinctions. A representative quote follows each category.

  1. Conflicts/complaining/murmuring. “I find myself physically exhausted at the end of the week just from dealing with naysayers. My problem is exacerbated by naysayers using social media as their outlets.”
  2. Lack of fruit and spiritual maturity in church members. “I invested two years of my life in him. But his life today is as carnal as it was two years ago.”
  3. Apathy. “The low level of commitment of so many of our members really discourages me. Sometimes I wonder if my ministry is making any kind of difference.”
  4. Church members who leave the church for seemingly silly or no reasons. “It breaks my heart to lose a church member just because we made a slight change in the times of worship services.”
  5. Expectations by members/lack of time. “It seems like I am expected to be omnipresent. I just can’t keep up with all the expectations of me.”
  6. Performing tasks where the pastor/staff does not have competencies. “I know nothing about finances. I am not a good administrator. But both functions consume my time.”
  7. Meetings/committees. “I would rather get my teeth drilled than go to our monthly business meetings. It’s nothing more than a forum for complainers and whiners.”
  8. Family concerns. “The attacks on my wife for no good reasons have caused me to get my resume out. I can’t stay any longer.”
  9. Staff issues. “Every day at the church is stressful because of staff conflict.”
  10. Lack of volunteers. “So many church members seek their own preferences, but are unwilling to serve others.”

Some of the other sources of discouragement that did not make the list but had multiple votes are: loneliness; communication problems; members who hold tenaciously to tradition; divorce/family problems among church members; low pay; and counseling.

Please pray for your pastor and staff. They are under attack consistently. They not only need your prayers; they need your clear and consistent encouragement.

What do you think of these sources of discouragement? What would you add? Let me hear from you.

Posted on November 12, 2014

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 *


  • This is one of the reasons I begin Faith-Based Mediation and became a certified mediator. It is must easier to speak to a neutral party when issues arise in the church, around the church and about the church with someone who understands the church but listens with an open ear and directs the power to those parties involved to arrive at an outcome.

  • I get discouraged when I dwell on the sin in my own life. Yuck. I hate looking in the mirror.

  • Mr. Rainer – You are consistently my favorite blogger/writer. I have been a pastor’s wife for 37 years and have seen so much change over the years. One thing that doesn’t change is people’s need for love and encouragement. I love my current season of life and ministry (I will be 57 years old Sunday). I want to be an encourager to the young women and wives in my church, and even more so as I grow older.

    Thank you for all the ways you encourage those of us in ministry – the women too! There is no pain like church hurt and when our men hurt, we grieve too. Praying right now that God will encourage and bless the ministry families. Our oldest son is also a pastor. I pray my grandchildren will grow up seeing the love and grace of God’s people!

  • This article is right on point. I am leading a turn-around effort in my church. I can identify 9 of the 10 in my church every week. It is no wonder I am exhausted and feeling that I am nearing the end of my rope. Seeing this in print validates my experience.

  • Sadly, I now consider myself a “recovering” pastor. Over my relatively short ministry in both missions, pastoral ministry, and church planting, I have struggled with every one of the above listed issues, especially 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, & 10.

    I feel ashamed that I found myself so weak as to let these chip away at me until there was little left of the original man that committed his life to God’s services back in the early 90’s. I continue to pray that God might re-ignite the passion I once had, and refill my heart with love for His people.

  • please don’t forget the wives who are basically raising small children alone! A lot of us are drowning here and the constant expectations of us and of our children are overwhelming. My prayer is that my children will grow up loving the church and not resenting it. We are in a very healthy church and I still get criticized for not being at every function, serving in every volunteer position, etc. not to mention my husband is heavily involved in missions and is gone out of the country at least twice a year. I knew what I was signing up for. I went to seminary with my husband and earned my own Master Of Divinity in Theology (SBTS). The pressure on the family is constant. Some days I seriously feel like I’m losing my mind. I also feel a disconnect between the older staff ( with grown children) and the younger staff, my husband who has a 6yr old, 3 yr old and 20 month old. I stay home and love my job (most days) but the major stresser in my life is my husband’s job. Pay isn’t great, he’s gone all the time and I’m still expected to be at every function. All while having no close friends because you can’t be authentic with the people who basically pay your husbands salary. I’m a young minister’s wife and I feel like the generational gap between me and the 60+ pastor’s wives in our church is just too great. They tell me to suck it up and pray. Well I do that but life is far busier now than 40 years ago when they were young moms. I just wish pastor’s wives would be more real and authentic. It is hard.

    • Thom Rainer says on

      Kristi –

      I just prayed for you and your family. Please see the posts at this blog about pastors’wives.

    • Kristi

      I also just prayed for you and your family.

    • Kristi,
      Said a prayer for you. I am right where you are even down to the ages of our kids!!!! We should get together. It is utterly overwhelming at times. I feel the same in so many ways. Praying that we both can be free of everyone elses expectations and just please Him. He is all that matters. I forget that all too often.

    • Kristi, be authentic with the people. The key is learn from Jesus, He had a small group that he was authentic with. You need to find those you can be close to, this will be those whom are in the role you find yourself in. Build a support group with women and mothers that are where you are. Use the the teen girls, they need your guidance and support.
      You have a mission most women or men for that matter cannot see.
      This mission is to support your husband and raise children to believe in God.
      You and only you know what your children need.
      This is a ministry of its own, and its importance is just as great as reaching nonbelievers in the world. Without your efforts where would our children be in relation to God? Was it not Timothy’s Grandmother who taught him the precepts of God. There are too many women in the Bible whom are over looked that without them out young, would not be ready or able to understand that there is a God for us to seek.
      Having said all this just to say stand strong knowing that you will not be at every event because your first calling is to raise Godly children and show them God’s Grace.
      Part of this calling is to teach other women how to raise God’s children so that they will not reject our God but seek Him.
      You have a mighty task ahead of you. My prayers are for all mothers not to get discouraged in this task. Without my wife’s efforts I know my children would not have believed in Jesus Christ!!
      My hope is that you will build a support group for you and other mothers in your congregation.

      Stay strong in the Lord Pray a lot and let your children see you pray so that they may learn to lean on Our Savior.

      In His Srevice

    • If you have you own Master Of Divinity in Theology, you are obviously an educated woman. Why don’t you have your own ministry/church and if you can, go to the pulpit? I don’t why you put up with some of that. Look online for an anonymous/closed room support group or talk to the other pastor’s wives in the town.

    • A good pastor should know when to say “no”, and so should a good pastor’s wife. Your family comes first, and if your critics don’t like it, that’s their problem.

    • Hi Kristi (nice name!)–I’m a pastor’s wife with an MDiv as well (HDS 06), and our kids are 7, 4 and 1. I’d love to connect with you to hear more about what you’re going through and offer encouragement, if you’re open to that. You can find me on Facebook or on my blog, I actually just blogged about being a UMC pastor’s family last week, and though that post is both positive and negative, I know the down days can be so tough. Maybe someday I’ll write about our down days. I’ll pray for you too.

  • Please read the book “Boundaries for Leaders” and “Necessary Endings” both by Henry Cloud, et al.

    Both of these books are excellent resources for leaders. One way abusers abuse is by wasting others time, talent and, if they can get their hands on it, tithe. Sometimes, for the good of everyone, is it necessary for leaders to roust the wolves in their flocks – especially the wolves dressed in shepherd’s clothing.

    Also, please remember to thank those hard working, reliable folks that show up and help out – consistently. Those are the very folks that are often overlooked.

  • How about discussing remedies to the problem?

    I suggest beginning with increased transparency. The secular world has had to learn this and the religious world hasn’t yet. A lot of the complaining occurs when there is no release of information except through back channels. A Q&A session periodically, even online, would go a long way towards helping people who often feel left out or that they are not a part.

  • Jeff Johnson says on

    Sometimes, discouragement stems not from bad circumstances but from faulty expectations. The apostle Paul was as Spirit-filled, anointed, and zealous as any pastor or church planter you will ever find. Yet the churches he founded were plagued by false teaching, sexual immorality, division, and other types of internal strife. We pastors often think that if we lead the right way, everyone will fall in line. Nope. We are imperfect people leading congregations of imperfect people. The road to spiritual maturity can be agonizingly long, difficult, and muddy. I think it helps to have close friends and mentors in the ministry who can help shape and temper our expectations. Church leaders need to get real and encourage one another through our mutual hardships, and stop judging and competing with one another. We’re in this together.

  • That is a pretty sad but accurate list. I resonate with #1 and #4 the most. One facet of people leaving is how they leave… I typically don’t try to talk people out of leaving. Some don’t say a word, others lie about their reasons. Very few people let you send them off with a blessing.