10 Things Pastors Absolutely HATE to Admit Publicly
When Ellen and I were first married, ministry was not our 20-year plan, the Navy was. We had it all planned out; we were to spend the next 20 years with me being gone for 15. The Navy explained to my sweet new bride how grueling it would be, that I would be gone often and that even when I was around my mind would be elsewhere.
Knowing that my particular career path in the Navy would be a marriage destroyer, I pursued a discharge for the pursuit of higher education. With the promise of a difficult future behind us, we embarked upon an easier dream where everyone would love us and things would be calm: pastoral service.
Twenty-plus years later, I can tell you it has been a ride we never could have anticipated.
So much so that only now do I feel equipped enough to share a few things I either lacked the clarity or courage to share until this season of life. I want to share the 10 things we as pastors don’t really want you to know about us.
Now, in doing so, my aim is not to rat out my fellow pastors. Nor am I doing this so congregants sleep with one eye open regarding their leadership. My intention is precisely the opposite. I hope that from this:
- Churches will pray all the more for their pastors because they understand the challenges.
- Churches will be doubly grateful for the fact that so many pastors stay in the saddle despite their fears, hurts and frustrations.
- People in churches will think twice before engaging in things that sink deep into the soul of their leaders.
Therefore, I give a glimpse into what we as pastors don’t like to admit about ourselves.
1. We take it personally when you leave the church.
It’s just a straight-up fact. We pastors eat, drink and sleep the local church and with that have a deep desires to see it thrive.
Therefore, when you leave to another church because …
- you’re bothered by a recent decision, but didn’t ask about it …
- the new church has a bigger and better kids wing, youth group, worship team, building space, (fill in your blank) …
- your friends started going there …
… it hits us personally.
For us it feels disloyal, shallow or consumer driven. People affirm that church is a family, thus when you up and leave because the church down the road has Slurpee dispensers, a fog machine or it’s just cooler, well, it jams us pretty deep.
2. We feel pressure to perform week after week.
The average TV show has a multimillion-dollar budget, a staff of writers and only airs 22 weeks out of the year; that’s what we feel we’re up against.
Where the pressure is doubled comes from the previous point. We know there are churches near by with a multimillion-dollar budget or a celebrity pastor who have the ability to do many more things at a much higher level.
From this, a sense of urgency is created in our mind to establish the same level of quality, option and excellence to meet the consumerist desires of culture.
Now if this were exclusively in the hopes of reaching new people, this wouldn’t be so bad, but increasingly pastors feel the need to do this just to retain people who may be stuff-struck by the “Bigger and Better” down the way.
3. We struggle with getting our worth from ministry.
When the numbers are up, the compliments are flowing and the people are lively, we feel great.
When everything is level, it feels like it’s in decline.
When things are actually in decline, it’s a full-tilt tailspin in our soul.
We almost can’t help but equate the growth of the church with our ability/inability to produce growth. Therefore, if there is any appearance of waning, we feel defeated and wonder how long before the church board wises up and trades us to another team.
The “Idol of Ministry” comes on and off the shelf pretty regularly in a pastor’s office.
4. We regularly think about quitting.
This comes in two very different forms.
One form is the variation of perhaps leaving ministry altogether.
While there are some really great things about vocational ministry, there are also less enjoyable realities such as: pastors’ families are noticed (i.e., judged) routinely, pastors’ purchases are observed (i.e., judged) overtly and pastors’ words are weighed (i.e., judged) consistently. Therefore, the ability to hide among the masses and not be noticed is very appealing.
The second form comes with the desire for a change of scenery.
Pastors are shepherds, thus we love greener grass even more than sheep. To leave for a bigger budget, better building or a place with less difficult people (yeah, we get delusional sometimes) stands out as lush Kentucky Bluegrass when contrasted with the dusty patch of ragged earth called “our current church.”
This “Greener-Grass Gawking” usually occurs when we become too proud (“My gifts are better than this place”) or too insecure (“I stink and just need to start over”) and flows from #3.