Dear Church (on Behalf of Pastors)
I’m blessed with so many pastor friends. I have the opportunity, through my blog and personal ministry, to interact with hundreds of pastors every year. After hearing many of their concerns, I decided to write a letter to the church. Obviously, I can’t and won’t attempt to speak for every pastor, but this will represent many.
I actually posted this a few years ago, (now edited) after holding on to it for a while. I was concerned it would seem self-serving. I thought some may feel I was ungrateful. Thankfully, I have good support around me. I’m in a good situation and I have years of experience navigating (sometimes better than others) work and home life, so this is really designed to speak for other pastors. Again, God has given me abundant support in ministry, but I feel the weight of many pastors and ministers—maybe especially those who serve as the only staff member in the church.
So, this is on behalf of some of my pastor friends.
I want to be honest with you on behalf of many pastors I know. You would want me to be honest, right?
It’s sometimes hard to know who to trust.
Honestly, that’s hard to say, because we are a church, and if there is any place we can trust people, it should be in the church. But, many pastors I know have been burned so many times by trusting people. It seems people love to repeat the pastor. They love to share things they know about the pastor—some of which was shared in confidence or not shared with them at all. I know so many pastors who simply don’t trust anyone. They keep their private life so removed from the church and never really let anyone get to know them. It’s not wise. It’s certainly not the way the church should function, but it often feels safer. Be the one your pastor can trust—every time.
We love you, but we love our family too.
Would you help us protect our family time? We like having a night at home. We want days occasionally which are completely ours, to do what we want, with no church responsibilities. No church texts, no church calls, no church emails, no church visits. I know, sounds selfish right? And, we know there are emergencies, and we want to be there for them. But, if your need can wait until the next morning we are in the office, that gives us an opportunity to rest—and be better prepared when an emergency does come. And, do we really have to be at every function of the church? Aren’t there some things others could handle for us? And—please understand this is hard to ask—but since these are my friends I’m asking for, would you consider keeping our kids some night so we could have a night just for the two of us?
Sometimes people make leading very hard.
Like someone said, “Leadership would be easy if not for the people.” We know every decision we make is unpopular with someone. Most pastors wish they could do everything everyone wanted them do. But, we simply can’t. We know we are called to lead the church as God leads us—not to be popular. But, sometimes, we are made to feel very uncomfortable for not doing what people want us to do. And, many pastors struggle with a bent towards people-pleasing. That may make us seem shallow, but it’s true. You can help by being a supporter of your pastor. You don’t have to always agree, but the way you disagree says a lot about your support.
We need a few people who are “in it” for Jesus and others, more than for themselves.
When we find those people—wow—it makes our day. We feel like we are accomplishing something. Those people fuel us for ministry. They are the ones who keep us going on days we are ready to quit! Oh, how we need people who are committed for all the right reasons! Can you be one of those?
We have to wear many hats.
And, that’s OK. It comes with the job, but some things we are asked to do we simply aren’t skilled to do. You thought seminary taught us everything, didn’t you? No, in fact, we feel very inadequate at much of the things required of us. We need your help, but sometimes it’s hard to ask, because we don’t know who to trust—remember? It’s a gentle giant who comes along to support us expecting nothing in return. An older, more mature person who simply wants to bless a younger pastor—that’s gold to us. Someone who simply says, “Pastor, let me know what you need and I’ll do my best”—wow! Go ahead, make my day!
We want you to love us in spite of our flaws.
That makes sense to us, because you want us to love you that way, but sometimes we feel you love us only as long as we are “performing” as people would have us perform. (Wow, did I just say that?) It has sometimes been said a pastor is only as good as their last good sermon. We feel the pressure to be perfect sometimes—yet, we know the temptation people face we face. Pastors are flawed humans too! And, sometimes the enemy works extra hard on us—loving when a pastor fails. Those who pray for us regularly—and really do—those are some of our heroes in the faith.
We feel so responsible—for everything.
Church growth. Church discipline. Church health. Church budget. Church strategic planning. And, people’s spiritual growth and often their personal happiness. We know ultimately Jesus is in charge of all things, but we feel the weight of our role to see that each of these are completed well in the church. That’s a lot of self-induced pressure, isn’t it? But, I thought you’d like to know so you can pray for us better. (Thanks for doing that.)
Lastly, I would remind you—we love you. We really do. I don’t know any pastors who don’t really love people. I know no pastor is perfect, and some know how to show love better than others, but with the calling comes a calling to love people. It’s easier some days than others, but we truly do love you. We consider it a high honor, a great privilege and a tremendous responsibility to have the role in the church we have. Thanks for loving us back!
Thanks, pastors, for all you do. A couple years ago my then 93-year-old mentor pastor said it is harder today than ever in his ministry to pastor a church—and he had just taken another interim pastorate. The pressures are great. People are distracted by many things. The church is often not the revered and loved place in our communities it used to be.
Personally, I’m thankful for good leadership and staff around me at each of the churches where I’ve served, but my heart goes out to the pastor who doesn’t feel the support of the church and is the only staff member. Remember, you are doing noble work and you are part of something bigger than today, you and your church! The local church—the body of Christ—is still in God’s plan today and nothing will overcome it. Praying for you today!
This article originally appeared here.