I have a question for you. How well do you know your pastor – really? What comes to mind when you think of your pastor? Some people treat us like we are another species – rare and peculiar, unlike anything else in the world – and that creates some unique challenges. This article was first published in 2009 by Promise Keeper’s SEVEN Magazine, but I wanted to bring it out of retirement and share it again — not because of anything that’s happening in my church right now, but because someone found an old copy and said they enjoyed it.
I originally wrote this article based on some things that had been happening in my own life, observing some pastor friends of mine, and having conversations with ministers throughout the US and Canada. There is no bitterness or anger in this article, so don’t read it that way — just observations and insight into the inner life of some pastors. My hope is that this list will make you laugh, open your eyes, and help you love your pastor more and better.
7 Things Your Pastor Wants You to Know but Probably Won’t Tell You
1. “I’m a guy, treat me like a guy.”
Right off the bat I want you to know that I’m a dude, so stop treating me like a chick. I’m so sick of guys apologizing to me when they cuss, as though I might burst into tears or faint. Trust me, I’ve heard those words before…and yes, even used them. And you know what? I like guy stuff too! I don’t spend all my time sitting in my office, cross-legged, drinking tea with a Bible on my lap. I like cars, motorbikes, monster trucks, fishing, shooting, movies where things blow up and even the occasional malted beverage. Yes, I’ve worked hard to develop emotional sensitivity, but it has been just that – work. By the way, I struggle with the same guy-issues most men do. So, if half the reason you’re not talking to me is because you think we have nothing in common—you’re wrong.
2. “I often have no idea what I’m doing.”
Now, there’s something I’m not supposed to tell you!. A big part of me wants to keep up the image that I’ve got it all together, have a 10-year plan, and every step I make is guided by God – but that’s just not true. I say dumb things, do foolish things and sometimes I’m so confused by my job that I don’t want to do anything because I’m scared I’ll make everything worse. When I stood up and boldly proclaimed that new ministry idea, half of me thought it was a great, godly plan and the other half was certain it would blow up in my face. That’s why I need you and your family with me. I need courageous, godly men and women to stand with me – even if that means making me defend myself. I also need you to stand beside me when I inevitably throw the fertilizer into the ventilator and it all comes flying back at us.
3. “Sometimes I’m not very spiritual.”
It’s true. There are days when I just don’t want to read the Bible, pray, meditate or do anything spiritual at all. I’d rather play Angry Birds, read a book, watch TV, go for a walk, check my e-mail, get ready for a meeting, or have a nap. You’re not alone in your struggle to stay consistent in your daily Bible reading and prayer life. I’m right there with you. I just thought you should know that. Pray for me just as I’m praying for you.
4. “My job is not as cushy as it looks.”
I know some of you fantasize about being pastors because you think it’s such an easy job. Buddy, you have no idea. I may not have much heavy lifting to do, but things do get pretty heavy sometimes. I have a deep love and passion for this church and this city and spend more hours thinking, praying, serving and weeping over them than I can remember. I have a heart for seeing people come to Jesus, but it always feels like our ministries are going uphill with a headwind. There are so many things I want to see done, but I can’t seem to get people to come with me to do them. There are days I feel like Sisyphus, perpetually rolling his stone uphill only to watch it roll back down again.
And listen, You might be moved or convicted by one sermon every three months, but I am trying to let every one of them penetrate my heart, every week. On top of that, I have people call me out of the blue with every problem under the sun. They need money, a friend, a job, a place to live, protection from an abuser, freedom from an addiction or an answer from God (they think I can get it for them)— the chain of hurt never ends. And despite my efforts and prayers, I watch marriages and families break up right in front of me—and can’t do anything about it. There are days that I want to do something else—anything else—because being a pastor hurts so much. Some days the only thing that keeps me in this job is remembering that I didn’t choose it: I was chosen for it.
5. “I feel pretty insecure at times.”
I have the only job I know of where, even if you are doing your job right, if people don’t like you they can vote you out. Imagine walking around feeling that not only is everyone in the community and congregation watching you, but as James 3:1 says, God is going to judge you more strictly than most people. That’s a tough row to hoe. I’m not insecure about my salvation, or God’s love for me, but I get a lot of feedback and it gets to me sometimes.
I don’t know why, but people feel free to criticize everything from how I dress to how I parent my children, and everything in between. I once sent someone a birthday card and they called me to tell me that they didn’t like it (true story!)
Everyone seems to know how to do my job better, and they’re not afraid to tell me. “Pastor, what we need is more _______ (outreach, hymns, new songs, prayer, fasting, potlucks, dieting, events, announcements, recycling, small groups, Bible studies…).” “Pastor, we need to do less ________ (arguing, worrying, meetings, technology, eating, hymns, new songs, preaching, new stuff, old stuff…).”
You know when you sent me that email “just to point out a few things”? Well, I got 10 of those and four phone calls—on my day off.
6. “I don’t want to talk to you right before service.”
Listen, I love you. I really do! I want to talk to you, hear about your life, your worries, cares, concerns and what God is doing to and through you, your family, your friends and even your pet Chihuahua. I carry a cell phone and publish my home number and e-mail in the directory so you can get a hold of me anytime. I have office hours at church and make myself available for meetings in the evenings. I promise that I will be thrilled to chat about anything that is on your mind during any of the other 164 hours in the week. But PLEASE, for the love of Pete, let me have that little bit of time before service without hearing a bunch of problems, conflicts and issues that I can’t possibly fix before service starts.
What do I want? Pray for me. Give me a pat on the shoulder say, “Love you, Pastor!” or throw out a hearty “Go get-em!” Ask me if there is anything you can do to help (or better yet, find some way to help without asking), or just give me a smile. Like an athlete before a big game, I’m trying to get in the zone and there is a lot of spiritual opposition working against me, and I need your help.
7. “I’m lonely.”
Believe it or not, I don’t have a lot of friends. Sure, I talk to a lot of people, and care for them, and go to a lot of events and even have fun. But when it comes to having a real, tried-and-true, say-anything-to friend, I don’t have one. And if I’m like most pastors, then I probably don’t have any extended family around either because I moved away from them. Sure, I get along with people, but most folks don’t understand what I do or the struggles I’m going through. On top of that, if I get vulnerable with the wrong person, they could use it against me. Trust me, it’s happened before. So, I guard myself, my ministry, my family, and yes, even you, from the fallout that can happen if I get double-crossed by someone who I thought was my friend. And the cost is that sometimes I feel very lonely.
I hope this helps you love your pastor more and better. Your pastor is probably not the exception, even though he might hide it well. Pray for him. Take care of him. Cut him some slack and help him out. Being a pastor is a tough job and he needs your love, support, prayers, encouragement and willingness to stand up for him when the going gets tough. Thanks for listening.