This post checks in at #3 this year. I say ‘this year’ because I originally wrote this post back in 2011 and it has been in the top five read posts for the past 2 years. Apparently is struck a nerve.
Most Lead Pastors come off as having it all under control. Never let ‘em see you sweat right? Nothing could be further from the truth. More often than not it’s more like the proverbial duck that on top of the water looks calm, cool, and collected; all the while under the water his little feet are frantically paddling for dear life. If you’ve never been a Lead Pastor before let me take a moment to help you understand what it’s like to live in their shoes and what often times is going on in their heart. My hope is that you’ll remember these truths the next time you get frustrated and are tempted to become critical of your Lead Pastor. And instead of pouring salt in a wound you’ll be the kind of Staff Member or Church Member who holds your Lead Pastor’s arms up and lightens their load.
1. Your Pastor Feels Overwhelmed by Criticism
People complain about the volume of the music, what I’m wearing, the temperature of the room, that you didn’t visit them in the hospital, that you don’t read from the right version of the Bible, that you’re not deep enough (although they don’t even know the names of their neighbors), that you’re too deep, that I’m in the green room instead of the lobby, that while I’m in the lobby I didn’t say hi to them, that I didn’t remember their name even though I’ve only met them once never hung out with them and have 3,000 other names to know. People complain about other areas of ministry in the Church to them, and even if they handle this well and direct them to see the appropriate Staff Member, it creates a burden for them to carry. I’ve even heard friends of mine who are Pastors talk about having to have security guards follow them around for periods of time due to threats to them and their families. Or I love it when people say now Pastor this isn’t personal BUT…we think if you just did…fill in the blank (it’s not personal but?!!?!?!?). Okay, that might have been a bit of a rant.
2. Your Pastor Feels Pressure from Everywhere
Everybody seems to have expectations for Pastors to live up to and amazingly somehow know God’s will for their Pastor’s life and the Church they’re leading. The Church Body has theirs; the Staff has theirs, the Elders, Deacons or whatever the governance structure is or who the decision makers happen to be have theirs. It comes from all sides. As a result many Pastors I talk to feel as though they’re not only fighting the Enemy, but their fighting the Family as well.
3. Your Pastor Frequently Feels like Quitting
Take a moment to do a quick internet search on “pastor burnout” and the results might shock you. You’ll find pages and pages of articles, statistics, and stories of literally hundreds of men leaving the ministry every single day. Just take a quick look below:
- CNNMoney.com posted an article listing 15 “Stressful Jobs That Pay Badly.” Included in this list are #5 “Music Ministry Director” and #10 “Minister.”
- Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout or contention in their churches.
- Eighty percent of pastors and eighty-four percent of their spouses feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastors.
- Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
I’ve had conversations with Pastors from small churches, mega-churches, multi-site churches, church plants, established churches, contemporary churches, and traditional churches. Somewhere along the road they feel like giving up, some of them have thought about it so much that they even have a fallback plan. Over and over again I’ve heard the statement, “There isn’t a month that goes by that I don’t think about resigning.”
4. Your Pastor is often Confused about the Next Steps the Church should take
Your Church may have a clearly articulated Mission Statement, Values that are actionable, and a clear path and strategy to move people towards maturity but many Pastors still struggle with what next steps the Church should take. I’ve heard Pastor’s say:
“When my office door is closed and no one’s around I often feel confused about what’s next.”
“If God doesn’t show up we’re in trouble because I don’t know what to do next.”
“Here I am at the point of this thing and all of these people are looking to me for where we’re going and there are real moments when I feel like I have no clue where we’re going.”