What You Wish People Knew
Is there something you wish people understood about pastors and pastoring? This doesn’t have to be about you personally, but something that would help people better understand, relate to, and receive from their pastor.
I wish people knew how much we really do love and care about them. As pastors, we have to consider the “big picture” as we lead. We do not have the luxury of being focused on only one area of ministry. We do care about each area where people are serving, but sometimes it may not appear that way. I wish people knew just how much we appreciate everyone on every team. The Bible shows that being a pastor means to be an overseer. Keeping the “big picture” in sight while ensuring each individual area is cared for is challenging. We don’t always get it right, but it doesn’t mean we don’t care.
Thanks to everyone who serves so faithfully in our churches.
First of all, pastors are people with feelings, desires, and dreams. They feel hurt and sadness, disappointment, like anyone else.
Second, that they are not God and don’t have all the answers. Sometimes they just don’t know. Because of this, they have to do the Bible like everyone else. God first, family second, and job (pastoring) third. They don’t have any more power than other Christians do to live according to the Word of God. I believe that if people understood this, they might be more respectful and kind to their pastors.
The last one is that no pastor—no person—is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.
The pastoral ministry must be received. It is similar to what Jesus taught about a prophet and a righteous man in Matthew 10:41 where He said, “He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward.” In other words, just because a person attends church services does not mean they have received a pastor in the name of a pastor (they may receive him as a teacher but won’t ever receive direction or correction). Some stay in a church for many years but don’t ever give the pastor the proper place in their life. Others pop around from church to church without ever giving a pastor a right to “call” them on anything that they are doing. If a person can come and go from a church with either no communication at all or simply a “God told me to leave” without giving a pastor a place to override, they have never been pastored. This is often why they never find green pastures and still waters.
The Lord shepherds through shepherds. A couple once came to tell me they were leaving the church. They had been attending for probably 10 years. I just told them I was sorry to hear that and wished them the best. When asked by staff if I thought they were making the right decision, I said, “no.” They replied, “Why didn’t you tell them?” I said it was because I was not their pastor. Maybe I used to be or maybe I never was…I don’t know. But, their informing me instead of asking a question revealed that my words didn’t carry any decision-making weight in their lives. Obviously, I’m not talking about controlling people or advising that they run all decisions through their pastor, but there are some big decisions in life that the gifting of the pastoral office could be utilized to help people get it right.
John: Pastors are human beings with needs and feelings like everyone else. A pastor who is called to lead a church has the desire to see his people succeed and for the church to grow. He has left everything and everyone he knows and has moved his life and family to a foreign place.
He doesn’t want everyone to be his friend, but he could do with people being friendly. [He would appreciate] any help they can give him and his family. He is not responsible for what the former pastor did or did not do and should be allowed to be himself.
A pastor wants help if he is going to succeed. If everyone did what they were called to do, it would be a joy to pastor and not a pain.
Laura: I think that people should not be so quick to expect perfection from their Pastors, and to realize that God is still working on us too.
Especially with children, we need space to let them be free from over expectations of being mature when they are still kids. I have seen people take out their frustrations on other Pastor’s kids when they thought no one was watching.
I started out with just one thought and as I started writing, more kept coming.
One thing that I learned only after becoming a pastor is that pastors are a gift and God places gifts in them for others. The gifts that are inside of a pastor need to be valued and pulled on. I learned this several ways. At first, when God called me to be a pastor, I thought, “what do I have to give people?” I had to learn to rely on this gift. I also realized it as I was preaching; as people were hungry, they pulled information out of me that I didn’t know was in there.
Another thing I realized, you can never fully know the heart, the burden, the love, the joy, the sorrow, or the frustration, of being a pastor unless you are or have been a pastor.
Pastors are not anointed to live holy. Pastors deal with temptation with the flesh and they have strengths and weaknesses. People expect love, forgiveness, and grace when they miss it, but aren’t as quick to extend it.
People expect the pastor to walk in the strengths they possess. People with good time management skills expect the pastor to be early all the time. People gifted with financial skills can’t understand the decisions a pastor may make financially. The point is, the pastor can’t live up to the expectations that people put on them.
There are many decisions a pastor has to make that are not going to please someone. From where you locate the church, what day you have bible study, what time it starts, what time it ends, how loud to put the music, who sings in worship, how many songs to sing, how long the preaching should be, where to go on a retreat, how to treat someone who messes up, and many more.
I think the most important thing I wish people knew is how important it is for every person to share a portion of the load. Many people desire to help and serve at church, but they are waiting for when they have time to do something big for God. If everyone was faithful to do a small part, it has big results. As a pitcher I rely on my fielders to catch the ball when it’s hit. If someone said, “I can’t play the whole game, so I won’t come at all,” a position will be empty. If two people play half of the game, the position will be filled for the whole game. I would even rather a person play half of a game and cover the position for half of a game rather than not at all. If you are a great shortstop and you don’t show up, they will have to put someone there that is out of position. There is an unwritten “law” in baseball, if someone is out of position or a weak player the ball gravitates to them. Another factor that greatly affects the outcome of a game is people showing up unprepared or out of shape. It takes some time after a winter layoff to get your eye back to be sharp at the plate. It takes some work to be in shape to have the stamina to chase down balls late in the game. If you are not at your best and don’t hit a ball or get to a ball, the whole team loses no matter how much they prepared. Ministry is truly a team effort.
Familiarity breeds contempt (see Mark 6:1-6). As a pastor, I love people but must keep them at a distance concerning my personal life. Learning the hard way many years ago, people cannot separate you from your calling if you are too close to them.
#1. That pastors are human with passions and flaws just like everyone else, but with the call of God on their lives to lead people into a deeper relationship with Christ. This doesn’t mean a pastor can excuse those flaws, but as pastors we are to be examples to the flock (but pastors are human, too).
#2. To understand that there is pressure on a pastor’s family and sometimes unreal expectations. So, pray and be a blessing to your pastor’s family.
#3. Don’t tell the pastor what he should be preaching, LOL! The pastor prays and seeks God for what he/she feels God is telling them to share with the flock. Personally, I try not to get caught up in the fads, and latest, greatest “new revelation” that comes through the Body of Christ from time to time. As one pastor friend of mine says; “Don’t get caught up in extremes as all extremes generally lead to error.”
#4. Pastor is a gift listed in Ephesians 4:11-13. Sometimes, because of familiarity, some will not receive from their pastor as they would a guest minister. I learned a long time ago, look to the gift in the person, not the person themselves. Receive from the gifting of the Pastor.
#5. Before services, don’t ask the pastor to make decisions on upcoming events, personal issues, etc. The Pastor is focused on the upcoming service. Make an appointment if it is something that needs to be discussed at length. I personally like to come down from my office 5-8 minutes before the service to greet people, but it is hard when someone wants to carry on a deep theological discussion, or wants you to make decisions not pertaining to the service.
#6. Realize others want to visit with the pastor after the service too. Do not monopolize the pastors time.
#7. As someone I know taught in Bible School (TC), the pastor is more of a general practitioner and teaches on a variety of subjects, whereas a traveling minister may be more specialized and has a certain focus in their ministry, such as healing, finances, family etc. This is okay and why it is important for the pastor to recognize other gifts in the Body of Christ and to expose the congregation to this variety of gifts.
Just a few things I’ve observed in 28+ years of pastoring.
If there’s one thing that I’d wish for people to understand concerning pastors and pastoring, it is this: THE PASTOR’S TIME IS VERY PRECIOUS TO HIM.
My Scripture for this response is Ephesians 5:15,16: “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. REDEEMING THE TIME, because the days are evil.” The pastor is constantly asked to attend events, meetings, celebrations, etc. People must understand that the pastor cannot attend every event that he’s invited to. When the pastor respectfully says, “I’M TRULY SORRY, BUT I CANNOT ATTEND …” it’s because the pastor is using his time WISELY. A pastor NEVER WASTES HIS TIME. He uses his time diligently working in the Lord’s Vineyard and fulfilling what God has called him to do, so that in the end, the Lord will be able to say to him, “WELL DONE!” I want for the Lord to say this to me at the end of my life and ministry!!
There are a number of issues I could mention, but more than anything, I “wish” everyone understood that pastors are also just ordinary people, just like them; and have a “personal life” just like everyone else attending our weekly church services. Yes, as ordinary people, their pastor has been commissioned to do some “extraordinary” things; but I’d argue that every Christian has been given that assignment to some degree.
Pastors and Ministers deal with many of the same issues in our personal life as the average Christian. But for some reason, the personal life of the pastor (along with his or her family) seems to be fair game for more critical observation and commentary by people “in the pew.” As believers, we all need to understand that it’s detrimental for our walk with Christ to project our personal preferences, opinions, and choices on to those around us, and especially our pastor.
Because of the qualifications for ministry listed in 1 Timothy chapter three, and Titus chapter one, some believe that the pastor’s personal life and ministry life can’t be separated. Obviously they are intertwined, but not exclusively under the same level of scrutiny. As a pastor, I’m fully aware that I will give account to Jesus, the Head of the Church, more so than giving account to the members of my church. And yet, I question if Jesus will make every pastor give account for everything in their personal life; such as the kind of house they live in, the clothes they wear, the restaurants they choose to frequent, or the kind of car they drive? Yet some people think that everything in the personal life of their pastor is also within the realm of their authority to examine, approve, or disapprove when it comes to these personal choices.
Most people would agree the Bible emphasizes that leaders in the church will be held to a higher standard of accountability to Jesus Christ, The Head of the Church, when it comes to their personal life and ministry. And I can appreciate the principles of what some would describe as the need for “transparency” in ministers. However, the results, or consequences of such transparency should never be intrusive or judgmental.
Much of what I’ve seen concerning this issue is the result of over 20 years of involvement as one of the founding members of our city-wide pastors prayer group, and as the District Director for our Ministerial Association. I’ve been involved in situations where one of the pastors in the prayer group has been drawn into an adversarial relationship with members of their church because of the choices they’ve made in their personal life. These personal choices, which we all make about everyday issues, did not sit well with someone in their church, giving rise to strife and division.
Having been involved with reconciling some of these situations, and specifically some Restoration teams, I’ve seen firsthand the damage that can happen to pastors and their family when people cross the boundaries and intrude into their personal lives. Unfortunately, the average Christian has no idea the pressure and scrutiny that some ministers experience, and the damage it can cause to their family. Many of us have seen the consequences of people being critical of the personal life of the pastor and his family, especially for “The PK’s” (the Pastor’s Kids). The potential for emotional damage caused by these criticisms can be devastating.
Maybe I’m naïve, but I’m guessing the average Christian attending church these days is very protective of their personal life, and does not invite, or exhibit a “transparency,” or “personal accountability” to those around them, and much less to the leadership in their church. Yet many expect a level of “transparency” and “personal accountability” regarding the personal life of their pastor, or those in leadership in their church (which is rarely reciprocal).
If the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to “Be an example,” then every pastor should take that Scriptural charge to heart. When it comes to our personal lifestyle, 1 Timothy 4:11-16 gives every pastor a simple list to consider…
…Be an example to all believers in word (what you say), in conversation (conduct, the way you live), in charity (divine & self-sacrificial love), in spirit (relying on the Holy Spirit), in faith (faithfulness), in purity (integrity & holiness).
This list is very specific, but also very broad in scope and application. Additional instructions and the desired results are revealed at the close of this passage: “…Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all…” The Amplified Bible states it this way; “…that your progress may be evident to everybody…”. Let’s also consider these translations; “everyone can see how well you are doing…” (CEV), and “…people will all see you mature right before their eyes…” (MSG).
I realize it’s a cliché, but in reality, every one of us is a “work in progress!” Our personal journey through life, and the various stages of our maturity in Christ, are observable by those around us. Pastors, like all believers, should be conscious that our personal life should not cause someone to “stumble” because of their example.
If a person takes on the wrong attitude, they can become critical, or even judgmental about the personal choices that others might make. The temptation to stumble can be true in the life of anyone, including the pastor, the church member, or even the visitor looking for a new church home. Does it really matter what kind of house their pastor lives in, or the kind of car parked in their garage? Does driving an old, worn out car make the pastor more credible, or humble, or even more anointed? I doubt it!
Let me relate some personal experience that speaks to both sides of this issue.
Back in the late 70’s my wife and I were involved with launching a new church, and we were very committed to the ministry of helps. This was our first exposure to the responsibilities of church leadership, and in many cases we were the first ones at the church to open the doors, and the last ones to leave and lock the doors.
One Sunday morning our pastor pulled me aside and asked me to park my old Ford Pinto around the block instead of right in front of the church. It was my understanding that he didn’t want people to see that old car as a representation of the leadership in the church, and the Word being preached; which was translated as “no poverty mentality allowed!” Fortunately we were mature enough not to let that request cause us to stumble, and we sought to understand our pastor’s heart. We could have been tempted to see that request as an intrusion into our personal life, and potentially entertain some injured feelings. (Eventually I did get a newer vehicle and started parking in front of the church again!)
The other incident happened a few years later when we started another church, and now I was the pastor. I was standing in the parking lot when the neighbor in the apartment building next door came out and made a very unkind and judgmental comment. I was standing between my Voyager Minivan, and the car of one of our church members, which just happened to be a fancy little Jaguar. Based on the neighbor’s remarks and facial expression, they assumed I was the owner of the expensive Jaguar, and not the practical minivan! It was rather comical to watch his facial expression change when I got into my minivan, and not the Jaguar. It was obvious that he knew he’d made the wrong assumption, and I trust it taught him a lesson to not prejudge a situation before he knew the facts.
It’s interesting that some people think they have the right, like that neighbor, to approve or disapprove of the personal choices their pastor, or members of his family might make. And yet, how would they respond if their pastor made any comment about the kind of car they drove?
Jesus has not given the pastor, or any believer, the authority or mandate to intrude into the personal life of everyone around them. However, a pastor has been given the authority to speak into someone’s personal life when they have been invited. This takes place in the context of a “discipleship relationship.” Developing a personal relationship with someone takes time, and the elements of trust and confidentiality if it’s going to grow into a fruitful and productive discipleship relationship.
As one minister said years ago, as long as someone isn’t doing anything in their personal life that is illegal, immoral, or unethical, then their personal life should probably remain off limits. The obvious exception is when a person is going through a difficult time, is seeking wisdom and help, and invites the pastor into their personal life.
Let’s remember that the Bible warns us that “comparing ourselves amongst ourselves is not wise!” (2 Corinthians 10:12). I would hope that every believer would strive to be mature enough to recognize when they’re being tempted to be carnally minded. Instead, let’s pursue walking in the Fruit of The Spirit, and not fulfill the desires of the flesh!
Consequently, in response to the question for this month, I honestly “wish” people would not project their personal preferences, opinions, and choices on to their pastor, the very person God has ordained to equip them, who is striving to speak truth into their lives, and help them grow and mature in Christ.
Pastors need to be able to relate to the people God has given to them. They need to see that you did not “rocket ship” from planet Heaven to earth as spirit-body-man to judge all of their short comings because you have arrived. They need to see the person you really are, because you lead them more by example than by what you preach.
I really do not have much to say about this. Pastor Sheila and I have done this for 34+ years, and we have learned that people are people—and that includes us.
When we call someone because we have not seen them in several weeks, we are not prying into their personal lives—we care. Most people know this, but some do not. You cannot please everyone. We do our best to accommodate everyone. Again, most people know this.
The church ‘DNA’ is Rhema—not Hillsong or seeker-friendly. They have to be what they are and we know who we are and what we teach.
Young families need to put more credence in the Word of God concerning raising their children and marital relationships than they do in what the world says. If they have been part of the church for a period of time, and are serious about Jesus, they will receive counsel. It takes time for new Christians to give up worldly ideas that do not help them.
I think pastors should be quick to listen to people and hear the whole story before they begin to counsel or give advice.
I think when someone asks for prayer, the pastor should pray right then for that person. This way the person sees the caring heart of the pastor.
Most people understand the pastor’s time is valuable, some do not. As time goes on, pastors must learn to help those who truly want to be helped.