October is Pastor Appreciation Month and to kick it off, I decided to put together a compilation of heartfelt things pastors wish they could say to their congregations. I gathered these insights from various blogs and websites, and added a few of my own observations.
Please hear me clearly. Most pastors love church members dearly. They truly care for those they serve.
But pastors are human.
And there are times they would like church members to know some things about them.
#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 desire to see it thrive. Therefore when you leave to go to another church because…
- you’re bothered by a recent decision, but didn’t ask about it…
- the new church has a better kids ministry, youth group, worship team, building…
- 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.
We wish people would make a decision about a church home and stick with it. Whatever happened to loyalty? These days, many families are content to float in and out of churches like spiritual butterflies, never setting down roots or establishing deep relationships. Churches should not be treated like Target and Wal-Mart, where you can hop in and out according to which one has the best deal going this week. If you want to stay, then stay and be a fully functioning member. If you want to leave, we hope you find a church home that’s a good fit. But please don’t come expecting to only receive and never contribute your time and resources.
#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 nearby 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 cannot show up at every place all of you would like us to be.”
We joke amongst ourselves that we wish we could be omnipresent. We love you church members, but it is physically impossible to be all the places you expect us to be. And, we always take into consideration the importance and value of the event, but sometimes we make mistakes, we forget, we oversleep, and yes, sometimes, we are just too exhausted. We know our schedules and time constraints, and we have to do what’s best for us so that we can be the best for you.
#4. “Not all of our sermons will be ‘home runs.’”
We wish they were. But with the number of messages we have to prepare and preach in a year, we won’t always be the stellar preacher you want us to be. In fact, we won’t always be the stellar preachers we want to be. Please don’t criticize us or ask us to do something right before we preach. We put many hours into sermon preparation. We have prayed with intensity about the message. Please don’t complain about the worship center being too cold right before we preach
#5. “We struggle when the church numbers are down.”
We know we shouldn’t. We know we shouldn’t derive our worth based on attendance and offerings. But when attendance declines or offerings drop, we question our own leadership at the church. The absence of growth in our churches can cascade into an internal turmoil by which we begin to scrounge for “The Next Big Thing” that will bring “Radical Growth” “Guaranteed.” So we read books on how to be a “Deep & Wide, Vertical, Purpose Driven, Radical Reformission, Creature of the Word, Big Idea, Center Church.” Then we jet off to a conference with thousands of other pastors who are seeking to glean the secret of success. And what is the first question we ask one another between sessions? “So, how big is your church?” Yep, we measure ourselves by the numbers.
#6. “We wish you knew how much we need your help.”
You can pretty much assume that in any given church, 20% of the people do 80% of the work. It takes a small army of volunteers to make things happen each week. Most people come to church and don’t think about how the sound is operated, the communion is prepared, the chairs are arranged, or how any of a hundred other large and small tasks get done. When you give your time, even just an hour or two a week to volunteer, it makes a tremendous difference. And not just for a week or a year—it makes a difference for eternity.
#7. “We wish you would come to us personally (and privately) when you have a complaint.”
Don’t use the guest connection inserts to gripe about anything. Don’t write an anonymous letter. Don’t talk to someone else about the issue. And please don’t air your grievance on social media! Please, come to us personally if you are unhappy about something we have done (or haven’t done). In addition, don’t complain about a problem unless you plan to be part of the solution.
#8. “We hurt deeply when good people don’t defend us.”
Every leader will have his or her critics; and that is certainly the case with pastors. We don’t expect to be immune from criticisms. But what hurts us the most is the silence of “good” members when we are attacked unfairly. Please say a kind word about us in response to the negativity you hear. Don’t let the few critics dominate the conversation.
#9. “We wish more people would trust God with their money.”
Any time we teach about stewardship, it’s an uphill battle because everyone believes the church only talks about money. It’s definitely not all about money, but it’s pretty high on the priority list of teaching topics. The reason is money touches every aspect of your life. There is a spiritual component to money that we can’t dismiss. We’ve seen it many times: when you begin to trust God with your money and use it according to His principles, strange (but good!) things begin to happen. We wish more people would take that step of faith and experience the blessings God has in store for them.
#10. “We wish you knew how much we need a sabbatical.”
Most people don’t understand the purpose of a sabbatical. It’s not a vacation, but rather a purposeful break from the regular responsibilities of ministry in order to get recharged and renewed. Because we’re on call 24/7, we often feel exhausted and depleted. We realize most other working people feel tired as well, but ministry brings a unique kind of fatigue—a fatigue not just of the body, but of the heart, mind and soul. A sabbatical is a great investment in a pastor to help ensure long-term ministry. It’s also a signal that you care as much about his well-being as his work for the church.
#11. “We wish you knew how much your encouragement means.”
We are often much more discouraged than you realize. We usually do a pretty good job of hiding it. But to be perfectly honest, the weight of leadership, the criticism, the pressure, the expectations, and the spiritual attacks are sometimes more than we and our spouses can bear. When you send us an encouraging email or note, when you pray for us personally, when you show love to our family, when you offer to help…that’s huge. Your encouragement can turn our whole week around.
#12. “We wish you knew our intentions are always for the betterment of the church.”
It may not make sense, it may take time (a lot of time) but we want only the best for God’s church.