May 8, 2021

How Well do You Know Your Pastor?

Holly at Seeking Faithfulness had a post this week that talks about the stress that is on the church– but especially upon its pastor.  Although I’m not sure of the sample size and its makeup, I thought that the numbers I’m quoting from would at least give you some idea of what your local pastor is going through.

  • 80% of pastors say they have insufficient time with spouse and that ministry has a negative effect on their family.
  • 40% report a serious conflict with a parishioner once a month.
  • 33% say that being in ministry is an outright hazard to their family.
  • 75% report they’ve had significant stress-related crisis at least once in their ministry.
  • 58% of pastors indicate that their spouse needs to work either part time or full time to supplement the family income.
  • 56% of pastors’ wives say they have no close friends.
  • Pastors who work fewer than 50 hrs/week are 35% more likely to be terminated.
  • 40% of pastors considered leaving the pastorate in the past three months.

Source: Death by Ministry « Seeking Faithfulness

Our pastor is relatively new, and has had a lot of things that he has had to overcome.  Before he came, the pastorate as an office had been the cause of a split.  He came in after a year of searching, and walked into some situations and tried to help us get things in order and I this Sunday we will be making a decision about whether to keep our Christian school.

Through this, he’s also come down with something that has attacked his ability to eat and absorb food.  He’s seeking out doctors and has gone through many tests and they still haven’t completely found out what’s wrong with him (your prayers would be appreciated).

I say all this because, through it all, he’s a man of duty, he seeks the best for our church and its people, and yet you can see that it’s physically draining.

Take a look at what your pastor’s doing– and ask him if there’s any way you can be of help.  Don’t take “no” for an answer.

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18 thoughts on “How Well do You Know Your Pastor?

  1. The church I currently go to I don’t know the pastor too well, however before I moved I got to know pastor as my previous church. I think those statistics are very representative of my past church. It is SO important for us to be praying for our church leadership, because the are under a lot of pressure and stress to perform and be “perfect” a lot of times. Great article, Holly!

  2. MIn, sorry to hear your pastor hasn’t found relief for his health problems. Stress can’t be helping. Can you share if your church decided whether or not to keep the Christian school?

    This is such a needed post. My heart breaks at the stats, I read them at Holly’s last week. Pastor’s also face incredible pressure outside the church. I know my dad was contacted by police at two different pastorates and told his life was in danger…they even provided him with a bullet-proof vest for his safety.

    My own heart isn’t pure in this area of “knowing and appreciating” our pastor. I’m getting better, because he and his wife are truly gems, and I always come away from the sermon fed and appreciative. For a long time though, no one compared to our former pastor (he really met some needs in dh’s and my lives, affected major decisions of our in terms of starting our family, deciding to homeschool, his influence pulled my dh from a static faith to one that was active and contagious). I think because we lost our former pastor in a controversial way (half the church voted him out–very painful experience) it has made it hard for me to accept who that half found as his replacement. Not the pastor’s fault at all. Anyway…I think I’ve only this past year come to terms with it. I’ve been thinking I need to do more to get to know this pastor and his wife.

    Thanks for this post!

  3. The church voted yesterday to close our school with 70% voting in favor to close. It mostly came down to the Pastor’s ability to function in the roll, his health, and the number of students. It was sad to see it close, but I think it was for the best.

  4. When it comes to church governance, I am not fully convinced that a congregational form of governance is really the best model. When congregations can and do vote out their pastors, I wonder if it is right that sheep can vote out the shepherd…

  5. I’ve often thought of that too, Stephen. I think at times a pastor has to walk kind of a ‘tight rope’, afraid of falling in essence in the form of being voted out if something goes wrong or just too many peope don’t like him anymore.

    Most of the churches we have attended over the years have had pastors and wives very dear to us…almost a part of our family. We have struggled with this more in the church we are in now…but I think it is more of a distancing with the pastor and his wife than with us. They have been in the ministry at the same church for almost 50 years and I feel they are in kind of a ‘rut’. One of the welcoming things the pastor said to us was that they wouldn’t be having us over for dinner to welcome us to the church because everyone saw enough of one another during the week!! Needless to say…we didn’t feel very welcome! That attitude has kind of continued for the 8 years that we have attended.

    I will be praying for your pastor, MIN.

  6. I suggest that the thing we can do to help out our pastor is to care for one another. Alot of the stress on pastors comes from seeing all the needs and not being able to meet them all. I also purpose to not have unrealistic expectations of my pastor.

    For example, one thing I do not understand is pastors thinking they have to visit everyone in the hospital. Imagine, though, if your pastor showed up to visit your friend in the hospital and you were already there. That would be such a relief to him, knowing that this person was being cared for; he hopefully would then feel free to make the visit short.

    Perhaps it was just the religious tradition I was brought up in, but I get a little bit frustrated with the expectations people have of pastors. I also think they do alot of things to themselves. For example, not having friends. It seems it’s really important for all of us to be in a small group, but not for the pastors.

    I’m not unsympathetic, though, and I will be praying for your pastor’s health.

  7. Stephen– I think that you have a strong point there. The positive side of this form of governance is that there is a check on the pastor, but there seems to be more negatives than positives.

    Deborah– I totally know what you mean. The problem with having a pastor for too long is that the church becomes more “his church” than “God’s church.” That makes it really hard to bring in someone new and keep the unity. Also, things tend to degrade over time.

    The whole pastor/pastor’s wife having friends thing is a minefield because they don’t want to appear to have favorites or have a clique, but they need interaction just like the next person.

    Rebecca– Good suggestions. Especially now that we only have one deacon others will have to stand up and stand in the gap (to borrow a phrase :whistle: ).

    Thank you all for your prayers.

  8. I never thought I would share this with anyone, but, I am a bit disappointed in my pastor.

    I had noticed his wife (our worship leader, intercessor leader, altar leader and sometimes pastor) looks sooo exhausted and tired and always feeling sick with her throat back and all kinds of ailments. To top all that off, she is also a full-time housekeeper, sometimes cleaning 3 or 4 homes a day and homeschools her son.

    My pastor does not have a job and as far as I know, only counsels people.

    So, this really bothers me and I know it shouldn’t, because it is none of my business, but I hate seen my friend sooo tired all the time and always feeling weak.

  9. Deborah, the 50-years-in-one-church is also a problem. As Min says, over time it becomes his church, not God’s church, and those who do not get on will slowly drift to other congregations. What is left is a homogenised group that *may* think they know it all, and will be very hard on any future pastor coming in.

    But the answer need not be the congregational form where pastors can be voted out. Instead, something akin to the methodists might work – where a minister is contracted to the chuirch for a fixed period and must move on at the end of the contract (unless special dispensation is given to extend it to complete a certain work or fixed term project).

    I think maybe the 3 years that the methodists (here at least) impose may be a little too short. But the idea is right. If there are problems with the pastor, don’t worry. He will move on soon. In the meantime, methodists encourage lay participation in the church. And there need be no damaging church splits between those voting for the pastor and those voting against.

    The downside is that if you get a really good pastor, you must share him with another congregation in a few years time. Whilst this *is* a downside, it means that the church cannot rely on the pastor for its identity and mission. And that can be a positive thing.

  10. My pastor recently quoted someone saying that it takes 3 years to get to know the pastor, 3 to trust him, and then 3 to follow (or something like that). In any event, I would think a 3 year stint would be too short, but a pastor should definitely not be preaching into his retirement at a place. Our current pastor was 15 years at his home church and saw that he didn’t think that he was able to make as much impact because of the length of time he was there and the fact that he grew up there.

    To me, it’s definitely something that the pastor and congregation should be aware of– that people can get stale– and should be in prayer over. A good good-bye is better than the other options.

  11. Leticia ~ is being the pastor not your pastor’s job?

    This discussion about length of service is very interesting. I really respect our pastor for how he is handling it. He has pastored this church for something like 19 years and is now moving on to work with one of our partner ministries in town. Honestly, the week before he announced it, I had been wondering if he would ever retire. Not because of anything wrong with him, he’s an excellent teacher and a wonderful godly man.

    But a couple of things have happened because of the length of his service: the size of the church has outgrown his specific skill set and … well, let’s just say, the homogeny (is that a word?) problem described by Stephen.

    While our pastor search team is sorting through hundreds of applicants (many who didn’t even follow the basic directions for applying!), our current pastor is able to stay as long as he is needed. When someone new comes in, he will make himself scarce for a while and then plans to continue to worship and serve with us as a member of the body.

    This should all be interesting to see!

  12. Rebecca, yes it is his job to be the pastor. However, shouldn’t the responsiblity also fall on him to support his own family? And not leave all of those responsibilities to his wife? She is also a pastor at our church and works full-time as a housekeeper, plus, all of those jobs I mentioned above?

  13. I didn’t mean to get the topic off onto the length of a pastor’s stay, but I do appreciate your comments, MIN and Stephen. What you both said has happened at our church. My husband and I are very frustrated with it, but we would never cause any problem and if we felt led to leave, we would do it as quietly as possible. It has just been a source of sadness for us both because we have been so involved in our other churches and on great terms with the pastor and his family. That has just never worked where we are at now.

    I think it was Rebecca that mentioned pastors doing hospital visitation and such. I do think that the deacons and elders of the church should share this, freeing the pastor to study and ‘equip the saints’. One man can not possibly take care of the needs of his entire congregation. Therefore he teaches, ‘equips the saints’ so that they may be able to help with some of those types of things. That way, each person is practicing and using their spiritual gifts.

  14. It is interesting that we have come to expect such a wide range of skills from pastors. I have known ministers who were excellent at hospital visitation, but very poor on vision and leadership. You are right, Deborah, that what is needed is a church that encourages each person to practice their spiritual gifts.

    Min, I agree that 3 years is too short. If I were organising a church governance, I would suggest longer (but perhaps not much more than 5 years… fortunately it is not a decision I have to make though!)

  15. Leticia ~ I agree that no husband should expect his wife to bear the responsibility to provide for the family when it is within his ability to do it, and what you describe just doesn’t sound right. But I guess what I don’t understand is why pastoring isn’t supporting his family.

    That’s another thing I get tired of – everybody crying about pastors not making enough money. Although in this case, that could be a legitimate complaint.

    My expectation is that, if a pastor is expected to work full-time, he should be paid something comparable to what the people in the church make at their secular jobs.

  16. I agree with Stephen’s comments (probably regarding my own) on church government. There’s got to be a better way. I still don’t know what was at the root of my pastor’s dismissal. The only thing I *do* know, is it wasn’t sin on his or his family’s part. At least they were given that courtesy. I think the church just wanted change. He was too good for us!

    I think part of why rural pastors (such as Deborah’s) get so burned out is that they have to do it all…or they believe they have to. Fifty years, and believing that you’ve built the church into what it is, can really lend itself to proprietorship. Somebody might have already said that. It’s sad that it’s actually crippling the spiritual growth of those in the congregation when that happens.

    It’s frustrating, having been there and done that myself, both in having attended at Deborah’s church and in experiencing a church split elsewhere…the one thing I’ve learned is to never participate in bad-mouthing God’s man. Even if I want to be sympathetic. It’s hard to keep your mouth shut when you feel the criticism is warranted. I hate what losing our pastor did to my family, so what better lesson to me of how not to be?

  17. Rebecca you are absolutely correct! Our small church is finally growing, but we still haven’t reached the 100 people point, yet. Well, sometimes we have, but it is still a very small church.

    Thank you, though, for putting things into perspective.

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