First, let me just say that I love the Church. Like, ALL CAPS love. My heart is for the Church. I’m passionate about the Church. I believe in the Church. But as a third-generation pastor’s kid, there’s a discrepancy that I’ve noticed in the way many (not all!) churches treat their pastors. My great-grandparents were Assemblies of God pastors for 60+ years. My grandparents have been Assemblies of God pastors for 40+ years. And my parents have been Assemblies of God pastors for 20+ years. I’ve seen a lot. I could tell you some of the absolute worse church horror stories there are. But I could also tell you some of the most beautiful church stories. So the following is an assessment of the discrepancies that exist in the average church’s treatment of its pastors. Let it be known that I know there are horrible, abusive, and controlling pastors out there. That’s a post for another time and is not what I will be addressing in this post; besides, congregants love to point the finger at their pastor and many of them almost never actually examine themselves. Let’s do that today.
To those who honor your pastors, support your pastors, and are loyal to your pastors: I honor you. You are seen. You are appreciated more than you know. You are so valued and you are such an integral part to seeing the vision of the Lord for your church fulfilled. Continue in faith, honor, and loyalty to your leadership. Love them. Include them. Give them room to lead you. Seek their counsel and be submitted to it even if it isn’t what you want to hear. Because, often, it’s what you need to hear. But most of all, cover them with your prayers. Have their backs. Don’t give your ear to critical or divisive people. Keep your heart toward your leadership and the vision pure. There is honor in faithfulness and integrity.
To those who are stubborn toward, critical of, or un-submitted to their pastors, here’s 10 things your pastor wishes you knew:
1. Being a pastor is lonely.
Because no one wants to be friends with their pastors. No one wants casually invite their pastor over for a BBQ because they’re afraid he will cramp their style, they’re afraid he’ll talk about deep things. Because a pastor is a pastor at all times. It’s just who he is. It’s what he’s passionate about. And people want to keep their pastors at a distance. They prefer to only be challenged in that 45 minute window on Sunday mornings.
2. Pastors are human too.
Which means they desire relationship. They make mistakes. They’re not always able to visit every congregant when they’re sick. And for some reason church folks expect their pastors to somehow automatically know whenever they catch the flu – even those who only come to church once a month. Pastors have limits and boundaries. They also have families. A pastor is a pastor to their families before they’re a pastor to the church. But they still love you and desire to have relationship with you. Those BBQ’s that you invite other church members to, but never the pastor or his family? Yeah, pastors notice those.
3. The pastor’s wife never gets any credit.
Those church parties? Almost always thanks to the pastor’s wife. Those ladies Bible studies? Yep, that’s thanks to the pastor’s wife. The decorating and design? Also the pastor’s wife. The pastor’s wife is often treated like an uncredited extra on a movie set rather than the pastor’s equal. In fact, for your pastors who are married those messages and the leadership of your pastor is almost always a component of the pastor’s wife as well! The pastor and his wife are one. They’re a team. They’re a support system.
4. The pastor/pastor’s wife always get the blame.
That Easter outreach that no one came to? That prayer meeting that was empty? Pretty much no congregation member examines themselves to see if they could have done more. The automatically blame it on the leadership. Because it is apparently the pastor/pastor’s wife’s responsibility to do all the preparation, all the networking, all the inviting. While the congregants are responsible for coming and consuming with nothing in mind but what’s in store for them.
5. Your pastor is under-payed and over-worked.
Your pastor (and his wife who, btw, doesn’t get paid for her contribution to the church) works 40+ hours a week, is never truly able to clock out, and has a rather extensive job description. I can’t tell you how many vacations or family days have been interrupted by a church member sending a long, rambling, mean text to my father. Or being called to the hospital because of a sick parishioner. Or dealing with the fallout of members who hurled accusations and criticisms at the leadership or just straight up quit the church altogether. Not to mention the fact that the pastor of your average church is responsible for building and property maintenance, event planning, scheduling, fundraising, counseling, etc… Pastors are professional multi-taskers because in most cases they’re doing all these different jobs when most others usually just have one job. (Mega churches are a different story, but they’re the exception; not the rule.) Let’s not forget the fact that your pastor’s wife is right there working with your pastor so, often, it’s two people receiving the income of one person. Furthermore, I’ve watched pastors take pay cut after pay cut because the church offering income is abysmal and, well, what else are they going to do? Close down the church? Stop paying the church’s bills? I’ve also watched church members be totally fine with putting their pastors in houses that should be condemned – it simply doesn’t bother them because it doesn’t affect them. But it should.
6. Your pastor’s kids are invisible.
Endless Sundays can go by without a single member of my church stopping to have a conversation with PKs. They also rarely receive honor or credit on birthdays/anniversaries/etc… despite the fact that we’re usually right next to our parents teaming up with them and following their lead. Despite the fact most church members don’t bother to develop a relationship with their PK’s, they don’t hesitate to criticize or accuse them should something arise. They also don’t hesitate to criticize their PK’s parents… to their face. PK’s also have a constant responsibility to carry the vision the Lord has given their parents for the church even if no one else does. They’re under constant scrutiny even while being completely invisible. They’re excluded from parties because other kids are afraid they’ll cramp their style. Because who wants to curse or make dirty jokes in front of the PK?
7. Your pastor is your biggest supporter.
In spite of how poorly your pastor is treated by some, they are more FOR your spiritual wellbeing than anyone else on this planet. Your pastor prays for you daily. His entire job is centered around you. He makes decisions based on you. Despite the fact that you don’t give him a second thought unless it’s Sunday or there’s something to be criticized. (Note: Maybe you yourself haven’t treated your pastor poorly, but it’s highly likely there’s someone in your church who’s treating your pastor like this. There’s always at least one. And where there’s one who’s allowed to speak their poison, there will soon be more. Knowing this, you have the responsibility and the Biblical mandate to shut down anyone who tries to sow division through accusations, complaining, criticism, dishonor, or a lack of submission.)
8. Your pastor isn’t stupid.
You think you’ve pulled the wool over his eyes. You think you’ve tricked him. But he can hear the whispers. He notices how you congregate in the corner of the room and cast sideways glances at him and his family. He notices your vague Facebook posts that are pointed toward something he preached about or has counseled you about. More than that, though, because of the level of spiritual authority he has over the church, he can pick up on the things that are happening in the spirit. Often, a pastor can discern that there’s division, complaining, or criticism happening long before it ever comes to light. And when you finally leave the church? Don’t think he’s the least bit surprised. He’s known for a long time the condition of your spiritual health.
9. Your pastor needs you.
The pastor’s responsibility is for the teaching and equipping of the saints and for the casting of the ultimate vision of the local church. Church growth, though, and the carrying of the vision is the responsibility of the congregants. Your pastor does not have influence in your circles of friends, family, and coworkers. He doesn’t know the people you know, so how can you expect him to be the one to do all the inviting? How can you blame him when nobody new is showing up at the church? Your pastor needs you. He needs you to step up and take the vision and the mission seriously. He needs you to ask what you can do to serve because the likely truth is that he’s spread far too thin. He needs you to be an influential leader in your circles and begin to draw people into the fellowship. He needs you.
10. Your pastor is under constant spiritual attack.
Unlike congregation members who are typically only under spiritual attack as it relates to themselves or their immediate family, the pastor feels the spiritual attacks that come against not only himself and his family, but also the church, you, and your family. When you’re sitting under a pastor’s authority that’s not just you agreeing to submit to and honor him. That’s also him agreeing to stand as the first line of defense when Satan tries to come against you. So don’t think your pastor is just there to control you. Because he’s there to fight over you. That only can happen, though, when you do submit to and honor his authority. If he has no spiritual authority or significance in your life, then how is he supposed to go to war with you?