10 Misperceptions Pastors Have About Laypersons

Last week, I posted on misperceptions that laypersons have about pastors. In response to readers and friends who asked about the opposite – that is, pastors’ misperceptions of laity – here’s that list. I suspect this list will draw some reaction from pastors who’ve been the target of angry (even unsaved, sometimes) laypeople. I also recognize that any pastor can find someone who disproves my thoughts. These thoughts are general, but feel free to give me your response. 

  1. “Laypersons don’t love the Lord.” They may not always show it, but many really do love Him. They do think about Him on days other than Sunday.
  2. “They have no interest in spiritual disciplines.” They’ve heard leaders tell them for years to be more committed to spiritual disciplines, but no one has ever walked with them personally to show them how. That’s a major reason they seem to be apathetic.
  3. “They don’t care about lost people.” It’s true they don’t often tell the gospel to others, but it’s not always because they don’t care; sometimes it’s because they’re afraid. They worry that others will reject them or they won’t have all the right answers.  
  4. “None of them likes change.” That’s simply not true. What they don’t like is change that happens too slowly, too quickly, or without explanation.  
  5. “They don’t want to follow leaders.” Cast a God-given vision and lead them well, and many will get on board. What they don’t want to follow is a leader who doesn’t lead.
  6. “All who are older are stuck in the past.” Life itself won’t let them stay in the past. Sure, they miss the days that seemed less chaotic and safer, but they understand deep down that the church must change to reach the next generations.
  7. “Most are stingy.” Sometimes they have indeed spent poorly and taken on too much debt. Challenge them to give to a compelling purpose, though, and they’ll open their wallets.
  8. “None can be trusted.” It’s easy, but wrong, to view all laity through negative experiences with a few people. Some laypersons make completely trustworthy friends and co-laborers.  
  9. “Only a few are interested in getting involved in the church.” It might be that only a few are actually serving, but many who are sitting would like to be involved. Instead, no one’s helped them understand their giftedness or shown them how to get involved.
  10. “They don’t love their pastor.” Even pastors who’ve been hurt can’t press this claim very far. Some of the most loving, sacrificing, giving, and supporting people in the world are laypeople in God’s church. 

Feel free to respond to my thoughts. Have I given laypeople too much credit?


  • Bonita says:

    You have spoken truth and often they are not given enough credit for their love of Jesus. The truth is we as leaders often don’t model the vision and challenge we give them. We want quick change and are discouraged when it does not happen quickly. Let’s walk with them with God size vision and challenges and stay when it gets tough going. We are in a battle but one that we know who has the ultimate victory. Thank you for your wise words.

  • Ken says:

    Good stuff. About this time last year I was really discouraged. Some laypeople had hurt me, and I had just about convinced myself that no one cared. I was on the verge not only of resigning my church, but leaving the ministry altogether. Thankfully the Lord jerked me back into line and reminded me that many people still did care, and I owed them a lot. Things are starting to move in the right direction again, so I’m glad I didn’t quit.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks, Ken.

  • Dean says:

    Great article Chuck. I always refer to Ephesians 5:12 “equip the saints for the work of the ministry” Many lay folks, me included, love ministry just as our paid pastors do. We just get a paycheck from some place else to keep the lights on. I think what some pastors miss with their laity is that we too will stand before God and give an account to Him. So when it comes accountability I’m more concerned In pleasing my Heavenly Father as opposed to my earthly pastor. Therefore I’m going to do a good job in whatever task is laid before me.

    Thanks Chuck!

  • Thanks for the helpful article, Dr. Lawless. Along the lines of number 9…do you have a resource or method you’d recommend to help people discover their strengths and connect them to opportunities to serve in the church?

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      You might look at Rick Warren’s SHAPE process (Purposed Driven Church) or Wayne Cordeiro’s DESIGN process (Doing Church as a Team). You can also find free spiritual gifts inventories on line.  Blessings, Brandon! 

  • Laura says:

    Regarding No. 9, sometimes no one has asked the person to do something (and, yes, some people do wait to be asked because they don’t know where to jump in or they don’t want to jump in where someone is already working). Or the person has volunteered to do something — or several somethings — and been told, “We don’t need that,” or, “Someone else is doing that.” It’s very discouraging to be told that, especially more than once.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.