8 Reasons Many Pastors Don’t Like to Do Pastoral Care

Let’s face it, church leaders. Some of us much prefer preaching over pastoral care. Others love pastoral care, but not all of us. Some do it because our role demands it, but that doesn’t mean we always enjoy it. If that’s who you are, use this post to check your heart. You might even be honest with your church and ask them to pray for you about this responsibility. Consider these reasons some of us don't love this role:  

  1. It raises some of the toughest questions. How do you explain the death of a child? The loss of a home to natural disaster? The breakup of a marriage? How do you direct the church member who’d rather die than undergo rigorous painful treatments again? How do you help that young man dealing with same sex attraction?  
  2. It can present awkward situations. Think about it. Entering a hospital room with the smell of a recent bowel movement. Counseling a church member who’s weeping on the floor. Leading the funeral of a deceased person you didn’t know. Officiating at a wedding where the bride’s parents aren’t speaking to each other. If you serve as a pastor long enough, you’ll face situations you never considered.
  3. It’s never ending. As long as we minister to people, we’ll always have some other need to meet. The needs are there when we wake up and when we go to bed. A break is just that – only a break.
  4. If you mess it up, it can harm a relationship. A church member who forgives a poor sermon may not forgive you for not visiting her mother in the hospital. Make a mistake in a wedding, and it’ll likely be on video for everyone – in particular, the frustrated couple – to remember forever. Pastoral care wounds can leave deep scars. 
  5. It can be time consuming. Few actions of pastoral care are simple. A hospital visit requires driving and visiting time. Funerals and weddings demand days more than hours. Counseling can consume your schedule if you let it. Ministering to people just takes time.
  6. It pushes emotionally cautious pastors to their limits. Pastoral care might mean hugs . . . and tears . . . and confession . . . and grief . . . and personal reflection . . . and gut-wrenching, heart-level conversations. It takes some pastors to depths they seldom comfortably go.
  7. It can get in the way of church growth. It’s really this simple: when you spend all your time ministering to members, it’s harder to find time to reach out to non-believers. 
  8. Most of us have had to learn it the hard way: by experience. Even when our college or seminary offered classes in this arena, no class can cover everything we might face. We’re often learning pastoral care as we go. 

To be honest, I enjoy some pastoral care, but not all of it. What about you? 

31 Comments

  • Bill Pitcher says:

    Thanks for the good list.
    Also, many folks within the church make it difficult to do the ministry which they may desperately need.
    Some in the church don’t want “the preacher” to visit them in their homes, for a variety of reason. Many more won’t come see their pastor one-to-one for fear of being quizzed on their personal lives, or some facet of their lives fearing they will have to confront sin. Others, though they know they need help, just won’t seek it, figuring they can do it themselves.

  • Chuck says:

    Thanks, Bill.

  • wcbcpastor says:

    I have a couple of folks – don’t all pastors?- who literally would consume EVERY moment of my days. It does’t just push my to my limits, sometimes it so drains me that it takes hours to recover…hours that would be better spent in other tasks. Thanks Chuck, for being a pastor to us!

  • Pastoral care is not my favourite either. However, my concern is when I hear about pastors spending many hours doing “counselling.” Pastors are not generally trained to do counselling. I meet with the person, recommend professional counselling and pray with them. I know my limits.

  • Skip says:

    The church I Pastor has found us in a season of a large group of older ladies who demand to only see me “the pastor”. And honestly it feels more like baby sitting than pastoral care. It’s been very draining to say the least.

  • Tim Prock says:

    Thanks for a great list. Like you I enjoy some of this ministry. I have always found it difficult on Sundays when I am there to preach the message I believe I have received and am hit with so many of these needs. So often from the moment I get out of my car.

  • Chad Bailey says:

    I really enjoyed the article and agree with you, I to don’t like every aspect of Pastoring, but the other day I reminded myself of how important it is and got off my selfish wagon and did some of that tough visitation and found such a blessing from doing so! Sometimes we just need to kick ourselves and get out there and do it! God will bless every effort we put forth!

  • Ken says:

    I firmly believe one of the reasons so many churches are dying is because pastors are so busy tending to disgruntled members that they don’t have time to focus on serious outreach. Regarding #4, I do offer a small piece of advice: I always warn couples during premarital counseling that something will very likely go wrong in the ceremony. I’ve officiated many and been involved in several others, and I’ve yet to see one where some mishap did not occur. I always encourage the couple just to go with the flow and keep a sense of humor about it, and then they’ll be able to laugh about it later.

  • John W Carlton says:

    I was a Minister of Music and Associate Pastor before becoming a Sr. Pastor. My preaching has improved the more that I have done it, but I always enjoyed the pastoral care part of the ministry. As you have stated, there are some parts that I don’t enjoy. Ministering in a nursing home with members who have dementia and other problems is difficult to do. Thanks for this DR. Chuck

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Thanks for your ministry, John.

  • Philip Fisher says:

    I am in my Senior years now having been the pastor of several churches in addition to 17 years as an Air Force Chaplain which mean lots of counseling. I took 9 hours of psychology in college and about 12 hours of marriage and family classes while in seminary in addition to 6 hours of CPE. The Air Force had me do a year long residency of CPE at Walter Reed. Like you said, you learn as you go and there is a ton of truth in that. I found that many people resisted professional counseling and at that time there weren’t any or many Christian counselors around. Sometimes you have to listen to your people to have an understanding of what they are dealing with and know how to pray with and for them.

  • Rich Behers says:

    … and what you shared is exactly why pastors need to take Clinical Pastoral Education. We hospice Chaplains deal with the above daily. I see all of those “reasons” not to do pastoral care as “reasons” to run to it.

  • Mike Foreman says:

    I don’t usually comment on articles but I would like to add one more. While I realize that pastoral care is part of the pastoral ministry, I do tend to believe that some pastors are gifted in that area, some really enjoy it and yet some find it a struggle. For those who struggle we are made to feel guilty over our “lack of concern” as some would put it. Believe me it has nothing to do with a lack of concern but everything to do with disciplining other believers to step into ministry roles and ministering to each other, which I believe is how the church is to function. BTW I do pastoral care for surgeries, funerals, weddings, etc.

  • Gregory Brown says:

    A major part of ministering to the flock that God has entrusted to you is pastoral care. If you do not want to care for the people maybe you have missed your calling. As a hospice chaplain I weep when a patient asks me where their pastor is and I know they are not visiting. A time when your flock needs you most you are absent. The member and family need you more during those times than any Sunday morning.

  • You could use the same list to describe why pastor’s love pastoral care. Some pastors are just wired that way and live to serve people in the most difficult of times. But thanks for your honesty. Some pastoral ministry is very difficult for me and drains me, other types of ministry energizes me and I love helping hurting people.

  • Mabel Morrison says:

    It takes courage and honesty to admit that one may lack in an area of ministry, like pastoring. Rather than beating oneself up, ask for wisdom from God to help choose a member who is skilled in visiting the sick, infirm, elderly, lonely, etc. There is no reason to get exhausted trying to “do” when there is another who can “help” the pastor with the work that God has given him. Jesus chose 12 to help him and with His Holy Spirit, they did God’s work well. Notice that when these men moved forward, they did it mostly in two’s. Pastoring is a big job, not just a title, so don’t neglect asking for help. Love you!!

  • Coming to know oneself is always helpful in relating to others. My wife and I have taken marriage & other counseling training, and found that knowing and accepting oneself, where you are at the moment, has been beneficial to us in relating patiently to people from various walks of life (Prov. 3:5). Also, I think Mable Morrison’s idea of allocating specific needs to specific people is very wise.

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