4 Reasons Pastors Don’t Trust Each Other . . . and 5 Ways to Address It

I didn’t want to write this post, but I think it’s important. I pastored full-time for 14 years, and I’ve been in full-time ministry for 35 years. I learned early that many pastors don’t trust one another. Here are some reasons why, followed by some steps to correct this problem.

  1. Pastors are often competitive. We may not like it, but our ministry world rewards numbers. Denominations recognize them. Publishers appreciate them. Pastors of larger churches get speaking platforms. When numbers are a source of reward, they also become a source of competition – and competitors often don’t trust one another.
  2. Much church growth comes from “swapping sheep.” That is, one church grows by getting members from another local church. When that happens, pastors sometimes get frustrated with each other: “Why didn’t he tell me they were visiting his church?”
  3. We struggle trusting people in general. Many pastors are afraid to be completely honest about their struggles. We fear that honesty will cost us too much, so we tend to be loners. That fear makes it difficult to trust anybody else, including other pastors.
  4. We’ve been burned in the past. Only one bad experience when another pastor betrays a confidence can cause us to distrust all pastors. At a minimum, it will take a long time to trust another church leader.

So, what do we do about this issue? If you’re a pastor, consider these steps:

  1. Ask God to show you your heart. If you’re competitive, untrustworthy, or bitter, you’re more a part of the problem than the solution. Ask God’s forgiveness and help.
  2. If needed, work to reconcile a broken pastoral relationship. Maybe you’ve been in one of those friendships that ended poorly. In the power of the Spirit, work to heal that wound. Strive to re-build trust.
  3. Reach out to another pastor and be a friend. Trust develops in the context of healthy relationships, so strive to be that kind of friend to another pastor. You might find someone who desperately needs a friend.
  4. Think God’s kingdom rather than your church. His kingdom is much bigger than our own little worlds. If we’re going to reach our neighbors and the nations, we need each other on the same team. That truth should help us let go of the things that make us jealous, angry, and competitive.
  5. Don’t talk about other pastors. If I hear you negatively talking about another pastor, I know you might do the same behind my back. That would make me — and, I'm sure, others — not trust you. 

What might you add to this conversation? 

12 Comments

  • Jon Stallings says:

    As pastors we are very passionate about our specific calling and it can be easy to think that my calling is more important than yours. Last year we were trying to sell our current building. I can’t tell you how many pastors would show up on a Sunday morning posing as a visitor. We would figure it out when we would find them exploring the building. One even met with a sign vendor and got estimates on new signage. He did all this without ever being in the building or ever making an offer. – So yes it is hard to trust.

    I admit I am far from perfect.

  • As I think about reasons 1 and 3 (competition and general trust), I think an important aspect to consider is that when we trust other pastors and are involved in the lives of one another, we allow them to speak into our lives. In essence we are allowing another pastor to pastor and lead us. This very much opposes our temptation towards pride as people in leadership and “in charge”. So we often harden ourselves and do not trust other pastors so that our position/ authority/ leadership/ feeling of being at the top and in charge is not threatened.

  • Ken says:

    The reality is, some pastors just aren’t trustworthy. I know that’s a harsh statement to make, but I’ve been a pastor 21 years and I’ve learned it the hard way. I’m not saying you should be cynical toward all your colleagues in the ministry (that’s a miserable way to live), but you should be careful about confiding in someone until he’s earned your trust. It’s a sad reality, but some pastors simply do not keep confidences very well.

  • Clark Bunch says:

    I don’t know if I’m at a strange point along the journey or what but most of my friends are pastors. Our weekly association meeting for pastors, associates and ministers of music is a highlight of my week that I miss when I can’t be there. At 40 years of age I’m the youngest pastor in our association. So it could be a generational thing or maybe it’s the rural community in north GA we’re all a part of.

  • Christian says:

    It was easier making friends with peers when I was a youth pastor. And I do have a few trusted pastor friends. But many seem like they have an agenda. As if they are approaching me for what they can get out of it, or out of me.

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