13 Reasons Your Pastor May Not Sleep Well Tonight

I admit that I don’t generally sleep well, but rest is especially hard when something weighs heavy on my mind. As I’ve served as a pastor and now work regularly with many pastors, I’m reminded of many things that sometimes keep us awake at night:

  1. In some cases, our families just haven’t adjusted to a new place of ministry. Even if we’re excited to be the pastor, our loved ones are still struggling.
  2. A beloved, trusted staff member has sensed God’s calling to serve elsewhere. We want them to be where God wants them to be, but it’s still hard to lose a fellow servant we trust.
  3. Lostness grips us. Family members, friends, neighbors, and the nations don’t know Jesus. When we believe in the reality of eternal judgment, a deep burden over souls will limit our sleep.
  4. Our church is struggling financially. We want to trust God fully, but we still struggle when poor giving or unwise spending might require us to cut ministries, release staff, or even consider taking another job ourselves.
  5. Church conflict never seems to stop. It’s continual. It’s often silly. It always hurts. 
  6. We’re beginning to sense that God might be dislodging us from our current place of ministry. And, the deeper we love the people we’re serving, the more we wrestle with God’s will.
  7. An unrepentant church member might necessitate our church taking steps of church discipline. Nobody wants to take this drastic step even when the situation demands it. Sometimes, in fact, it feels like we’ve failed as a shepherd when the sheep don’t return.
  8. It’s “crunch time” in sermon preparation. Every week, we determine to budget our time more wisely to be finished earlier with our sermon—yet too often, something else gets in the way. Now, the pressure’s on.
  9. The Lord’s convicting us of our own sin. Because we often don’t have accountability, we battle alone and live in defeat. Hypocrisy necessarily robs us of sleep.
  10. Somebody told us this week that they’re leaving the church. I don’t care how many years you’ve pastored, departures—including “blessed” ones that might actually help the church—still sting a bit.
  11. The church isn’t growing. In fact, it might be in decline. We can blame all kinds of factors for the lack of growth, but pastors know that the proverbial buck stops on their desk.
  12. We’re physically out of shape. We don’t take care of our bodies. We eat poorly. We don’t exercise, and we go to the doctor only in emergencies. Then, we wonder why our bodies won’t rest at night.
  13. We’re really excited about something in the church. This is the good kind of insomnia—when the hand of God is so evident on the church that we can’t wait to gather again with God’s people! Regrettably, this cause for sleeplessness is seldom the primary one.

Pastors, what keeps you awake at night?


  • Jim Phillips says:

    Here’s another one. When the sheep hurt the shepherd hurts.
    Wednesday, while I was on my last day in Israel, I learned that a beloved church member died unexpectedly. I was able to visit by phone at the Tel Aviv airport with the now widow and dear friend. The fact that I was half way around the world unable to embrace and affirm this dear woman (pastoring her family now in my 30th year at my church) I started sobbing with her on the phone. Trading home and trying to rest on the planes I was unable to sleep a number of times knowing her family hurt deeply.

    I’ll meet with them this morning at the funeral home to arrange his Monday funeral. They delayed everything awaiting our return. I’m so looking forward to seeing them all having arrived late last night from our trip.

  • I’ve been able to identify with all of these at some point or another. Like you, I’m also generally not a great sleeper.

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