Things I Wish I’d Said as a Pastor

To be honest, this post is both confession and catharsis. I think about my years as a pastor, and I regret both some things I said and things I didn’t say. So, here are some of those things I wish I had said:  

  1. “Yes, I messed up.”  I should have said that after I poorly led through a business meeting, wrongly interpreted a text, blindly placed too much faith in another believer, etc. I could continue the list, frankly.
  2. “You will not talk to another member of our church body that way.” I wish I’d said those words in a kind but stern way to more than one church member. My peacemaker tendency often prevented me from doing so.
  3. “No, I will not officiate at your wedding.”  I didn’t learn early enough to “trust my gut” when I questioned a couple’s compatibility during pre-marital counseling. Looking back, I’ve learned my gut was seldom wrong.
  4. “The Bible is clear about the necessity of church discipline.” Few churches in my day did church discipline. I fell into the same pattern and allowed too much sin in the camp.
  5. “I feel like I’m dangerously close to burnout.” I didn’t tell anyone because I thought for sure I could work my way out of it . . . and I burned out.
  6. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.” I am who I am today because of church members who loved me enough to allow me to grow while they tolerated my youthful mistakes. I’m sure I didn’t say “thank you” enough.
  7. “That seems really immature for a believer.” Maybe it’s easier for me to say these words now that I’m 55 years old, but I wish I’d said them much earlier in my ministry. Maybe just one Christian who had been a baby believer too long would have grown some.
  8. “I thank God for our staff member, __________________.” None of them wanted public praise, but I still did not publicly thank God enough for the faithful members of our leadership team.
  9. “I believe that some of you are called to be pastors or missionaries.” Rather than challenge members with these possibilities, I waited for them to come to me. Now, I’m not convinced that’s the best approach.
  10. “You can no longer serve in that role.” I realize these are hard words to say, but I allowed too much mediocrity to continue among the people of God.
  11. “I appreciate your thoughts, but that’s not really the point of that text.” Too many times, I gently brushed aside a faulty interpretation of a text. Now, I would still be gentle, but I’m much more inclined to raise issues when the Word is wrongly interpreted. Too much is often at stake.
  12. “Please forgive me.” My mistakes were numerous, and I offended folks along the way. I wish I’d run to these words before I typically ran to excuses to cover my failures.

What would you add to this list?


  • I’m overwhelmed and under qualified…I need help.

  • Chuck Lawless says:

    Good addition, Tom. Thanks.

  • Pastor Che' says:

    I can honestly say that I have said all these things during my pastorate. BUT I also paid with those who left the church, those who maligned me in the community and trashed my name in town, those who screamed/temper tantrum-ed and negatively impacted the church after the discussion. I try desperately to speak the truth in love… but I am flawed. I made mistakes but I believed I was doing the right thing for the right reasons. No wonder so many are not sticking with their calling these days. Dealing with spoiled, entitled, religious and disrespectful people can be exhausting unless we are grounded in serving and loving Christ. Keep looking up and breathing. Then speak the truth in love. God help us!

  • Sue says:

    “No. I’m afraid I can’t take that on right now.”

    I’m referring to things such as: yet another committee, be it on a local, regional, or national scale. Or another excellent project that someone insists will not work unless the pastor leads it. There are many worthy endeavours within the church and in our communities – we aren’t personally responsible for making every good idea into reality.

Leave a Reply

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