13 Painful Issues for Pastors

In my years of church consulting, I have spent hours talking to local church pastors. Pastors, it seems, long for someone to listen to them. Listen to the topics of pain I often hear, and take a minute to pray for your church leaders.

  1. Declining church growth – The majority of churches in North America are in that state, and COVID has only compounded the issue. A pastor may put a hopeful veneer on that truth publicly, but I’ve wept with pastors who grieve privately over their church’s decline.
  2. Losing the support of friends – Losing the backing of a Christian brother or sister is a unique pain. When those bonds are severed, particularly over matters that are seldom eternally significant, the anguish is deep.
  3. Grieving the fall of a leader – Pastoral love is not a guarantee against failure. When our pastoral calls for repentance go unheeded, it’s difficult not to take that rejection personally.
  4. Sensing the sermon went nowhere – Ideally, hours of preparation end in focused exposition that leads to life transformation—but that result doesn’t always happen. Few pastors have a safe place to express candid concerns about their own preaching.
  5. Losing vision – A pastor who has lost his vision for the church is leading on fumes. To admit that condition, though, is risky. Not to admit that reality is even more dangerous. 
  6. Being lonely – Pastors bear others’ burdens. They share both the struggles and the joys of life, from birth to death. Consequently, they carry the weight of many on the shoulders of one.
  7. Dealing with unsupportive staff – Facing contrary members weekly is hard enough, but facing unsupportive staff every day is an ongoing angst. 
  8. Remembering failures – Not many of us easily forget that disorganized sermon, that rotten counseling advice, that disruptive team meeting, or that hasty staff hire. None of us wants to fail God or His people, but we do. 
  9. Dealing with death recurrently – Few responsibilities are as serious as officiating at a funeral. Ministry amid such pain without becoming numb can be difficult. 
  10. Facing personal jealousies – I wish no pastor dealt with personal or professional jealousies, but I know better – both because of my own sinfulness and my pastoral conversations. Coming to grips with the rawness of our depravity is never easy.
  11. Balancing family and ministry priorities – Their church needs them, but so does their family. It almost seems every choice leaves someone disappointed, and this struggle is an ongoing one. 
  12. Responding to criticism – Continual criticism is wearying. Learning how to hear any sliver of truth in criticism while not growing angry is challenging. 
  13. Staying faithfilled and positive during COVID – This issue, of course, is a pressing one. For some pastors, the energy they poured into their churches at the beginning of the pandemic has now become weariness and discouragement one year later. 

I love pastors. I have been a pastor. I would return to the pastorate with excitement if the Lord so called me. Accordingly, I challenge us to pray for pastors today.

1 Comment

  • charles kile says:

    Doing community singles ministry currently I have 269 singles without church homes and 759 singles from 420 churches as of 11-26-20 but no divorced or widow pastors to my knowledge. Pastors who are single are lonely and alone plus have hard time communicating that they need a conversation.

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