A Letter to the Church, from a Pastor

I’m blessed with so many pastor friends. I have the opportunity, through my blog and personal ministry, to interact with hundreds of pastors every year. After hearing many of their concerns, I decided to write a letter to the church. Obviously, I can’t and won’t attempt to speak for every pastor, but this will represent many.

I actually posted this a few years ago, (now edited) after holding on to it for a while. I was concerned it would seem self-serving. I thought some may feel I was ungrateful. Thankfully, I have good support around me. I’m in a good situation and I have years of experience navigating (sometimes better than others) work and home life, so this is really designed to speak for other pastors. Again, God has given me abundant support in ministry, but I feel the weight of many pastors and ministers – maybe especially those who serve as the only staff member in the church.

So, this is on behalf of some of my pastor friends.

Dear church,

I want to be honest with you on behalf of many pastors I know. You would want me to be honest, right?

It’s sometimes hard to know who to trust.

Honestly, that’s hard to say, because we are a church and, if there is any place we can trust people, it should be in the church. But, many pastors I know have been burned so many times by trusting people. It seems people love to repeat the pastor. They love to share things they know about the pastor – some of which was shared in confidence or not shared with them at all. I know so many pastors who simply don’t trust anyone. They keep their private life so removed from the church and never really let anyone get to know them. It’s not wise. It’s certainly not the way the church should function, but it often feels safer. Be the one your pastor can trust – every time.

We love you, but we love our family too.

Would you help us protect our family time? We like having a night at home. We want days occasionally which are completely ours, to do what we want, with no church responsibilities. No church texts, no church calls, no church emails, no church visits. I know, sounds selfish right? And, we know there are emergencies, and we want to be there for them. But, if your need can wait until the next morning we are in the office, that gives us an opportunity to rest – and be better prepared when an emergency does come. And, do we really have to be at every function of the church? Aren’t there some things others could handle for us? And – please understand this is hard to ask – but since these are my friends I’m asking for, would you consider keeping our kids some night so we could have a night just for the two of us?

Sometimes people make leading very hard.

Like someone said, “Leadership would be easy if not for the people.” We know every decision we make is unpopular with someone. Most pastors wish they could do everything everyone wanted them do. But, we simply can’t. We know we are called to lead the church as God leads us – not to be popular. But, sometimes, we are made to feel very uncomfortable for not doing what people want us to do. And, many pastors struggle with a bent towards people-pleasing. That may make us seem shallow, but it’s true. You can help by being a supporter of your pastor. You don’t have to always agree, but the way you disagree says a lot about your support.

We need a few people who are “in it” for Jesus and others, more than for themselves.

When we find those people – wow – it makes our day. We feel like we are accomplishing something. Those people fuel us for ministry. They are the ones who keep us going on days we are ready to quit! Oh, how we need people who are committed for all the right reasons! Can you be one of those?

We have to wear many hats.

And, that’s okay. It comes with the job, but some things we are asked to do we simply aren’t skilled to do. You thought seminary taught us everything, didn’t you? No, in fact, we feel very inadequate at much of the things required of us. We need your help, but sometimes it’s hard to ask, because we don’t know who to trust – remember? It’s a gentle giant who comes along to support us expecting nothing in return. An older, more mature person who simply wants to bless a younger pastor – that’s gold to us. Someone who simply says, “Pastor, let me know what you need and I’ll do my best” – wow! Go ahead, make my day!

We want you to love us in spite of our flaws.

That makes sense to us, because you want us to love you that way, but sometimes we feel you love us only as long as we are “performing” as people would have us perform. (Wow, did I just say that?) It has sometimes been said a pastor is only as good as their last good sermon. We feel the pressure to be perfect sometimes – yet, we know the temptation people face we face. Pastors are flawed humans too! And, sometimes the enemy works extra hard on us – loving when a pastor fails. Those who pray for us regularly – and really do – those are some of our heroes in the faith.

We feel so responsible – for everything.

Church growth. Church discipline. Church health. Church budget. Church strategic planning. And, people’s spiritual growth and often their personal happiness. We know ultimately Jesus is in charge of all things, but we feel the weight of our role to see that each of these are completed well in the church. That’s a lot of self-induced pressure, isn’t it? But, I thought you’d like to know so you can pray for us better. (Thanks for doing that.)

Lastly, I would remind you – we love you. We really do. I don’t know any pastors who don’t really love people. I know no pastor is perfect, and some know how to show love better than others, but with the calling comes a calling to love people. It’s easier some days than others, but we truly do love you. We consider it a high honor, a great privilege and a tremendous responsibility to have the role in the church we have. Thanks for loving us back!

Sincerely,

Pastor

Thanks pastors, for all you do. A couple years ago my then 93 year-old mentor pastor said it is harder today than ever in his ministry to pastor a church – and he had just taken another interim pastorate. The pressures are great. People are distracted by many things. The church is often not the revered and loved place in our communities it used to be.

Personally, I’m thankful for good leadership and staff around me at each of the churches where I’ve served, but my heart goes out to the pastor who doesn’t feel the support of the church and is the only staff member. Remember, you are doing noble work and you are part of something bigger than today, you and your church! The local church – the body of Christ – is still in God’s plan today and nothing will overcome it. Praying for you today!

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27 thoughts on “A Letter to the Church, from a Pastor

  1. Great thoughts, Ron. I too find myself surrounded with a wonderful support system, to the glory of God. That has made and continues to make all the difference for me in my relatively new role as a senior pastor.

    Keep up the great work, Ron!

  2. Thank you so much! As someone who has been serving the local for 20 years and loves the church, thanks for building into the church and encouraging her! LIke I've said before, you're blog & leadership is a huge gift to pastors, thanks!

  3. Thanks Ron. Hit it right on the head. Can you please anonymously post this to my church's facebook page so that it doesn't look self-serving coming from me? 🙂

  4. Great post Ron. I know many that will be glad you shared. You demonstrated the inward struggle many of us face while also expressing the joy and love in which we serve. Good words.
    Twitter: jacobwinn

  5. I can't imagine why anyone would become a pastor, except that God calls them. Having said that~there is not one pastor who doesn't know exactly what the job involves. It's like becoming a doctor & then complaining about the long hours, no time for family etc. This is the ministry they are called to. To preach & care for all the people in a church. Like I said, why would anyone become a pastor? The job description is never gonna change. Perhaps some pastors aren't really called to be shepherds. I've met pastors who have admitted that they don't even really like people 🙁

    • Yes, it's true that some pastors don't even really like people for some reasons. I teach that we must first love ourselves before love the others. It is okay to like or not to like someone. Never hate them or you'll hate yourself. It is okay to hate their "evil" actions. Always love everyone as Christ commands you.

  6. That was so good. I am so glad you posted it. Because of my viewpoint for so many years being an administrative secretary to pastors, God has given me a heart of compassion for them. I feel as you do, so many of them suffer and hurt. A few years back God asked me to stir people up to pray for them. Pastors need our prayer, so I started Friday Pastor Prayer Day On Twitter: http://www.thebridegroomscafe.com/ssdigdeep3.htm and it really took off because people out there all over the globe do share God's heart for pastors. Thank you for this post, it is so needed and people need to hear it and respond to GOD and pray, love and encourage their pastors! AWE-GOD
    Twitter: kmac4him

  7. Ron,

    Great words to the church. I would add, just after your paragraph on “wearing many hats”, another paragraph. “We need permission to make a wrong decision” That seems to be one of the biggest fears I have and hear from pastors.
    Twitter: Timoty_Rogers

  8. Thanks Ron for expressing what (surely) all pastors feel at times. Even though we’re ALL just pilgrims on the way, we are expected to know where Plymouth Rock is and how to plant corn. Having said that, I know we love what we do, because we love who we’re doing it for.

    • Thank you. I actually held onto this post for a while because I was concerned it would seem self-serving. Thankfully I have good support around me, so this is geared for others. I'm thankful of that.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson