Seven Ways to Hurt Your Pastor

By Thom Rainer

If you really want to hurt your pastor, then this blogpost is for you.

This past week alone, I had conversations with dozens of pastors. These pastors love their churches and the members. They are really committed to their callings.

But they are real people who can really be hurt.

The pastors I spoke with this past week shared with me seven common themes of the things that hurt them the most. So, if you really want to hurt your pastor, follow these guidelines carefully.

  1. Criticize the pastor’s family. Few things are as painful to pastors as criticizing their families, especially if the criticisms are related to issues in the church.
  2. Tell the pastor he is overpaid. Very few pastors really make much money. But there are a number of church members who would like to make the pastor feel badly about his pay.
  3. Don’t defend the pastor. Critics can be hurtful. But even more hurtful are those who remain silent while their pastor is verbally attacked. Silence is not golden in this case.
  4. Tell your pastor what an easy job he has. It can really sting when someone suggests that the pastor really only works about ten hours a week. Some actually believe that pastors have several days a week off.
  5. Be a constant naysayer. Pastors can usually handle the occasional critic. But the truly painful relationships are with church members who are constantly negative. How do you know you’ve succeeded in this regard? The pastor runs the other way when he sees you.
  6. Make comments about the pastor’s expenditures. I heard it from a pastor this past week. A church member asked, “How can you afford to go to Disney World?” Wow.
  7. Compare your pastor’s preaching and ministry unfavorably to that of another pastor. Many times the member wants you to know how much he or she likes that pastor on the podcast compared to you. If you really want to hurt your pastor, you can make certain he knows how inferior he is.

So, if your life’s goal is to hurt your pastor, one or more of these approaches will work just fine.

But, if you are like most good church members, you want the best for your pastor. So just do the opposite of these seven.

And if you are worried that your pastor will not remain humble unless someone puts him in his place, don’t worry. There will always be plenty of those other church members around.

Do you identify with these seven items? What would you add?


This article was originally published at Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at


  • Answer and have conversation on phone during the invitation while holding up you finger saying wait.

  • I would add:

    *act in sexist ways towards the female pastor, including hints that you just like male pastors better.
    *continue to have a BFF relationship with the previous pastor, including allowing THEM to offer pastoral care so your current pastor gets shut out (and then blamed for “not showing up”).
    *complain to the judicatory about your pastor, then get all in a snit when said judicatory remands your issue to your council/board where it should have gone first (extra credit for not even approaching your pastor first).
    *never read a single thing in the bulletin or newsletter, then start a gossip ring about how the council and pastor are trying to withhold information from the congregation (all of which you’d know if you read the communications).

  • 8. Ignore your pastor. Do not respond to requests for information or help.

  • Some others I have experienced:

    Oh, your wife works, you don’t need that much (salary).

    I guess you forgot how big a check we wrote for ___________ last month.

    Must be nice to get a new truck/car.

    Maybe I/we should discuss your future here with the other deacons/pastors (threatening position).

    Tony Rahaim
  • I would add:
    1) Treat the church like Wal-Mart: only darken the doors when you need something.
    2) Play immature junior high games like staying home from church just to see if anyone calls you wondering where you are
    3) Leave the church without saying anything- don’t return texts or calls or emails. Just disappear.
    4) Leave bad reviews of the church on yelp or Facebook- make sure the entire online world knows how awful the church leadership is.
    5) Share things publicly that your pastor shared with you in confidence- nothing hurts like having trust violated.


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