How to Repair a Church in Mid-Flight

How to Repair a Church in Mid-Flight

(Apology:  For the places where I have occasionally mixed my metaphors in this piece, readers may want to know that this is my spiritual gift . Thank you very much.)

Smiley Anders, humor columnist for the New Orleans Advocate, ran this story this week.

An automobile mechanic was removing the cylinder head from an engine when he spotted a well-known cardiologist in the customer area.  “Hey, doc,” he called. “Want to take a look at this?”

The eminent physician walked over. The mechanic said, “Look at this engine, Doc.  I opened its heart, removed the valves, repaired or replaced anything damaged, then put everything back in place. And when I finished, it worked like new.”

“So, how is it I make $64,000 a year and you make a million when we’re both doing the same work?”

The cardiologist said, “Try doing it with the engine running.”

Repairing a damaged church “with the engine running”–that is, in the midst of continuing operations–is much harder than starting afresh with a church plant and building it right and healthy from the ground up.  You’re making repairs “in flight,” so to speak.

By “repairing a damaged church,” we refer to any number of situations. Some we have encountered include these:

–The leadership is rotten to the core and needs to be replaced.  A small group of leaders have kept one another in office for decades, squelching all attempts at accountability, innovative ministry and outreach.  Major surgery needed.

–The church has no written guidelines (i.e., constitution and by-laws), leaving a vacuum which is filled by strong personalities determined to get their way.  A healthy written plan which sets up orderly procedures for selecting and replacing leaders can work wonders.

–The elected leaders are kind, well-intentioned people but without the courage to make tough decisions or the willingness to take a bold stand.  They need to be replaced as soon as the Lord raises up a stronger team.

–The Sunday School in that church is dead and needs to be replaced by an entirely new structure for teaching the Word and reaching people.

Fixing such churches would be easier if everything could grind to a halt and the church be “put on the rack.”  All the church members could retire to the waiting room and get a soft drink and read the paper. Meanwhile, in the service bay the ministers and other key leaders could open the engine, remove the defective components and replace them with parts straight from the factory with a full guarantee standing behind them.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Leaders will have to do surgery on this patient while the motor is still running and the car is tooling down the interstate.

It’s a great metaphor, and an apt one.

So, staying with the metaphor, the  Lord’s mechanic who would do heart surgery on a church “barreling down the interstate” will need skills in at least ten areas….

1) Leadership needs a clear vision on what needs to be done.

Unlike surgeons in the operating room, pastors cannot do exploratory surgery on their patient, the Lord’s congregation.  If a leader has no idea what’s wrong, he should bide his time and do his work and pay attention.  Do no surgery–i.e., make no large-scale changes–until the diagnosis is complete and He is certain of God’s leadership in this.

2) Likewise, the leader needs an equally clear appreciation for what not to tamper with, the areas which are keeping this engine running.

In a building, some walls are said to be load-bearing and some cosmetic.  Tear down a load-bearing wall and the entire structure is endangered. Likewise, with the church, some things should not be changed lest everything come loose.  Wait on the Lord, pastor.

Some entrenched leaders have been kept in place for decades because they are faithful and irreplacable. Remove no one just because they’ve held a position for ages. Young pastors in particular should respect the veteran workers who have kept the body of Christ functioning well through the years, and not be threatened by them.

3) Leaders will need good people skills.

In the medical field, they call this the “bedside manner.”  Any pastor intending to do major surgery on a church had better build a consensus among the people and earn the trust of his leadership.  The only way to do that is by faithfully serving them.  Given time, most will see whether the Lord’s servant is trustworthy.

4) The leader will need a support team.  No heart surgeon works alone.

This would involve professional staff as well as laypeople. A pastor needs to be constantly building his team, men and women who share his vision and the same commitment to Christ and this church which he possesses.

5) Leaders need courage. This is risky business and some patients die on the operating table.

Doctors often tell patients the risks of surgery as well as possible side effects so an informed decision can be made.  The risks may be expressed as, “If we do surgery, you have a (blank) percent chance of being well. If we don’t, you have a one-hundred percent chance of dying.”  In the same way, congregations need to know what they’re getting into when they vote to do the changes leaders suggest.

Both the patient (the church) and the surgeons (the ministers and other key leaders) should be equipped with Holy Spirit courage in attempting to revamp a church on life support.

6) Leaders need tenderness.

Sometimes leaders have to be very tender and gentle, and sometimes strong and plain-spoken.  If the leader is operating in the flesh (“Well, this is just the way I am; you knew that when you called me!”), many will be unnecessarily hurt and left wounded in the road as the others try to go forward.

7) Leaders need to give attention to detail.

Surgeons must be meticulous and have staffs just as devoted to getting the details right. In the operating room, a thousand small procedures protect the patient from infection and the team from error.

Among the church leadership team, someone should be checking to make sure proper procedures are being followed, that everyone has been informed, that resources are on hand, and eventualities planned for.

8) Leaders need patience.  Often the surgical team puts in long hours, and then stays close-by during the recovery.

Pastors trying to turn a diseased church into a healthy one need to remind themselves that this is often labor intensive and time-consuming.  They should not expect the changes to happen easily or overnight.  This is why the best and strongest churches tend to keep their pastors and staffs for decades. Churches with quick turnover in leadership almost never thrive.

9) Leaders require the full support of the patient.  

No cardiologist would attempt heart surgery without the agreement and participation of the patient.  Likewise, pastors cannot “fix” a church if the congregation is unwilling.

In counseling a young pastor who had taken a church of older members who assured him they want to change in order to become viable, I urged him to stay close to the membership and not assume that one show of hands a few years ago suffices for all time. Let them constantly be involved in decisions and periodically vote to go forward. Allowing them “ownership” will head off many problems.

10) Once leaders have learned to repair the vehicle “while the engine is running,” they should not assume this is a once-and-for-all operation.  As cars need constant tune-ups, churches are always needing maintenance and adjustments.

The exhausted leader will want to tie a ribbon on the patient as he/she/it is discharged from the hospital and take a vacation.  Bad idea.  Just as no patient can be pronounced as healthy forever, no congregation should be abandoned by its leaders who have written their constitution and bylaws, removed defective parts of the engine, and put good workers in their place.  Stay with this now.

We are not saying this is a one-man show and the pastor should do everything himself (and infrequently, herself).  Quite the opposite. And, just as firmly, we recommend that the pastor have close at hand staffers and other leaders who are constantly monitoring the congregation and can tell by the sound of that knock in the engine where the problem is.

Some are always knocking.  Pray for helpers with trained ears, pastor.

2 comments

  • Rick

    This is so dynamic. Every pastor and members of ministry team should be reading this and then have a round table discussion about it. I will definitely add this to my personal goals when I become a pastor.
    Thanks for being open and honest about these issues.

  • Indu Rai

    It is really praiseworthy which the pastors and leader need to learn from it and bring into their practice.Thanks for such precious ideas and counselling.
    We all need to follow it.
    Thank you
    Indu

Seven Myths about a Pastor’s Workweek

Seven Myths about a Pastor’s Workweek

clock-pastorsBy Thom Rainer

It is an old joke, one that is still told too often. You go up to your pastor and say, “I wish I had your job; you only have to work one hour each week.” It is likely your pastor will laugh or smile at your comment. In reality your pastor is likely hurt by your statement. Indeed the reality is that too many church members have made wrongful and hurtful comments about the pastor’s workweek.

Sadly, some church members really believe some of the myths about a pastor’s workweek. And some may point to a lazy pastor they knew. I will readily admit I’ve known some lazy pastors, but no more so than people in other vocations. The pastorate does lend itself to laziness. To the contrary, there are many more workaholic pastors than lazy pastors.

So what are some of the myths about a pastor’s workweek? Let’s look at seven of them.

Myth #1: The pastor has a short workweek. Nope. The challenge a pastor has is getting enough rest and family time. Sermon preparation, counseling, meetings, home visits, hospital visits, connecting with prospects, community activities, church social functions, and many more commitments don’t fit into a forty hour workweek.

Myth #2: Because of the flexible schedule, a pastor has a lot of uninterrupted family time. Most pastors rarely have uninterrupted family time. It is the nature of the calling. Emergencies don’t happen on a pre-planned schedule. The call for pastoral ministry comes at all times of the day and night.

Myth #3: The pastor is able to spend most of the week in sermon preparation. Frankly, most pastors need to spend more time in sermon preparation. But that time is “invisible” to church members. They don’t know that a pastor is truly working during those hours. Sadly, pastors often yield to the demand of interruptions and rarely have uninterrupted time to work on sermons.

Myth #4: Pastors are accountable to no one for their workweek. To the contrary, most pastors are accountable to most everyone in the church. And church members have a plethora and variety of expectations.

Myth #5: Pastors can take vacations at any time. Most people like to take some vacation days around Christmas. That is difficult for many pastors since there are so many church functions at Christmas. And almost every pastor has a story of ending a vacation abruptly to do a funeral of a church member.

Myth #6: The pastor’s workweek is predictable and routine. Absolutely not! I know of few jobs that have the unpredictability and surprises like that of a pastor. And few jobs have the wild swings in emotions as does the pastorate. The pastor may be joyfully sharing the gospel or performing a wedding on one day, only to officiate the funeral of a friend and hear from four complainers the next day.

Myth #7: The pastor’s workweek is low stress compared to others. I believe pastors have one of the most difficult and stressful jobs on earth. In fact, it is an impossible job outside of the power and call of Christ. It is little wonder that too many pastors deal with lots of stress and depression.

Pastors and church staff are my heroes. They often have a thankless job with long and stressful workweeks. I want to be their encourager and prayer intercessor. I want to express my love for them openly and enthusiastically.

I thank God for pastors.

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on December 22, 2014. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

TEN UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS OF PASTORS’ WIVES

TEN UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS OF PASTORS’ WIVES

By Thom Rainer

The pastor’s wife in many churches carries heavy burdens.

Sometimes they are impossible expectations.

To be fair, this post could refer to any church staff person, male or female, so it could be called ministers’ spouses. For simplicity, and because I primarily hear from this group of people, I refer to them as pastors’ wives.

So what are some of these unfair expectations? Here are the top ten expectations imposed upon these ladies.

  1. “I am expected to attend every function at the church.” One wife told us that church members resent it when she is seen doing anything outside the church.
  2. “Many church members expect me to know everything that is happening in the church.” In other words, they should know everything their pastor/husband knows.
  3. “We have several church members who feel free to complain to me about my husband.” So her church has several members who are lacking in emotional intelligence.
  4. “Church members utilize me as a de facto assistant to my husband, giving me messages for him.” One wife shared with us that she received eleven messages to give to her husband after a specific worship service.
  5. “I am still amazed how many church members expect me to function as an employee of the church.” Some are expected to lead music or play piano. Others are expected to act in a specific ministry employee role such as student or children’s director.
  6. “Some of the members expect our children to be perfect and act perfect.” One wife explained that she and her husband were new to a church when a church member confronted them about their misbehaving children. Their outlandish sin was running in the church after a worship service.
  7. “I am always supposed to be perfectly made up and dressed when I leave the house.” A church member expressed her dismay to a pastor’s wife who ran into a grocery store without makeup. You can’t make this stuff up.
  8. “I have no freedom at our church to be anything but perfectly emotionally composed.” This story really got to me. A deacon chastised a pastor’s wife for shedding tears at church four days after her dad died.
  9. “I think some of our church members expect my family to take a vow of poverty.”She was specifically referring to the criticism she received for purchasing a six-year-old minivan after her third child was born.
  10. “So many church members expect me to be their best friend.” And obviously a pastor’s wife can’t be the best friend to everyone, so she disappoints or angers others.

These are some of the comments we have received at this blog over the years from pastors’ wives. And it seems as though these trials are more gender biased. For example, the husband of a children’s minister commented that he rarely has the pressure and expectations that he sees imposed upon female spouses.

But more than other staff positions, the pastor is naturally the focus of attention and, often, criticism.

And the pastor’s family, by extension, becomes the focus of unfair and unreasonable expectations.

 

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 4, 2017. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

5 comments

  • sharon

    Spot on with these expectations; somedays the pressure is overwhelming.

  • Major Ellis

    If you think these are something you should interview the wife of a Salvation Army officer . Yes, he is a minister / ????Pastor as well.

    I enjoyed this article. I have recently retired as a minister and you would be surprised at the comments that come about you even in retirement.
    God Bless!

  • Brian Scott

    Perhaps another demand is being doing and achieving the exact role responsibility and attitude of the most successful friendly and best spuse who has left the church community. The demands are never clear at the start of a ministry perhaps this is a question that should be asked. Whay is expected of Us? If the responsability is achievable then those whom answer for the church are the ones who should then explain to the community whay is expected and achievable. There seems to be a lot of church life run by a few when all are called to participate.

  • Emma

    As an Evangelist and Pastor’s wife of 39 years, one is expected to serve on the same level and with the same perfection and anointing as in earlier years. Otherwise, one’s worth & value is diminished in the eyes of the people, howbeit that God allows a time when His servant is being tried and tested. God’s faithful servant, Job, was allowed by God to be greatly attacked by the enemy, satin, and suffered devastating loss. Never the less, Job declared, “…but He knoweth the way that I take:when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10 KJV). God has spoken and, like Job, my latter will be greater!

  • Monica Anyango Akoro

    Our expectations of pastor’s wives are very high. We thought they should be our role model

Top Ten Sources of Discouragement of Pastors and Church Staff

Top Ten Sources of Discouragement of Pastors and Church Staff

unhappy-man

By Thom Rainer

I love those men and women who serve local churches. I love their commitment and sacrifice. And I wish I could do more to help them remain energized and encouraged.

In this post, I share the results of an informal Twitter poll where I asked pastors and church staff to share with me those areas of ministry that discouraged them most. My motivation for doing so is primarily my love and concern for these church leaders. It is my prayer that this awareness will encourage church members to be even more supportive of and prayerful for these leaders.

Here are the top ten sources of discouragement of pastors and church staff listed in order of frequency. Admittedly, there is overlap in some of these responses, but those who responded often made their own distinctions. A representative quote follows each category.

  1. Conflicts/complaining/murmuring. “I find myself physically exhausted at the end of the week just from dealing with naysayers. My problem is exacerbated by naysayers using social media as their outlets.”
  2. Lack of fruit and spiritual maturity in church members. “I invested two years of my life in him. But his life today is as carnal as it was two years ago.”
  3. Apathy. “The low level of commitment of so many of our members really discourages me. Sometimes I wonder if my ministry is making any kind of difference.”
  4. Church members who leave the church for seemingly silly or no reasons. “It breaks my heart to lose a church member just because we made a slight change in the times of worship services.”
  5. Expectations by members/lack of time. “It seems like I am expected to be omnipresent. I just can’t keep up with all the expectations of me.”
  6. Performing tasks where the pastor/staff does not have competencies. “I know nothing about finances. I am not a good administrator. But both functions consume my time.”
  7. Meetings/committees. “I would rather get my teeth drilled than go to our monthly business meetings. It’s nothing more than a forum for complainers and whiners.”
  8. Family concerns. “The attacks on my wife for no good reasons have caused me to get my resume out. I can’t stay any longer.”
  9. Staff issues. “Every day at the church is stressful because of staff conflict.”
  10. Lack of volunteers. “So many church members seek their own preferences, but are unwilling to serve others.”

Some of the other sources of discouragement that did not make the list but had multiple votes are: loneliness; communication problems; members who hold tenaciously to tradition; divorce/family problems among church members; low pay; and counseling.

Please pray for your pastor and staff. They are under attack consistently. They not only need your prayers; they need your clear and consistent encouragement.

What do you think of these sources of discouragement? What would you add? Let me hear from you.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on November 12, 2014. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

2 comments

  • I am in total agreement with this timely article. It seems all ten problems are growing worse each year.

    • The “causes” of discouragement omit one which I think may be the most critical, the absence of strong, creative leadership at the “top” of a denomination and among its administrative officers. When there is weak leadership, you have a flouderning church and hundreds of greatly discouraged local pastors.

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

I can’t tell pastors today how difficult it was when I was a pastor.

To the contrary, I have to be honest and tell them it is more difficult now.

All three of my sons went into vocational ministry after serving in the business world. One of them is in seminary administration and two of them are pastors. I never pushed them in that direction. I knew they could not make it unless they were certain God called them.

Yes, it is indeed more difficult to be a pastor today than earlier years. At least ten major issues led to these challenges.

  1. The advent of social media. As a consequence, private criticisms have become public forums. The fish bowl life of a pastor’s family is now 24/7.
  2. Podcast pastors. When I was a pastor, there were only a few well-known television pastors as points of comparison to my inferiority. Today, church members have hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors on podcast they compare to their own pastors.
  3. Diminished respect for pastors. When I was a pastor, most people held my vocation in high esteem, even those not in church. Such is not the case today.
  4. Generational conflict in the church. While there has always been some generational conflict in the church, it is more pervasive and intense today.
  5. Leadership expectations. Pastors are expected today to have more leadership and business skills. We constantly hear from pastors, “They didn’t teach me that at seminary.”
  6. Demise of the program-driven church. In past years, church solutions were simpler. Churches were more homogeneous, and programmatic solutions could be used in almost any context. Today churches are more complex and contexts are more varied.
  7. Rise of the “nones.” There is a significant increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. The demise of cultural Christianity means it is more difficult to lead churches to growth.
  8. Cultural change. The pace of change is breathtaking, and much more challenging today. It is exceedingly more difficult today for pastors to stay abreast with the changes around them.
  9. More frustrated church members. Largely because of the cultural change noted above, church members are more frustrated and confused. They often take out their frustrations on pastors and other church leaders.
  10. Bad matches with churches. In earlier years, there was considerable homogeneity from church to church, particularly within denominations and affiliated church groups. Today churches are much more diverse. A pastor who led well in one context may fare poorly in another unless there is a concerted effort to find the right match for a church and pastor.

These ten reasons are not statements of doom and gloom; they are simply statements of reality. Serving as pastor in a church today has more challenges than it did years ago.

But challenges in ministry are common throughout the history from the first church to today. Such is the reason no pastors can lead well without the power, strength, and leadership of the One who called them.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 1, 2017. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

5 comments

  • Scotty Searan

    This was a good article.
    Being a pastor has never been for the fainthearted.
    But for the reasons listed it is more harder, especially if they are a full gospel pastor.
    The fact remains that we are getting closer to the end of time and our Lord Jesus Christ return.
    Satan is putting on his final onslaught.
    You’ve been around long enough and you have seen the churches grow further away from God, gradually compromising till you can’t tell a Saint of God from a sinner.
    Though some churches may have grown larger, most have grown smaller.
    I believe the decline started in the 40’s with advent of World War II. The mothers was taken out of the holy God inspired roll of being a homemaker and went into manufacturing to keep war supplies built.
    Then in 50’s we had the advent of Television and it created a lot of lust covetousness. which is sins
    We let them be the babysitter and we are paying the price today.
    This is a thumbnail version. we pushed aside our convictions, because some preachers said it was legalism.
    I do not care, what people may think of me, but we need more legalism in the churches, because iot kept people from sinning
    Can we as Saints of God agree on what is worldliness?

  • Tom Sowell

    Great article. Two things you brought up I have been saying for years: 1. Social media is tearing the church apart. 2. You need to find a balance between the old and the new. Why do you need to have a contemporary service and a traditional service? There should be compromise on both sides. In my mind this is a church divided, and Jesus said a house divided against itself will surely fall.

  • I’ve been a preacher for over 30 years… I’m afraid I don’t see what this guy is saying. Social media (SM) allows me to stay in touch with folks and I have no trouble challenging bad behavior there if need be. Before SM I had gossipers try to destroy me in another church. It was as bad without SM as it is for some preachers with it. In the same way… most of the other point have always been true as well.

    Instead of worrying about what makes ministry harder, we should focus on how things like SM can make our ministries more powerful for God. I’m told there was a time when Mother Teresa was on an airplane with some of her nuns. One of the nuns came to Teresa and said “We have a problem”. Teresa calmly said “No, we have a blessing”. In other words, that which is seen as a difficulty or problem often turn into powerful tools for God

  • I followed in the footsteps of my father, and I molded his style of being a pastor, not a CEO of a non-profit organization, not a business man, and not a bull-headed and bold dictator. I learned in seminary how to interpret scripture and to preach well and be a pastoral and caring shepherd and spiritual leader. But I kept getting pushed out of every church I served due to administration and leadership reasons. Now I am teaching at a community college and working in the mortuary business and working as a janitor. It’s a shame that one with a M. Div degree is working three part time jobs that have nothing to do with professional ministry. But I am not going to put myself back into that burdensome situation again. Great article . I could not agree more. My father served for over 60 years as a minister, but he served the generations before mine. Many of my fellow seminarians are no longer in the ministry for the reasons given above.

  • Lucas Nzogere

    Yes Dr Rainer ,this may be real in the western countries ,but in Africa most of the issues you mentioned are not applicable ,we still have alot to do to preach the Gospel, actually we have different challenges comparing to you,especially in rural areas ,where we need transport, communication and supports to Servants .People needs to hear the Gospel and change lives, but we are struggling to invest in the Harvest.
    So for you those ten issues may be challenging ,but for Africa no.,

TEN UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS OF PASTORS’ WIVES

TEN UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS OF PASTORS’ WIVES

By Thom Rainer

The pastor’s wife in many churches carries heavy burdens.

Sometimes they are impossible expectations.

To be fair, this post could refer to any church staff person, male or female, so it could be called ministers’ spouses. For simplicity, and because I primarily hear from this group of people, I refer to them as pastors’ wives.

So what are some of these unfair expectations? Here are the top ten expectations imposed upon these ladies.

  1. “I am expected to attend every function at the church.” One wife told us that church members resent it when she is seen doing anything outside the church.
  2. “Many church members expect me to know everything that is happening in the church.” In other words, they should know everything their pastor/husband knows.
  3. “We have several church members who feel free to complain to me about my husband.” So her church has several members who are lacking in emotional intelligence.
  4. “Church members utilize me as a de facto assistant to my husband, giving me messages for him.” One wife shared with us that she received eleven messages to give to her husband after a specific worship service.
  5. “I am still amazed how many church members expect me to function as an employee of the church.” Some are expected to lead music or play piano. Others are expected to act in a specific ministry employee role such as student or children’s director.
  6. “Some of the members expect our children to be perfect and act perfect.” One wife explained that she and her husband were new to a church when a church member confronted them about their misbehaving children. Their outlandish sin was running in the church after a worship service.
  7. “I am always supposed to be perfectly made up and dressed when I leave the house.” A church member expressed her dismay to a pastor’s wife who ran into a grocery store without makeup. You can’t make this stuff up.
  8. “I have no freedom at our church to be anything but perfectly emotionally composed.” This story really got to me. A deacon chastised a pastor’s wife for shedding tears at church four days after her dad died.
  9. “I think some of our church members expect my family to take a vow of poverty.”She was specifically referring to the criticism she received for purchasing a six-year-old minivan after her third child was born.
  10. “So many church members expect me to be their best friend.” And obviously a pastor’s wife can’t be the best friend to everyone, so she disappoints or angers others.

These are some of the comments we have received at this blog over the years from pastors’ wives. And it seems as though these trials are more gender biased. For example, the husband of a children’s minister commented that he rarely has the pressure and expectations that he sees imposed upon female spouses.

But more than other staff positions, the pastor is naturally the focus of attention and, often, criticism.

And the pastor’s family, by extension, becomes the focus of unfair and unreasonable expectations.

 

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 4, 2017. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

5 comments

  • sharon

    Spot on with these expectations; somedays the pressure is overwhelming.

  • Major Ellis

    If you think these are something you should interview the wife of a Salvation Army officer . Yes, he is a minister / ????Pastor as well.

    I enjoyed this article. I have recently retired as a minister and you would be surprised at the comments that come about you even in retirement.
    God Bless!

  • Brian Scott

    Perhaps another demand is being doing and achieving the exact role responsibility and attitude of the most successful friendly and best spuse who has left the church community. The demands are never clear at the start of a ministry perhaps this is a question that should be asked. Whay is expected of Us? If the responsability is achievable then those whom answer for the church are the ones who should then explain to the community whay is expected and achievable. There seems to be a lot of church life run by a few when all are called to participate.

  • Emma

    As an Evangelist and Pastor’s wife of 39 years, one is expected to serve on the same level and with the same perfection and anointing as in earlier years. Otherwise, one’s worth & value is diminished in the eyes of the people, howbeit that God allows a time when His servant is being tried and tested. God’s faithful servant, Job, was allowed by God to be greatly attacked by the enemy, satin, and suffered devastating loss. Never the less, Job declared, “…but He knoweth the way that I take:when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10 KJV). God has spoken and, like Job, my latter will be greater!

  • Monica Anyango Akoro

    Our expectations of pastor’s wives are very high. We thought they should be our role model

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

I can’t tell pastors today how difficult it was when I was a pastor.

To the contrary, I have to be honest and tell them it is more difficult now.

All three of my sons went into vocational ministry after serving in the business world. One of them is in seminary administration and two of them are pastors. I never pushed them in that direction. I knew they could not make it unless they were certain God called them.

Yes, it is indeed more difficult to be a pastor today than earlier years. At least ten major issues led to these challenges.

  1. The advent of social media. As a consequence, private criticisms have become public forums. The fish bowl life of a pastor’s family is now 24/7.
  2. Podcast pastors. When I was a pastor, there were only a few well-known television pastors as points of comparison to my inferiority. Today, church members have hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors on podcast they compare to their own pastors.
  3. Diminished respect for pastors. When I was a pastor, most people held my vocation in high esteem, even those not in church. Such is not the case today.
  4. Generational conflict in the church. While there has always been some generational conflict in the church, it is more pervasive and intense today.
  5. Leadership expectations. Pastors are expected today to have more leadership and business skills. We constantly hear from pastors, “They didn’t teach me that at seminary.”
  6. Demise of the program-driven church. In past years, church solutions were simpler. Churches were more homogeneous, and programmatic solutions could be used in almost any context. Today churches are more complex and contexts are more varied.
  7. Rise of the “nones.” There is a significant increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. The demise of cultural Christianity means it is more difficult to lead churches to growth.
  8. Cultural change. The pace of change is breathtaking, and much more challenging today. It is exceedingly more difficult today for pastors to stay abreast with the changes around them.
  9. More frustrated church members. Largely because of the cultural change noted above, church members are more frustrated and confused. They often take out their frustrations on pastors and other church leaders.
  10. Bad matches with churches. In earlier years, there was considerable homogeneity from church to church, particularly within denominations and affiliated church groups. Today churches are much more diverse. A pastor who led well in one context may fare poorly in another unless there is a concerted effort to find the right match for a church and pastor.

These ten reasons are not statements of doom and gloom; they are simply statements of reality. Serving as pastor in a church today has more challenges than it did years ago.

But challenges in ministry are common throughout the history from the first church to today. Such is the reason no pastors can lead well without the power, strength, and leadership of the One who called them.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 1, 2017. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

5 comments

  • Scotty Searan

    This was a good article.
    Being a pastor has never been for the fainthearted.
    But for the reasons listed it is more harder, especially if they are a full gospel pastor.
    The fact remains that we are getting closer to the end of time and our Lord Jesus Christ return.
    Satan is putting on his final onslaught.
    You’ve been around long enough and you have seen the churches grow further away from God, gradually compromising till you can’t tell a Saint of God from a sinner.
    Though some churches may have grown larger, most have grown smaller.
    I believe the decline started in the 40’s with advent of World War II. The mothers was taken out of the holy God inspired roll of being a homemaker and went into manufacturing to keep war supplies built.
    Then in 50’s we had the advent of Television and it created a lot of lust covetousness. which is sins
    We let them be the babysitter and we are paying the price today.
    This is a thumbnail version. we pushed aside our convictions, because some preachers said it was legalism.
    I do not care, what people may think of me, but we need more legalism in the churches, because iot kept people from sinning
    Can we as Saints of God agree on what is worldliness?

  • Tom Sowell

    Great article. Two things you brought up I have been saying for years: 1. Social media is tearing the church apart. 2. You need to find a balance between the old and the new. Why do you need to have a contemporary service and a traditional service? There should be compromise on both sides. In my mind this is a church divided, and Jesus said a house divided against itself will surely fall.

  • I’ve been a preacher for over 30 years… I’m afraid I don’t see what this guy is saying. Social media (SM) allows me to stay in touch with folks and I have no trouble challenging bad behavior there if need be. Before SM I had gossipers try to destroy me in another church. It was as bad without SM as it is for some preachers with it. In the same way… most of the other point have always been true as well.

    Instead of worrying about what makes ministry harder, we should focus on how things like SM can make our ministries more powerful for God. I’m told there was a time when Mother Teresa was on an airplane with some of her nuns. One of the nuns came to Teresa and said “We have a problem”. Teresa calmly said “No, we have a blessing”. In other words, that which is seen as a difficulty or problem often turn into powerful tools for God

  • I followed in the footsteps of my father, and I molded his style of being a pastor, not a CEO of a non-profit organization, not a business man, and not a bull-headed and bold dictator. I learned in seminary how to interpret scripture and to preach well and be a pastoral and caring shepherd and spiritual leader. But I kept getting pushed out of every church I served due to administration and leadership reasons. Now I am teaching at a community college and working in the mortuary business and working as a janitor. It’s a shame that one with a M. Div degree is working three part time jobs that have nothing to do with professional ministry. But I am not going to put myself back into that burdensome situation again. Great article . I could not agree more. My father served for over 60 years as a minister, but he served the generations before mine. Many of my fellow seminarians are no longer in the ministry for the reasons given above.

  • Lucas Nzogere

    Yes Dr Rainer ,this may be real in the western countries ,but in Africa most of the issues you mentioned are not applicable ,we still have alot to do to preach the Gospel, actually we have different challenges comparing to you,especially in rural areas ,where we need transport, communication and supports to Servants .People needs to hear the Gospel and change lives, but we are struggling to invest in the Harvest.
    So for you those ten issues may be challenging ,but for Africa no.,

TEN UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS OF PASTORS’ WIVES

TEN UNFAIR EXPECTATIONS OF PASTORS’ WIVES

By Thom Rainer

The pastor’s wife in many churches carries heavy burdens.

Sometimes they are impossible expectations.

To be fair, this post could refer to any church staff person, male or female, so it could be called ministers’ spouses. For simplicity, and because I primarily hear from this group of people, I refer to them as pastors’ wives.

So what are some of these unfair expectations? Here are the top ten expectations imposed upon these ladies.

  1. “I am expected to attend every function at the church.” One wife told us that church members resent it when she is seen doing anything outside the church.
  2. “Many church members expect me to know everything that is happening in the church.” In other words, they should know everything their pastor/husband knows.
  3. “We have several church members who feel free to complain to me about my husband.” So her church has several members who are lacking in emotional intelligence.
  4. “Church members utilize me as a de facto assistant to my husband, giving me messages for him.” One wife shared with us that she received eleven messages to give to her husband after a specific worship service.
  5. “I am still amazed how many church members expect me to function as an employee of the church.” Some are expected to lead music or play piano. Others are expected to act in a specific ministry employee role such as student or children’s director.
  6. “Some of the members expect our children to be perfect and act perfect.” One wife explained that she and her husband were new to a church when a church member confronted them about their misbehaving children. Their outlandish sin was running in the church after a worship service.
  7. “I am always supposed to be perfectly made up and dressed when I leave the house.” A church member expressed her dismay to a pastor’s wife who ran into a grocery store without makeup. You can’t make this stuff up.
  8. “I have no freedom at our church to be anything but perfectly emotionally composed.” This story really got to me. A deacon chastised a pastor’s wife for shedding tears at church four days after her dad died.
  9. “I think some of our church members expect my family to take a vow of poverty.”She was specifically referring to the criticism she received for purchasing a six-year-old minivan after her third child was born.
  10. “So many church members expect me to be their best friend.” And obviously a pastor’s wife can’t be the best friend to everyone, so she disappoints or angers others.

These are some of the comments we have received at this blog over the years from pastors’ wives. And it seems as though these trials are more gender biased. For example, the husband of a children’s minister commented that he rarely has the pressure and expectations that he sees imposed upon female spouses.

But more than other staff positions, the pastor is naturally the focus of attention and, often, criticism.

And the pastor’s family, by extension, becomes the focus of unfair and unreasonable expectations.

 

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 4, 2017. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

5 comments

  • sharon

    Spot on with these expectations; somedays the pressure is overwhelming.

  • Major Ellis

    If you think these are something you should interview the wife of a Salvation Army officer . Yes, he is a minister / ????Pastor as well.

    I enjoyed this article. I have recently retired as a minister and you would be surprised at the comments that come about you even in retirement.
    God Bless!

  • Brian Scott

    Perhaps another demand is being doing and achieving the exact role responsibility and attitude of the most successful friendly and best spuse who has left the church community. The demands are never clear at the start of a ministry perhaps this is a question that should be asked. Whay is expected of Us? If the responsability is achievable then those whom answer for the church are the ones who should then explain to the community whay is expected and achievable. There seems to be a lot of church life run by a few when all are called to participate.

  • Emma

    As an Evangelist and Pastor’s wife of 39 years, one is expected to serve on the same level and with the same perfection and anointing as in earlier years. Otherwise, one’s worth & value is diminished in the eyes of the people, howbeit that God allows a time when His servant is being tried and tested. God’s faithful servant, Job, was allowed by God to be greatly attacked by the enemy, satin, and suffered devastating loss. Never the less, Job declared, “…but He knoweth the way that I take:when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10 KJV). God has spoken and, like Job, my latter will be greater!

  • Monica Anyango Akoro

    Our expectations of pastor’s wives are very high. We thought they should be our role model

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

I can’t tell pastors today how difficult it was when I was a pastor.

To the contrary, I have to be honest and tell them it is more difficult now.

All three of my sons went into vocational ministry after serving in the business world. One of them is in seminary administration and two of them are pastors. I never pushed them in that direction. I knew they could not make it unless they were certain God called them.

Yes, it is indeed more difficult to be a pastor today than earlier years. At least ten major issues led to these challenges.

  1. The advent of social media. As a consequence, private criticisms have become public forums. The fish bowl life of a pastor’s family is now 24/7.
  2. Podcast pastors. When I was a pastor, there were only a few well-known television pastors as points of comparison to my inferiority. Today, church members have hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors on podcast they compare to their own pastors.
  3. Diminished respect for pastors. When I was a pastor, most people held my vocation in high esteem, even those not in church. Such is not the case today.
  4. Generational conflict in the church. While there has always been some generational conflict in the church, it is more pervasive and intense today.
  5. Leadership expectations. Pastors are expected today to have more leadership and business skills. We constantly hear from pastors, “They didn’t teach me that at seminary.”
  6. Demise of the program-driven church. In past years, church solutions were simpler. Churches were more homogeneous, and programmatic solutions could be used in almost any context. Today churches are more complex and contexts are more varied.
  7. Rise of the “nones.” There is a significant increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. The demise of cultural Christianity means it is more difficult to lead churches to growth.
  8. Cultural change. The pace of change is breathtaking, and much more challenging today. It is exceedingly more difficult today for pastors to stay abreast with the changes around them.
  9. More frustrated church members. Largely because of the cultural change noted above, church members are more frustrated and confused. They often take out their frustrations on pastors and other church leaders.
  10. Bad matches with churches. In earlier years, there was considerable homogeneity from church to church, particularly within denominations and affiliated church groups. Today churches are much more diverse. A pastor who led well in one context may fare poorly in another unless there is a concerted effort to find the right match for a church and pastor.

These ten reasons are not statements of doom and gloom; they are simply statements of reality. Serving as pastor in a church today has more challenges than it did years ago.

But challenges in ministry are common throughout the history from the first church to today. Such is the reason no pastors can lead well without the power, strength, and leadership of the One who called them.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 1, 2017. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

5 comments

  • Scotty Searan

    This was a good article.
    Being a pastor has never been for the fainthearted.
    But for the reasons listed it is more harder, especially if they are a full gospel pastor.
    The fact remains that we are getting closer to the end of time and our Lord Jesus Christ return.
    Satan is putting on his final onslaught.
    You’ve been around long enough and you have seen the churches grow further away from God, gradually compromising till you can’t tell a Saint of God from a sinner.
    Though some churches may have grown larger, most have grown smaller.
    I believe the decline started in the 40’s with advent of World War II. The mothers was taken out of the holy God inspired roll of being a homemaker and went into manufacturing to keep war supplies built.
    Then in 50’s we had the advent of Television and it created a lot of lust covetousness. which is sins
    We let them be the babysitter and we are paying the price today.
    This is a thumbnail version. we pushed aside our convictions, because some preachers said it was legalism.
    I do not care, what people may think of me, but we need more legalism in the churches, because iot kept people from sinning
    Can we as Saints of God agree on what is worldliness?

  • Tom Sowell

    Great article. Two things you brought up I have been saying for years: 1. Social media is tearing the church apart. 2. You need to find a balance between the old and the new. Why do you need to have a contemporary service and a traditional service? There should be compromise on both sides. In my mind this is a church divided, and Jesus said a house divided against itself will surely fall.

  • I’ve been a preacher for over 30 years… I’m afraid I don’t see what this guy is saying. Social media (SM) allows me to stay in touch with folks and I have no trouble challenging bad behavior there if need be. Before SM I had gossipers try to destroy me in another church. It was as bad without SM as it is for some preachers with it. In the same way… most of the other point have always been true as well.

    Instead of worrying about what makes ministry harder, we should focus on how things like SM can make our ministries more powerful for God. I’m told there was a time when Mother Teresa was on an airplane with some of her nuns. One of the nuns came to Teresa and said “We have a problem”. Teresa calmly said “No, we have a blessing”. In other words, that which is seen as a difficulty or problem often turn into powerful tools for God

  • I followed in the footsteps of my father, and I molded his style of being a pastor, not a CEO of a non-profit organization, not a business man, and not a bull-headed and bold dictator. I learned in seminary how to interpret scripture and to preach well and be a pastoral and caring shepherd and spiritual leader. But I kept getting pushed out of every church I served due to administration and leadership reasons. Now I am teaching at a community college and working in the mortuary business and working as a janitor. It’s a shame that one with a M. Div degree is working three part time jobs that have nothing to do with professional ministry. But I am not going to put myself back into that burdensome situation again. Great article . I could not agree more. My father served for over 60 years as a minister, but he served the generations before mine. Many of my fellow seminarians are no longer in the ministry for the reasons given above.

  • Lucas Nzogere

    Yes Dr Rainer ,this may be real in the western countries ,but in Africa most of the issues you mentioned are not applicable ,we still have alot to do to preach the Gospel, actually we have different challenges comparing to you,especially in rural areas ,where we need transport, communication and supports to Servants .People needs to hear the Gospel and change lives, but we are struggling to invest in the Harvest.
    So for you those ten issues may be challenging ,but for Africa no.,

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

I can’t tell pastors today how difficult it was when I was a pastor.

To the contrary, I have to be honest and tell them it is more difficult now.

All three of my sons went into vocational ministry after serving in the business world. One of them is in seminary administration and two of them are pastors. I never pushed them in that direction. I knew they could not make it unless they were certain God called them.

Yes, it is indeed more difficult to be a pastor today than earlier years. At least ten major issues led to these challenges.

  1. The advent of social media. As a consequence, private criticisms have become public forums. The fish bowl life of a pastor’s family is now 24/7.
  2. Podcast pastors. When I was a pastor, there were only a few well-known television pastors as points of comparison to my inferiority. Today, church members have hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors on podcast they compare to their own pastors.
  3. Diminished respect for pastors. When I was a pastor, most people held my vocation in high esteem, even those not in church. Such is not the case today.
  4. Generational conflict in the church. While there has always been some generational conflict in the church, it is more pervasive and intense today.
  5. Leadership expectations. Pastors are expected today to have more leadership and business skills. We constantly hear from pastors, “They didn’t teach me that at seminary.”
  6. Demise of the program-driven church. In past years, church solutions were simpler. Churches were more homogeneous, and programmatic solutions could be used in almost any context. Today churches are more complex and contexts are more varied.
  7. Rise of the “nones.” There is a significant increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. The demise of cultural Christianity means it is more difficult to lead churches to growth.
  8. Cultural change. The pace of change is breathtaking, and much more challenging today. It is exceedingly more difficult today for pastors to stay abreast with the changes around them.
  9. More frustrated church members. Largely because of the cultural change noted above, church members are more frustrated and confused. They often take out their frustrations on pastors and other church leaders.
  10. Bad matches with churches. In earlier years, there was considerable homogeneity from church to church, particularly within denominations and affiliated church groups. Today churches are much more diverse. A pastor who led well in one context may fare poorly in another unless there is a concerted effort to find the right match for a church and pastor.

These ten reasons are not statements of doom and gloom; they are simply statements of reality. Serving as pastor in a church today has more challenges than it did years ago.

But challenges in ministry are common throughout the history from the first church to today. Such is the reason no pastors can lead well without the power, strength, and leadership of the One who called them.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 1, 2017. 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 facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

5 comments

  • Scotty Searan

    This was a good article.
    Being a pastor has never been for the fainthearted.
    But for the reasons listed it is more harder, especially if they are a full gospel pastor.
    The fact remains that we are getting closer to the end of time and our Lord Jesus Christ return.
    Satan is putting on his final onslaught.
    You’ve been around long enough and you have seen the churches grow further away from God, gradually compromising till you can’t tell a Saint of God from a sinner.
    Though some churches may have grown larger, most have grown smaller.
    I believe the decline started in the 40’s with advent of World War II. The mothers was taken out of the holy God inspired roll of being a homemaker and went into manufacturing to keep war supplies built.
    Then in 50’s we had the advent of Television and it created a lot of lust covetousness. which is sins
    We let them be the babysitter and we are paying the price today.
    This is a thumbnail version. we pushed aside our convictions, because some preachers said it was legalism.
    I do not care, what people may think of me, but we need more legalism in the churches, because iot kept people from sinning
    Can we as Saints of God agree on what is worldliness?

  • Tom Sowell

    Great article. Two things you brought up I have been saying for years: 1. Social media is tearing the church apart. 2. You need to find a balance between the old and the new. Why do you need to have a contemporary service and a traditional service? There should be compromise on both sides. In my mind this is a church divided, and Jesus said a house divided against itself will surely fall.

  • I’ve been a preacher for over 30 years… I’m afraid I don’t see what this guy is saying. Social media (SM) allows me to stay in touch with folks and I have no trouble challenging bad behavior there if need be. Before SM I had gossipers try to destroy me in another church. It was as bad without SM as it is for some preachers with it. In the same way… most of the other point have always been true as well.

    Instead of worrying about what makes ministry harder, we should focus on how things like SM can make our ministries more powerful for God. I’m told there was a time when Mother Teresa was on an airplane with some of her nuns. One of the nuns came to Teresa and said “We have a problem”. Teresa calmly said “No, we have a blessing”. In other words, that which is seen as a difficulty or problem often turn into powerful tools for God

  • I followed in the footsteps of my father, and I molded his style of being a pastor, not a CEO of a non-profit organization, not a business man, and not a bull-headed and bold dictator. I learned in seminary how to interpret scripture and to preach well and be a pastoral and caring shepherd and spiritual leader. But I kept getting pushed out of every church I served due to administration and leadership reasons. Now I am teaching at a community college and working in the mortuary business and working as a janitor. It’s a shame that one with a M. Div degree is working three part time jobs that have nothing to do with professional ministry. But I am not going to put myself back into that burdensome situation again. Great article . I could not agree more. My father served for over 60 years as a minister, but he served the generations before mine. Many of my fellow seminarians are no longer in the ministry for the reasons given above.

  • Lucas Nzogere

    Yes Dr Rainer ,this may be real in the western countries ,but in Africa most of the issues you mentioned are not applicable ,we still have alot to do to preach the Gospel, actually we have different challenges comparing to you,especially in rural areas ,where we need transport, communication and supports to Servants .People needs to hear the Gospel and change lives, but we are struggling to invest in the Harvest.
    So for you those ten issues may be challenging ,but for Africa no.,

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