Nine Stupid Things I Did as a Pastor

Nine Stupid Things I Did as a Pastor

3981364314_d4b30cb739_bBy Thom Rainer

If you want to read the tale of a pastor who really did some dumb things, keep reading.

I served as pastor of four churches. It was only by the grace of God and the graciousness of the congregations that I was called and allowed to stay at those churches. I absolutely love the members of those four congregations, and I will forever be grateful to them and for them.

Frankly, I’m not sure I would give myself a passing grade as a pastor. I messed up quite a bit. I would do several things differently today. And as a point of full disclosure, my list of nine is not close to being exhaustive.

1. I neglected my prayer life and time in the Word too often. It sounds absolutely insane as I write it, but I got too busy for God. As a consequence, I operated out of my own insufficient power too many times.
2. I neglected my family too often. Paul wrote these words to Pastor Timothy: “If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?” (1 Timothy 3:5, HCSB). Ouch. So many times I communicated through my actions to my family that they were not as important as other church members.
3. I let the crisis of the moment overwhelm me. In doing so I did not trust in God to see me through the situation. And I did not have a longer-term perspective to understand that difficulties are only for a season.
4. I perceived most of my critics as my adversaries. Some of my critics actually had constructive input. Others were going through their own struggles, and I was a convenient target. I took criticisms personally instead of responding pastorally.
5. I competed with other churches. Shame on me. Too often I wanted my church to have a greater attendance than other churches in the area. I should have been praying for and working with those other church leaders more.
6. I neglected praying with my staff. My prayer time with my church staff was haphazard at best. The one thing we needed to do the most, we were doing the least. I was a terrible leader on that front.
7. I often worried about what others thought about me. My sole concern should have been how Christ-like I was. Too often I sought the approval of others rather than the blessings of God.
8. I often yielded to unreasonable requests and demands. Instead of spending my time doing those things that really mattered, I gave in too often to the “squeaky wheel.” I sacrificed the great in order to do the good.
9. I gave up too often. Due to frustration, exhaustion or, more often, lack of faith, I gave up on challenges too quickly. I am convinced I missed out on many victories when they were just around the corner.

Those are but a few of the stupid things I did as a pastor. Most of you can breathe a sigh of relief that I never served as your pastor.

So why I am writing these self-critical comments at this stage of my life? I pray that some of you may see something in your own lives and leadership that you can correct before it’s too late. God is able. God is willing.

I look forward to your comments.



This article was originally published at on May 4, 2015. 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


  • Sherene D Smith

    Thank you for sharing. We have start a new church and it has been challenging.. thank you again for sharing your wisdom so we can stay focused.

  • Erick

    Thanks for being transparent. I believe it’s part of the reason people are leaving the church today is there is not enough transparency from the pulpit.

  • Genaro Martinez, Jr.

    Thank you for sharing this, all I can say is I have found myself there many times too. Only the grace of God and the love of the people we serve is what gets us through… God bless!

  • David

    I could add, “I spent too much time being mad at the ones who WEREN’T there and not enough time appreciating the ones who WERE there.”

  • Anthony

    I’ve been pastoring now for over 10 yrs. and I still haven’t perfected it. I have found out though, that the word of God, will always prevail over any situation. Just stay with the word. I have felt rejection, experienced slander, been taken to court, you name it; but God, and His word has always brought me through. And for that, I am encouraged.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Lawrence Kumi

    Thanks for sharing. It will be very helpful to some of us lay ministers. Most grateful.

  • Musa Mitekaro

    Dear Pastor Rainer
    Greetings from Africa. I have been so much blessed by your articles. Sharing your experiences is a great ministry. I am a pastor and administrator here in Africa, you have touched my life. God bless you, your family and ministry

  • Deborah Yinka

    Thanks for sharing your downsides with others. I really appreciate the fact someone else goes thru these challenges in serving the Lord Jesus. I think I get how to serve better. God bless you


    Thanks for sharing. This is a great lesson for all ministers and Christian leaders

  • Dexter

    Thank you for sharing some of the stuggles, and I believe it will help somebody.

  • Jean Jackson Luma

    Dear Pastor Rainer
    Greetings From Haitian Community ( Norwood Church of God in Massachusetts) .

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences with us ,by today I will apply them in my ministry .

    May God bless you and your family

    Bishop Jean J Luma

  • Thanks, when I hear or see someone take a stand for being wrong, I know they are on their way to greatness. Show us oh Lord who we are and how to grow in you.

  • Frank esilaba

    Dear Pastor
    Thanks for sharing. This is a great lesson for all ministers and Christian leaders and especially me. I will use this in my service for Christ our Lord.

    God bless you, your family and Ministry,

    Bishop Frank Esilaba

  • Ps Ray Terborg

    Thank you pastor for sharing with us your experiences this counts for Every ps bishops this is an eye opener for every leader in THE churches today,
    Thank you

  • Pst. Edith Wekesa

    Thank you pastor greetings from Kenya and for sharing about yourself. It is great that one can admit their faults. it gives me strength to know that the struggles are for all of us, therefore we need to uplift each other as ministers of the word of God all the earth. Its encouraging to share and enable others avoid same mistakes.

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