It Might Not Be As Bad As You Think It Is

I wanted to share a quick and hopefully encouraging lesson with you. It starts with this picture.


Looks like a pretty nice place, doesn’t it?

Now, take a look at this next picture.


That’s a picture of the exact same property. Know what’s different?


Perspective is your mental view or outlook. It’s how you see things. Consider…

  • You might feel like things are financially tough. Perspective tells you that your church is more blessed than you think.
  • You might feel like you’re not growing as fast as the church down the street. Perspective tells you to shepherd the people God has entrusted to you.
  • You might feel like you don’t have enough people to serve. Perspective teaches you to appreciate and pastor those who give so much of their time.

It’s easy for our perspective to get out of whack…it happens to me all the time. I get caught up in the here and now and lose perspective. I think about the things I don’t have, and forget about things I do have. I try hard to get to the next level or break the next growth barrier, and I forget to enjoy the journey. I slip into leader mode and forget that my first ministry is to my family.

So maybe these pictures can give you a perspective change today. I know they did for me.

By the way, shout out to Kem Meyer who originally posted these pictures in a blog post titled “perspective.”

52 Things Pastors Should Do

Here are 52 things pastors should do.

  1. Evaluate your meeting schedule.
  2. Get intentional with the time of giving in your services. You plan the music and the message…start planning how you set up the offering.
  3. Do something that deepens your own faith.
  4. Have friends, not just colleagues.
  5. Work on the church, not just in the church.
  6. Hire people smarter than you.
  7. Share the pulpit.
  8. Plan ahead.  It saves money.
  9. Understand the people in your community.
  10. Invest in people.
  11. Read the Bible for yourself.
  12. Work on your marriage.  You can’t put it on autopilot.
  13. Have fun with your team.
  14. Get your team out of the office.
  15. Evaluate your staff on a regular basis.
  16.  Let your staff evaluate you.
  17. Follow up with guests.
  18. Follow up with donors.
  19. Communicate the vision of the church on a regular basis.
  20. Ask lots of questions.
  21. Write simple and clear job descriptions.
  22. Send thank you notes on a regular basis.
  23. Communicate to your key volunteers and leaders.
  24. Have people over to your home.
  25. Listen to sermons.
  26. Survey your congregation on an annual basis.
  27. Learn from experts.
  28. Reinvent tradition.
  29. Preach intentionally.
  30. Be generous.
  31. Respond quickly.
  32. Guard your heart.
  33. Learn the Bible.
  34. Finish your sermons earlier in the week.
  35. Welcome guests every week, even if you don’t think any are there.
  36. Talk to teenagers in your messages.
  37. Set clear expectations for your staff.
  38. Lead a start/stop meeting.
  39. Ask other people to teach your staff and leaders.
  40. Preach on money.
  41. Create brand new volunteer positions and make them super-specific.
  42. Make sure your church service is good.  If you have to beat people up to get them to invite their friends, then you don’t have a good service.
  43. Spend time with your kids. Someone else can lead the meeting; nobody else can lead your family.
  44. Counsel someone.  You don’t have to counsel everyone, but your should counsel someone.
  45. Fight for your children’s ministry.
  46. Involve your spouse.
  47. Only work one or two nights per week.
  48. Outsource.  Bookkeeping.  Series graphics.
  49. Listen to feedback from key leaders.
  50. Hire a secret shopper.  Look at things from a guest’s perspective.
  51. Write sermons.  Don’t steal them.
  52. Get out of debt.

How to Be a Likable Pastor

When I was planting and pastoring Oak Leaf Church, I think I alienated just as many people as I befriended.  I talked about how I didn’t really like people (as a smokescreen for my lack of real relationships).  I justified offending people with aggressively going after unchurched people.

I’m not there yet, but I learned a lot about the like-ability factor.

In fact, I think it’s one of the most important characteristics for success.  If people don’t like you, they probably won’t listen to you.  And if they don’t listen to you, they probably won’t be impacted by your life.  So here are a few ways pastors and church leaders can be more like-able.

1.  Don’t hide.

As our church grew in size and importance, I started to shut myself off from people.  Some of this was absolutely necessary, but part of it was an infatuation with going to the next level.  I allowed my introverted personality to become an excuse from secluding myself from people.

So before the messages, I hid in my office.  After the message, I was wisked away to solitude.  I put literal walls up between me and the people in the church, as well as the people in my community.

This was not a good decision.

While it is absolutely necessary to put some healthy boundaries in place, creating systems to help you hide is a bad thing.  Email auto responders that make people feel unimportant and green rooms that subtly suggest you’re above the people can become a wall of contention between you and the very people you are trying to serve.  Don’t hide behind systems that separate.

2.  Talk about your mistakes.

Dr. John Maxwell says if you want to impress people, talk about your successes, but if you want to impact them talk about your failures.

Authenticity is the doorway to like-ability.  If you want people to like you, you’ve got to be real.

Take intentional steps to combat pedestal thinking in your church members.  They need to know you’re a real person, with real struggles.  Whether they are financial or spiritual or relational, find ways to relate to real life.

You’ll do more when you talk about your mistakes (even the ones that don’t end with a supernatural blessing) than you will with subtly bragging on your victories.

There’s an important principle here.  You don’t need to ACT like you’re on their level…you really need to come down and BE on their level.  We are all equal at the foot of the cross, and being in full time ministry does not give you special access to God or secret knowledge on how to live the Christian life.

3.  Don’t complain.

This is something I am continuing to work on.  It so bothers me in other people, but I am tempted to ignore the 2×4 in my own eye when it comes to this issue.

Just the other day, I picked up my phone to tweet about how long it took to order a sandwich at Subway.  Why was my first inclination to complain?  Why wasn’t I grateful that I had enough money to buy food?  Or that I was getting food for my incredible family who was waiting in the car.

Complaining isn’t attractive, no matter who you are.  Whether you’re complaining about bad customer service, how tired you are, or long lines at Subway, it isn’t endearing talk.  Nobody says, “You know who I like to be around?  People who complain!.”

People want to be around positive people.  Positive people are just simply more likeable.

4.  Be accessible.

You don’t have to be accessible to everyone, but you don’t have to bring your systems front and center either.   An email auto responder that comes from your public email address that tells the person how busy you are or that someone else from the team will get back to them just isn’t necessary.  It just puts a wall up between you and the other person.

Sure, go ahead and have someone else answer the email.  You can do it without making the person feel bad.

It wouldn’t have killed me to take some time at the end of church services to shake hands or talk to people.  And I really didn’t need a security team of seven people surrounding me either.  I knew how to be a big boy and have conversations and serve people.

I know of pastors who have open office hours, who find a way to control their schedule yet still be available for people. It might require some thinking or planning, but you can do it.

The Five Common Struggles of Pastors

This isn’t a scientific study, or even results from a poll.  These five things are simple reflections of nearly twenty years in vocational ministry (twelve as a student pastor and six as a church planter/pastor).  In my opinion, here are five common struggles of pastors.

1. Stress.

Peter Drucker, the late leadership guru, said the four hardest jobs in the United States are President of the United States, a University president, CEO of a hospital and a local church pastor.

Let that sink in for a moment. If you’re a pastor, the degree of difficulty of your job is up there with the President of the United States. And we’ve all seen those before and after pictures.

Pastors are under an incredible amount of stress. In addition to dealing with their own issues, they often bear the weight of the struggles of other people. They lead their own families and finances, but also feel the weight of the entire congregation. They have the stress that accompanies their own financial issues, but feel the weight of financial situation of the entire church.

Pastors are leaders, public speakers, counselors, community leaders and monks rolled into one. The job descriptions are ridiculous. The requirements of the job are diverse. The schedules easily spin out of control.

2. Marriage.

There’s a ton of pressure on pastors to look like they have it all together, especially with their spouses and children. A Leadership Magazine study found 95% of pastors felt pressured to have an ideal family.

The pastor has preached many sermons on marriage. But what does he do when his own marriage needs work? Pastors struggling in their marriage often don’t know where to turn for help.

But if the pastor went to the deacons about this problem, he might be fired. Getting help takes a back seat to protecting his job.

Many pastors feel like they can’t openly talk about their marriage issues with anyone. Because they are up on a pedestal, admitting their struggles is kin to abdicating leadership of their church.

For several years, my own marriage was struggling. All the while I was preaching sermons – some of them on marriage! On the outside, everything looked great. On the inside, things were falling a part. It wasn’t until something dramatic happened that we sought out a professional counselor.

I’ve got many regrets, but not going to counseling before I HAD to go to counseling is one of them.

3. Depression.

There’s a heavy weight that comes with being a pastor that most people just can’t understand. It’s because a pastor is more than a CEO and a public speaker – he or she is a spiritual shepherd.

You might think depression is something “other people” deal with. After all, with the Word of God, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, why in the world would a pastor struggle with depression? The weight of other people’s struggles make their way to to the heart of pastor. There are incredible expectations, and when those aren’t met, it’s easy to get down.

Stress, marriage problems, finances, burnout, critics, spiritual warfare, unnecessary comparison…I could go on and on. All of these things weigh a person down.

“The likelihood is that one out of every four pastors is depressed,” said Matthew Stanford, a psychology professor at Baylor University.

4. Loneliness.

Pastors are some of the loneliest people on earth. Lifeway Research learned 55% of pastors, in fact, admitted to being lonely. You might think a pastor is the most popular person in the church, but in many cases, he’s one of the most isolated.

This was my story as I planted and led a church for five years. As our church got larger and my stage got bigger, I mistakingly cut myself off from people in order to “go to the next level.”

I was scared to be vulnerable with people because I was afraid their opinion of me would be messed up. I made jokes and excuses and allowed my introverted personality to keep me from developing real friendships.

A lot of pastors are introverts – comfortable in their study but not always the life of the party. But these pastors need friendships, too. They need to be able to hang out with other pastors and not talk about church growth strategies. They need to be able to be open and honest with a group of real friends without the fear of losing their jobs.

Ironically, the larger your church gets, the more lonely leaders can become.

5. Conflict.

From the deacon who doesn’t like the new direction of the church to the staff member who just can’t get it together, a pastors has to deal with more conflict than most people realize. It’s not all praying and reading the BIble – there are tough conversations and difficult circumstances to navigate.

Pastors deal with a lot of conflict, and dealing with conflict often leads to more conflict.  Conflict in the church carries over to conflict at home.

Make no mistake about it, being a pastor is a tough gig.  There are too many many casualties.  In a coming post, I’ll share some ideas on how we can begin to solve this problem.

Five Things Pastors Should Never Say

I’ve said some of these things before, and when I’ve said them I’ve been wrong.  But here is a list of six things pastors shouldn’t say.

1. Pastoring a church is so hard and so different from every other job.

It’s time to stop whining about how hard you have it. Publicly discussing the “holy hangover”, the emotional Monday morning effect that comes from preaching multiple times on Sunday might earn you sympathy points with other pastors, but most regular church members think it’s silly. In their minds (and remember, perception is reality for most people), you stood in front of people for an hour and talked – something they would love to do on a regular basis instead of working the night shift or meeting a sales quota.

Other pastors understand the spiritual battle and the emotionally draining reality of leading a church, but trying to convince your congregation of this will make you seem out of touch. And in some ways, full-time pastors who set much of their own schedules and have work meetings over Starbucks or lunch, have things much more manageable schedule than the cashier who stands on her feet for ten hours or the teacher who has to create lesson plans and IEPs.

2. We’re here to reach the lost, not churched people.

Jesus said he came to earth to seek and save the lost. But He also spent significant time teaching a small group of followers. I understand he heart behind reaching the lost, and I understand tailoring certain environments to accomplish that person. But in your zeal to reach the lost, don’t discount the comprehensive mission of the church – to go into all the world and make disciples.

When you say “we’re here to reach unchurched people…there are plenty of churches for Christians” you alienate people of faith and communicate that they have no real place of ministry in your church. You insult the 65-year-old grandmother who has served Jesus and children for 40 years. Whether you mean to or not, you foster a spirit of competition among area churches over who is more evangelistic and who is more missional and who is more Bible-based.

Say, “We care about reaching the lost,” but don’t say you don’t care about church for Christians. God loves everyone, even Christians.

3. I don’t counsel people.

While you might think you need to do that in order to go to the next level, bragging about your refusal to engage hurting people isn’t going to do you any good. I made this mistake. You might not to be the primary counselor, especially if you’re not trained to handle specific situations. But you should stay connected at some level, because it’s helpful, and because you’ll stay connected to a hurting group of people who look to you for advice.

If you pastor a large or rapidly growing church, you may not visit everyone in the hospital, but you should visit someone, and you should create a system that does provide personal pastoral ministry to everyone. “I don’t visit people in the hospital, so if I show up, you know it’s bad,” might sound funny from the stage, but it’s a condescending position that attempts to maximize your visible value to the church. But mostly, it makes people feel unimportant.

Refusing to engage people, even if it’s a small group of people, on a personal level isn’t good leadership – it’s ministry arrogance. I was guilty of this in the past, and I was wrong.

4. If I talk about money, people will leave.

Unchurched people aren’t stupid – they know it takes money to run a church. Don’t be held hostage by fear, either of offending the unchurched or running off a key donor. Develop a holistic approach and a systematic plan for taking about one of the most important subjects facing 21st century America.

The reality is this: when you talk about money the right way, people are helped and they grow closer to Jesus. Tearing down the idol of greed is an important part of the discipleship process, and it should not be avoided or done in secret. Christians need to understand that it’s not feeling generous but acting generous that means their generous. They need to understand the Biblical principle of stewardship. People who are not Christ-followers still feel burdened by debt and out-of-control spending, and they crave helpful advice on the subject.

So pastor, don’t apologize for talking about money. Don’t introduce a sermon or a series on money with an apology or a 5-minute disclaimer. Preach the whole counsel of God’s Word with boldness.

5. Can I get a pastor discount?

There are many underpaid pastors in the world, including Lead Pastors, Youth Pastors, and missionaries. I remember my first job in ministry when I asked for a raise and was told “We’ve always wanted to get you UP to the level of a public school teacher but it’s going to take many years.” I could write about this for a really long time, but that’s not my point today.

Good stewardship is a good thing, but poor-mouthing brings dishonor to the profession and calling of pastor. I know a pastor who asked for a “pastor discount” at Home Depot – apparently, new kitchen cabinets can be used for the Lord’s Work. I really do understand the financial limitations of most pastors and churches, but in my humble opinion, constantly asking for discounts seems to cheapen the importance of what pastors do.

I’m not advocating extravagant spending, either from the church or the leader, but a cheap mentality is deadly. It leads to broke thinking, and that hurts the church.