Nine Common Tensions Pastors Face

Posted by | March 02, 2016 | For Pastors, Latest Blog, Ministry Life | No Comments
Broken rope with frayed edges

By Thom Rainer

Every day, pastors and other church staff make intentional decisions about what is important in their lives and ministries. Often, the decisions they must make are between competing demands. These decision points are tensions in the lives of pastors and church staff. The directions they choose shape their ministries.

  1. Family time versus church time. Pastoral ministry is a 24/7 vocation. There is rarely real down time. Families often suffer because pastors and staff don’t know how to say “no” to the expectations of the church.
  2. Office time versus time in the community. Church members often expect pastors and staff to be in the office and available for their needs. But pastors also need to be out of the office connecting with people in the community.
  3. Being a people pleaser versus being a good steward. Well-intending church members often begin sentences with, “Pastor, we need to . . .” Those sentences are expectations members have on pastors and staff. The temptation for many of these leaders is to say “yes” to most of the requests. But saying “yes” to everything means you will do nothing well.
  4. Visiting for crisis needs versus visiting for commonplace needs. I recently talked to a pastor who was berated by a church member because he didn’t visit her when she had a simple outpatient procedure. And if I told you the procedure, you would understand that it would have been awkward for him to be there anyway.
  5. Counseling versus referral. Most pastors and church staff are not trained in counseling. But many church members want their pastor to provide counseling in a multiplicity of areas. It is often best to refer the church member to someone better equipped to handle the situation, but not all church members receive that direction well.
  6. Spending time with church members versus spending time with non-Christians. Both are necessary, but pastors and staff have limited time and they must choose how to balance ministry to Christians with incarnational presence with non-Christians.
  7. Local church ministry versus other ministries. Many pastors and staff are urged to be involved in denominational work, interchurch ministries, parachurch ministries, and mission endeavors. All may be worthy. All demand choices.
  8. Being prophetic versus being positive. On the one extreme is the pastor who is always proclaiming what is wrong with the world and culture. On the other extreme is the pastor who only wants to offer encouragement and hope and not address sin for what it is. The difficulty is finding the right balance.
  9. Long-term perspective versus short-term perspective. The types of decisions pastors and church staff must make are shaped by their own perspectives of their tenure at the church. It is not unusual for pastors to have uncertainty about their future at the church when they must make a decision that could have long-term implications.

These tensions are not between a good choice and a bad choice. They are between two good choices where one will be sacrificed for the other. It is easy to say that the pastor must seek balance; it is much more difficult to find that balance.

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 18, 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 nine grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

About Ron Cook

Ron and his wife Rodetta have been married 39 years. They have actively served the Lord together in ministry during the entire time and are co-founders of Care for Pastors. Ron ministers to hundreds of pastors annually through mentorship, counseling and by phone. He has been a Pastor for 39 years and understands the stress of ministry, and wants to share his longevity in ministry with other pastors and help them finish well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Please fill out the form below to gain instant access to your FREE Care for Pastors Sunday Planning Guide.
*We hate spam and never share your details.
Thank You. If your download doesn't start automatically check your email.
Thanks for participating in Care for Pastors Sunday!
8% Contribution (Physical Products)
5% Contribution (Digital Products)

As the world's largest distributor of Christian products, Christianbook.com provides online access to their premier selection of Christian products--over 500,000 books, Bibles, DVDs, CDs, gifts, toys, games, and more.
0.5% Contribution (Per Purchase)

AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service.

Support your charitable organization by starting your shopping at smile.amazon.com
15% Contribution (Monthly)

Guard yourself and your loved ones with Covenant Eyes Internet Accountability and Filtering.

Our goal is to equip people with tools that provide protection and encourage accountability and trust in the fight against Internet temptation.
4% Contribution (Monthly)

Everyone deserves affordable legal and identity theft protection. Including you.

With LegalShield on your side, you have the power to access legal and identity theft advice and services when you need them, all for one low monthly fee.