by Thom Rainer
I thank God for pastors. They are often criticized, second-guessed, underpaid and expected to do too many things. Pastors would be perfect if they were simply omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.
Indeed, the expectations of pastors can be overwhelming. In that light, I asked seasoned pastors to share with me the areas they wish they could be better prepared and better equipped. The results were voluminous, and the needs are great. Here are the top eight:
- Leading the church in evangelism/reaching the community. Many pastors felt as if evangelism and healthy growth are neglected topics. They admitted their own sense of inadequacy in leading their churches to reach more people with the gospel.
- Leadership development. Pastors know they can’t do the work of ministry alone. But many of them shared poignantly how they wish they could become better at developing leaders in the church. They understand both biblically and intuitively that more leaders are imperative for a church to be healthy.
- Finances/business issues/administration. “I never considered how much of church life is running an organization,” one pastor shared with us. “I was never trained for that aspect of ministry, and it has come back to haunt me again and again.” Another pastor confessed that he had never learned to balance his checkbook, but he was expected to lead a church with a half-million-dollar budget.
- Leading staff. We heard it again and again: “I have no idea how to lead my staff. I have no idea how to evaluate my staff. I have no idea how to deal with conflict among my staff.” In fact, one pastor told me he joined Church Answers for one reason: so he could ask questions about dealing with staff.
- Counseling. Many pastors shared how much their congregations demand in counseling. They also said the demand seems to grow every year. They not only lack the training to know how to counsel, they often don’t know when to refer people to professionals.
- Dealing with change and conflict. It is a common theme among pastors. They were told to expect conflict before they became pastors, but the reality was consistently worse than the warnings. They long to know how to lead change and deal with conflict better, but they often feel inadequate in those areas.
- Dealing with their own depression. A number of pastors admitted surprise when depression hit them. They simply did not expect it to happen to them. Many also admitted shame and embarrassment in talking to others about their struggles. Some even shared confidentially with me their own thoughts of suicide in the past.
- Equipping others. This particular need is similar to number two, leadership development. But in this case, pastors desire to equip the entire body of Christ, not just leaders. But many pastors feel woefully inadequate in doing so.
It was fascinating to see what topics did not make the list: Bible, theology, ethics and preaching, to name a few. The pastors expressed gratitude to the Bible colleges, seminaries and books that prepared them well in the classical disciplines. But the cries were for better preparation in practical issues and practical ministries.
How about you? Where do you think pastors need to be better equipped? What would you add?
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.