The Top Ten Surprises New Pastors Have

I love pastors. I love their hearts. I love their commitment to God and to the churches they serve.

I also love new pastors. It is fascinating to hear their thoughts after they have served as a pastor for a year or two. I have assembled some of those thoughts in the form of direct quotes from new pastors via social media, my blog, my podcast, and Church Answers.

Here, then, are the top ten surprises new pastors have. I offer them as direct quotes with brief comments.

  1. “It is amazing and challenging to see how quickly my calendar filled up.” A number of pastors lamented how little time they give to evangelism and connecting with people in the community.
  2. “I really get some weird requests.” I covered this issue in an earlier post. One of my favorites came from the pastor who was asked to euthanize an injured rabbit. But perhaps the request by a church member to euthanize his healthy mother-in-law was even weirder.
  3. “It’s a lot of work to do new sermons every week.” Yes it is.
  4. “Funerals are pretty easy. Weddings are a pain.” Most new pastors were not prepared for the opinions and emotions of weddings. Some commented how the rehearsal and wedding consumed an entire weekend.
  5. “I have been surprised at the incredibly loyal support I receive from some church members.” They were not the members the pastor expected to provide so much support.
  6. “I have been surprised at the intense criticisms I receive from some church members.” They were not the members the pastor expected to inject so much negativity.
  7. “I never expected I needed to be knowledgeable in so many areas.” Some pastors commented about their lack of knowledge in church finances and budgeting, counseling, administration, leadership, facilities, and Robert’s Rules of Order, to name a few.
  8. “There is no such thing as a vacation.” Many pastors shared how they have never had an uninterrupted vacation.
  9. “I am never prepared for the tragedies.” One pastor was confronted with a tragic automobile accident his third month in ministry. In a family of five, the mother and one of the children were killed.
  10. “The stress on my family has been so much greater than I expected.” I specifically and repeatedly heard about the surprise of strained marriages.

I can still remember well my first pastorate. I remember how surprised I was to find out a couple did not like me. One of my toughest lessons was learning that I could not please everyone. My responsibility is always first and foremost to please God.

I know you readers have a lot to add to this conversation. Let me hear from you.

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Seven Personalities of Sick Churches – Rainer on Leadership #348

Podcast Episode #348

SUBSCRIBE: iTunes • RSS • Stitcher • TuneIn RadioGoogle Play

In churches who are dying, you often hear statements like the ones we cover today. Today we explain how to identify the personalities of sick churches.

Some highlights from today’s episode include:

  • Too many church leaders are not willing to admit their church is sick.
  • A church cannot get healthy until she first realizes she is sick.
  • Decline of more than 20% after a pastor or staff member leaves should signal a major alarm in a church.
  • Often, the good ole days, in reality, weren’t really that good.
  • We have churches who fight so much that they’re completely distracted from their mission.
  • Churches often close not for lack of people but for lack of obedience.

The seven personalities we discuss are:

  1. The Denier.
  2. The Deflector.
  3. The Cool Kid.
  4. The Nostalgic.
  5. The Street Fighter.
  6. The Autopilot.
  7. The Living Dead.

Episode Sponsors

Vanderbloemen Search GroupVanderbloemen Search Group is the premier pastor search firm dedicated to helping churches and ministries build great teams. Their Fall Lead Pastor and Executive Pastor Coaching Networks are now open for registration, and our very own Dr. Rainer will be speaking at the Fall Lead Pastor Coaching Network.

So if you’re a Lead Pastor or an Executive Pastor looking for peer roundtable coaching, check it out at It’s limited to 16 folks, so apply today before it fills up.

mbts_banner1_rainerMidwestern Seminary, one of the fastest growing seminaries in North America, exists to train leaders For The Church. The local church is God’s “Plan A” for the proclamation of the gospel, and there is no Plan B. And this is Midwestern’s vision and heartbeat—equipping pastors and other ministry leaders who are called to expand God’s mission in the world through the local church. At Midwestern Seminary: they train leaders ‘For The Church.’

Visit them online at and start your ministry training today.


If you have a question you would like answered on the show, fill out the form on the podcast page here at If we use your question, you’ll receive a free copy of Who Moved My Pulpit?

Resources Mentioned in Today’s Podcast

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Seven Dangers in the Last Few Years of Your Ministry

I am writing this article on my 62nd birthday.

Yeah, I’m a real party animal.

Let me shoot straight. I have so much for which to be thankful. God has blessed me immeasurably, none of which I deserve. If my ministry were to end today through death or disability, I could only praise Him for the life and ministry He gave me.

But I am assuming I have a few more years left in ministry. And this point in my life is both a time of reflection and looking forward. I want this fourth quarter of my ministry to make a difference for His glory. To be clear, I want to avoid seven dangers in my last years of ministry. And I know I can succumb to any and all of these dangers without His strength, His mercy, and His plan.

  1. Coasting. Lord, show me how to give my all for You. Wake me up to the reality of coasting if I ever move in that direction. Remind me that laziness is not just a bad work ethic; it is a sin and affront against You.
  2. Hanging on. I pray I will not hang on for just another paycheck. I pray I will place the timing of my ministry in God’s hands, not my 401(k). I pray I will not love my position in ministry so much that I can’t hear Your voice when it’s time to move on.
  3. Weariness. Ministry is not for cowards. Yes, there are the constant streams of human critics but, even more dangerous, ministry is spiritual warfare. I pray I will not grow weary, but find my strength in God through prayer and the daily reading of His Word.
  4. Misplaced identity. My identity is not president, pastor, or church staff member. My identity is in Christ. If my identity is in my present vocation, I will not let go when it’s time. I will hold onto the idols of ego, self-gratification, and ephemeral titles.
  5. Change aversion. My prayer is I will always be open to needed change, that I will not leave the work of change for the one who follows me. I pray I will still have the courage and strength to make the tough decisions, not to kick the can for another time and another leader.
  6. Failure to stay current. It’s a challenge to keep up. Change is hitting us so rapidly. I could get lazy and not read, not be challenged by others, or scream that the way we’ve always done it is just fine. In my later years of ministry, I pray I will not succumb to the temptation of no longer learning.
  7. Regret. For sure, I’ve made plenty of mistakes. If I wrote a book about stupid things I’ve done in ministry, it would have to be a multi-volume series. But, in these latter years of ministry, I can’t look back. I can’t wallow in the self-pity of past stupidity. The past is past. I look to God’s future.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind, and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.—(Philippians 3:13-14, CSB)

May those verses be my theme for the years I have left to serve the One who has called me, strengthened me, and given me the great promise of His presence and power.

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Pray for Grace Harbor Baptist Church

Location: Grove, Oklahoma

Pastor: Marty Hughes

Weekly Worship: 10:30 AM, Central

Fast Facts: Grace Harbor Baptist Church was founded in 1965 as Independent Baptist Church. In 2014, the church went through a revitalization process that resulted in a major renovation of the building and a rethinking and refining of processes in every area. As a result, the church changed its name to Grace Harbor Baptist Church to reflect its message of hope and grace to the community around them. Please pray for their upcoming F3 (Family Fun Fest), the church’s major fall outreach event to community families, on October 7. Last year, they had more than 500 attend the inaugural F3 event. This year they are expecting nearly 1,500 for the event. Also pray for their after-school mentoring program on Wednesdays that leads into their Wednesday night children’s program. Please pray for encouragement for the workers as they begin a new school year next month.


“Pray for . . .” is the Sunday blog series at We encourage you to pray for these churches noted every Sunday. Please feel free to comment that you are praying as well.

If you would like to have your church featured in the “Pray for…” series, fill out this information form..

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Notable Voices and the Week in Review: July 22, 2017

Earlier this week at


10 Short Steps to Long TenureCraig Thompson

In addition to having a church filled with people to “get it” and want to see me thrive as their pastor, I’ve picked up on a couple of disciplines that have helped to sustain me. Perhaps you can benefit from putting the same disciplines into practice in your own life and ministry.


3 Common Ways Leaders MiscommunicateEric Geiger

Great leaders are always great communicators, but not always great speakers. Great leaders may not excel with a microphone, but they are able to communicate what is valued and what direction is being taken. Communication and leadership are intertwined and deeply connected. When leaders fumble in execution, culture formation, or rallying a team, the fumble is often in communication. Leadership mistakes are often synonymous with communication mistakes. Execution problems are often synonymous with lapses in communication. Here are three major communication struggles leaders should seek to avoid:


4 Ways to Multiply the Impact of Your VBSBeth Howe

Vacation Bible School is often one of the most intense weeks in the life of a church. For many churches, it is the largest outreach event of the year. But if VBS ends for your church as soon as everything is cleaned up for next Sunday’s service, you’re missing out on a world of potential. No children’s minister wants to spend loads of money and countless hours preparing and leading VBS only to see everything go back to normal the next week. Churches need a follow-up plan. I’ve seen four follow-up methods multiply the benefits of VBS well beyond one short week in the summer.


5 Common Myths About Mobile Giving — Dean Sweetman

Myths can be based on some semblance of truth or have roots based in truth, but at the end of the day, a myth is still a false belief or idea. With that in mind, we thought we’d turn the light on a few myths that we hear commonly when it comes to mobile giving. Sound good? Ok, on with it…


The 5 C’s of PreachingJared Wilson

What are the basic elements of biblical preaching? How do you know you’re preaching a Christian sermon and not simply giving a religious or spiritual lecture? While I think gospel-centered expository proclamation is the best approach to fulfilling the biblical call to preach, this exercise could probably use some more filling out. And since preachers like alliteration and lists, I thought I might suggest a checklist reflecting what I propose to be the irreducible complexity of true Christian preaching. Next time you’re preparing a sermon, maybe keep these questions in mind. Or, after the next time you preach, share this list with your fellow elders or another team of trusted advisers and ask them to apply the questions to your delivered message.


4 Essentials for Spiritual MaturityR. Kent Hughes

When the New Testament addresses spiritual maturity, it uses the common Greek word teleios, which means “perfect” or “complete.” When it is applied to Christian growth, it indicates spiritual maturity in contrast to childlike immaturity as, for example, in this command from Paul: “Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature (teleioi).” (1 Cor. 14:20; see also Heb.5:13–6:1). Sometimes it indicates perfection, as in Jesus’ summary command in the Sermon on the Mount: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Matt.5:48). Spiritually, it always references solid, biblically informed understanding and conduct in Christ—spiritual adulthood.


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