9 Common Tensions Pastors Face

Thom Rainer
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.

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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.