10 Things I’d Do Differently if I Weren’t a Pastor Today

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I spent most of my adult life outside vocational ministry. I’m amazed at the opportunities God has given me in ministry, but in many ways I am still a newcomer.  I have just over a dozen years in this career. It’s challenging in some ways, because I see things differently from some who have only done ministry, but it also gives me a unique perspective from some pastors. I sat “in the pew” far longer than I’ve stood “behind the pulpit”. 

One thing my experience has done for me, especially since I’ve become a pastor, is to help me realize how much I didn’t understand about being a pastor. Like the feeling that work is never done. Like feeling you are never really “off”. Like knowing people are going to be upset with every decision you make — and balancing whether to move forward or give into their frustration. Like the pressure of “Sunday’s coming”. (Pastors — know that one?) Like carrying the weight of everyone, but sometimes feeling you’ve got no where to share your own struggles. Stuff like that. 

The “fun” stuff I didn’t know prior to being in ministry. Plus, in the business world, we handled problems so differently from how they are typically handled in ministry. A lot faster sometimes.

I also spend a lot of time investing in other pastors. It fuels me personally. I’ve learned some of their challenges. Some of their concerns. Some of their wishes.

Along the way, I’ve learned some great lessons of what it takes to build a healthy church — many I didn’t previously understand — even though I was very active in the church. Things look different looking at the church from this perspective.

So, if I were ever on the other side again — and I was back “in the pew” — I’d change a few things about myself. 

Here are 10 things I’d do differently if I weren’t a pastor today:

I’d make church attendance a priority. I’d build my week around the services of the church, knowing how vital every person is to the body. I’d understand what an encouragement it is to the pastor when people give the same priority to church that they give to other places in their life. 

I’d love my pastor. I mean really love my pastor. Knowing how many expectations are placed on the pastor, I’d be among the group that’s always ready to help, but, recognizing he’s only one imperfect person, not one to get my feelings hurt if the pastor didn’t do everything I hoped he would. 

I’d be a generous giver. Understanding that there are really a small number who financially support the work of the church, I’d be a Kingdom investor. 

I’d be an ambassador for the church. I’d use my influence in the community and where I worked to bring people to church and Christ. I’d look for people I didn’t know on Sunday mornings and try to help them acclimate to the church. 

If I had a problem with the pastor, I’d talk to the pastor. Not his wife. (That’s always a bad move.) Not other church members. Certainly not the community. 

I’d try to get less upset about things that impact only me — that are mostly matters of personal preference. 

I would pray bold prayers for the church. Daily. 

I would support the pastor and his family. I would understand he couldn’t be everywhere, and never make him feel guilty for not being where I hoped he would be. 

I would smile when he preaches. I’d give visual witness that I was paying attention. I might even say “Amen” when appropriate. Oh yea..definite amens.  

I would serve where needed. In fact, I’d volunteer without being asked. 

Pastors, anything you’d add to my list?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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23 thoughts on “10 Things I’d Do Differently if I Weren’t a Pastor Today

  1. I read recently that most church members view church more like a country club that they pay membership dues to expecting the perks that are entitled to them. I found this to not only be true in my own church but unfortunately in my own heart. I wanted my church to look the way I thought it should and I was upset when it wasn’t. I thank God for revealing to me that I am an important working member of the body of Christ. The church was not established to serve me it was established to show who Christ is through me and the other members of its body. I don’t want to judge other people who don’t understand because I was there. I just want to say, posts like this are an encouragement to me in learning more about being God’s hands and feet or eyes and nose or whatever He’ll have me be. I pray, Lord, that you will continue to show me.

  2. Do some Pastors abuse the body? Of course. But this list isn’t about making a Pastor’s life easier. It’s about making the body healthy. Few know the personal toll involved in leading the body. Straight up… You don’t know till you’ve been there.

  3. I'm kind of surprised by the negative comments about this post, but I suppose I shouldn't be. People are people, after all. I'm not involved in vocational ministry, though I am active at my church. I think this post is very helpful. I can imagine that being a pastor is an incredibly difficult job at times, and I appreciate your insights into how I can better support the ministerial staff at my church. I think it is very easy to become focused on how our churches serve us as a congregation, instead of striving to serve others ourselves, especially those we look to for leadership. No wonder burnout is such an issue, when you get people saying "no thanks" to reasonable suggestions like, "show up," "help out," and "pray for your church." But I guess naysaying commenters deserve to be extended the same ocean of grace I'm always swimming in, so I'll just attempt to focus on how I can use the suggestions you've laid out here to do a better job at being a congregant and try not to judge people who don't see it the same way I do. Ah, the struggle.

  4. I can’t help but notice this is basically a list of things you wish people would do, as it would make your life easier. Not the most selfless post I’ve read. Just sayin.

    • Maybe it's a list of things I think I would do and make my life better. And, the life of other people around me. 

    • It might seem a little self-serving but as a pastor it really gets discouraging to pour into peoples lives every week and you have no idea whether they care or not. And more often than not when someone is challenged with an issue and they attack the messenger maybe that message hit a little too close to home.

      • Thanks Ryan. Actually, what some don't understand is that my blog is mostly read by pastors and the percentage who read from my church is probably well under 5%. So, while it may be self-serving, for the other 95% or so, I hope it serves other pastors — and ultimately the entire Body.

        • I sincerely hope so, as well, friend. My fear is that others will use this in a negative manner (or maybe already have?). But, as you have stated elsewhere on your site, God will ultimately take care of those situations, if they arise. Thank you for the clarification on the audience, as well.

  5. I attended a church once, where the pastor would complain from the pulpit how people were more interested in football than in serving God. He would always talk about how 3% of the people are doing 97% of the work, etc. But behind the scenes, even though I was volunteering for anything they needed help with, they operated more like a private club than a body of believers. I was fortunate if they let me help usher once ever few months or so. If there was some reason they were doing this, they didn’t mention it to me, or offer any plan of development that I’d have to meet before they would use me.

    On one hand, as members, we should give the church a higher priority than the other things in our lives (Hebrews 10:15). But on the other, the church has to acknowledge our gift and integrate us in a meaningful way. 1 Corinthians 12 says that God has given every member a gift for the edification of the body, so that there will be “no division”. It’s when people are treated like there is no consistent use for them, that division occurs, and people stop attending church.

  6. Great post Pastor! If church members did these 10 things on a consistent basis, then all churches would have to build a bigger sanctuary because the Spirit would be so powerful that everyone would want to get in on the action! God bless you brother… keep a preach'n, teach'n & blog'n!

  7. Excellent points Ron and a clever way of making them. I’m not a pastor but over the past few years have realized that we take for granted many of the sacrifices pastors and their families make daily. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Great words! Thanks so much for what you said. If everyone did this it would make the ministry so much better. Thanks for posting!

  9. What a wonderful post and reflection, not to mention a very nice way to share some advice on how to be a good parishioner. My husband and I do some of these and the heartfelt list from you, as a man preaching the Word if God, gives us some concrete things to consider to make us better recipients of that Word as well as practitioners of it. Thank you!