7 of the Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience

This post, and the opposite one before it, (7 of the Most Exciting Things Pastors Experience) actually began when I received this question on my blog.

Ron – What do you think are some of the most frustrating things pastors experience?

Great question. I decided to first address some of the exciting things, but, like most jobs, there are frustrating things about the job. Leadership deals with people – different people, with different expectations, demands and opinions. And, anytime there are differences in people there will be frustrations. This is true even among people who love each other greatly. 

The actual question was about what is “most frustrating”. I had to think about the question. There are lots of little things which can frustrate me. I don’t understand why some people leave a room and don’t turn out the lights, or how someone would ever put a toilet paper roll on which unfolds from the bottom. (Slight attempt at humor there.) But, those are small examples – not “most frustrating”. So, I had to think a bit. 

I should first mention I’m sharing frustrations, but I am not frustrated. I love the local church and I love my church. (I shouldn’t have to mention it, but I will.) I believe the church is the hope for the world. I am a proponent of the local, Bible-believing church. We are filled with imperfect people, but our mission is God-inspired, God-given and supposed to be God-glorifying.

With this disclosure, here is my reply of some of my most frustrating things I see as a pastor. Please understand, I’m simply being honest.

7 of the most frustrating things pastors experience:

People who abuse their power or position.

I have witnessed this first hand in some churches where I have pastored, but even more so in churches where friends have been pastor. I know a couple of churches – as this is being written – where a few people in the church are literally controlling the church and causing potentially irreversible damage. 

It always bothers me for people to abuse power, but even more so when it happens in the church. This includes, of course, when the pastor abuses power. Abuse of power is wrong regardless of who is doing so. Ultimately, we are to follow Christ, but sometimes we can let positions and power get in the way of humility and obedience.

People who live opposite lives in and out of the church.

It is frustrating to me when people who have one church face and one community face. It gives the church a bad name. Many of my unchurched friends won’t come to church because they know someone who comes to church already. And, they aren’t impressed. They know the person in the office on Monday morning is not the person who claims to be so wonderful on Sunday morning. 

I should say, I’m not referring to new Christians, and certainly not those who are attending, but not yet believers. I’m talking about those who claim a history with truth, but don’t exhibit truth in the way they live their life. They would shout amen to “love one another” while sitting in the pew, but their actions outside the walls of the church say otherwise. 

Rumors which spread with no basis of truth.

How many times have I been caught in the middle of this one? I once had to dispel a rumor I was going to tear down the church’s steeple. I must admit, I’m not a fan of tradition for tradition, but I sorta like our steeple. Granted, our building looks very “churchy” – and, this can be an initial barrier to people coming. And, this is possibly where rumors start, because I’ve said similar before, but, this means we must meet and embrace people outside the church, inviting them to join us. It never meant demolition. But, rumors like spread rapidly in the right environment. 

And, this is a minor example. When the rumors involve other people they can be very damaging to character and reputation. Gossip destroys a person’s witness. 

Selfishness.

People who want what they want, even at the expense and inconvenience of others. These are people who will allow their personal preference to interfere with carrying out the ultimate mission of the church. They guard “their seats”. They protect “their programs”. They never complain about change – until it makes them uncomfortable. This one probably frustrates me because it has never seemed very biblical to me. I certainly can’t find it in Scriptures. 

Tradition for the sake of tradition.

Again, I’m not against tradition per se. I like meeting at a set time every week, for example. I love giving and receiving gifts at Christmas – let’s not stop this one. I get frustrated, however, with tradition which is adhered to only because of tradition especially if it gets in the way of making disciples. If it’s biblical I’ll be the biggest proponent for it, but if it’s simply because we’ve always done it this way I get frustrated with those who insist it never be changed, even if it is no longer effective in fulfilling the mission of the church. 

Wasting time.

I’m on a mission. A number of years ago God called me out of the business world and into full-time vocational ministry. In the business world we knew we had no time to waste. Our livelihoods depended on effecient use of time and resources.

Now in ministry, I have a keen sense time is short and it moves faster than I can fathom. I don’t want to waste precious Kingdom-time debating issues which simply don’t matter or doing activity which has little Kingdom impact.

Half-heartedness.

Perhaps, just perhaps, I got this one from Jesus. He called it being lukewarm. I sense it when the Spirit of God is obviously active in the room, but people who have claimed to be Christians for years look at me as if it’s a typical Sunday. I see it when people are more concerned if the rules were followed than they are excited about lives which are changing. I notice it when people choose to get involved only when it’s convenient for their schedule. I sense it when someone has been in the church for many years, but hasn’t grown deeper and more passionately in love with Christ than when they began attending. Some days I wish we were a ballgame – with bleachers – and a favorite team. Then maybe they’d get excited.

So, there’s my honest list. While I am confessing frustrations, can I tell you the person who is staring at the phone when the light turn greens or pulls out in front of me then drives ten miles under the speed limit frustrates me also – greatly. I feel better getting this off my chest. I guess I should remind readers I’m human. Just as things frustrate you, they frustrate me. 

But, let me share again, I love the local church. And, I learned years ago – actually I was convicted years ago – I must also love the people of the local church. Even if someone or something someone does frustrates me – I must love them too. And, I strive to do so. 

And, a word to my fellow pastors, I know when I am allowing frustrations to control me more than what the Spirit of God wants to do in and through me I need to take a break, rest, and renew my soul. 

Related Posts

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have you Subscribed via RSS yet? Don't miss a post!

51 thoughts on “7 of the Most Frustrating Things Pastors Experience

  1. Being hearing impaired , in church where you can not understand the Pastor’s Sermon, because of #1 the past system. #2 The Pastor turns his face away from the congregation, can not see his mouth. There are many things that the hearing impaired, cannot hear the message, and finally just give up and stay home and watch the TV ministers with captions.

  2. A parishioners pet peeve: Pastors who are insensitive to how much regular folks struggle to pay bills. I once attended a service where the Pastor complained that the donations were not good enough. He actually said, " throwing five dollars doesn't in the basket each week doesn't cut it." I know we should all give more but some folks really and truly can't. I was so appalled by his tone and insensitivity that I stopped going to that church.

  3. Pastors who use Gods people for their own selfish gain and manipulate the body of Christ with their sermons. If they don't get what they want they preach on rebellion etc. My husband and I just left a church this past year because they were no longer building Gods Kingdom

  4. Pastors who use Gods people for their own selfish gain and manipulate the body of Christ with their sermons. If they don't get what they want they preach on rebellion etc. My husband and I just left a church this past year because they were no longer building Gods Kingdom, but their own.

  5. Umm, wrong angle to begin with….our 'pastor' system is cannot be found in the NT…it is supposed to be an 'elder' system…in the end, we get what we expect.

  6. Frustration : when "we as the body of Christ start to play church" oh how the heart of our Jesus cries!!!. The church was never meant to be indoors but a living expression of Jesus Christ which transforms every person / relation we have. God forgive us for not reflecting his nature that abides in us through the Holy Spirit.

  7. The answer is simple but living it out is hard. Believers must become followers of Christ which means to surrender everything we have over to Him. Surrender our time, our thoughts, our wishes, our desires, our dreams, our way of doing things, our power, our pride, our strength, our wisdom, our intellect, our money, and our lives! Because, when you really think about it; it's not "ours" to begin with anyway… it's all His. Thank you Jesus for the many times you've forgiven me when I think it's about me… when it's all about You. Great post Ron and may all believers become followers by surrendering all we have to Christ and allow the Holy Spirit work in our lives as He desires. May we humble ourselves before the King of Kings & Lord of Lords!

  8. I know this was from yesterday, but didn’t have time to respond. Anywho……..A frustration we face is having to do EVERYTHING. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to delegate, but what if you are a small congregation? We are so blessed to have 3 people in our church willing to “burn out” with us to see the church grow. It is so frustrating that 5 people must carry the ENTIRE load. We love serving in the local church, and this one in particular. They love Jesus. I long to see more outreach, because our town desparately needs a lighthouse. I just don’t know how to get it done. Thanks for the venting session! Looks like a lot of us needed it!

    • Yes, I've seen that and it is very frustrating. Praying for you and your family.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

    • Yea, that's really tough. As a pastor, I'm pretty stern when I see this happening.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  9. It frustrates me that “christian” leadership vandalize the name of Jesus. I get frustrated with “sloppy-lazy” leadership! People are following us, watching us yet we sport an attitude of: “Oh it is okay if I do this, this “one” time, I don’t do it ALL the time.” Whatever attitude you lead with people will pick up, they will catch it. No excuses. We are called to God 1st and He daily equips us and we need to BE set apart, with the goal of moment to choice I WILL model the right choice because it matters, it truly matters to be consistently right before God. Reminds me of the song “it is a slow fade” that is what happens in churches sometimes, people leading sloppily, it fades away the glory, excellence, respect, honor, reverence and strength in our name of Christian, the reputation Jesus’ Church needs to be used on mission with HIM.

    Proverbs 18:9 Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism. (MSG)
    1 Corinthians 9:26-27 I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself. (MSG)

    No matter what though, I love the CHURCH, God's Bride and she may not be where she should be, but believe me…The Bride Of Christ is on the way, we will be a spotless bride when Jesus returns!
    Twitter: kmac4him

  10. Pastors that don't respond to emails. Email is a valid, contemporary form of communication, and shouldn't be ignored by anyone, especially Pastors, unless however it is spam.

    There are real people behind the emails that get sent to Pastors. Pastors should say to themselves, 'Would Jesus respond to this person that is behind the email?'

  11. I long for a REAL church…RAW emotional…..I agree with all the posts above. Fake, is near the top. For once I would like to see the church behave as they say it is…"the church is a hospital for the hurting" or "the church is triage for the world" then make it so…inside these walls lets see the blood, the open wounds, the crying, the cursing, confusion, pain!!, oh the mess, the smell. Then lets see Jesus and God show up to HEAL. not instant but over time, the patience to watch over us and guide us. Full of grace and mercy. Then truly teach us how to do the same. Great post Ron!! keep 'em comin!

    • I long for that too with all my heart. An open Hearted Bride of Christ, where there are no walls and people are treated in a way that they are Visible-Valuable-Vital, I so long for us to be vulnerable and real before God and others. It is coming…
      Twitter: kmac4him

  12. As someone who doesn't regularly go to church I can tell you that most of the things on your list are a big part of why I don't go. The church I attended as a kid was full of half-hearted worshipers who were only there because of tradition. They went to church on Sundays "just because". They didn't pay attention, they didn't experience any personal growth or make any positive changes in their lives at all. They were just "there". The people who live dual lives and hypocrites seem to outnumber the rest unfortunately.

    Maybe my experience isn't typical but I have a feeling there's a lot of that going on, especially since you wrote this post! The big question is, what's the solution to these problems?

    • Well, Jesus is the solution. That's more than a Jesus Juke, that's the truth. More of Jesus, less of us…including me. And I don't think your experience is unique, but I also know there are very passionate, committed, growing believers in many churches. There have always been in the 4 churches I've been in. Spurring them, spending more attention on them, and celebrating growth at any level is my solution. For a younger Christian, reading the Bible daily for a period…that's worth a party. For more mature believers, sacrificing personal preferences in favor of helping younger believers grow…that's worth a banquet…or dinner on the grounds.But, I would reiterate. I love the local church. And, even on it's worst days, I want to be a part of a local church. I just want to continually challenge us to live our purpose…which is His purpose, not ours…because Jesus is the solution.Thanks!
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

    • I agree with Ron, JESUS is the common denominator to every church to every person and when we vitally-vertically connect with HIM, we feel HIS heart and we know His purposes are for us to be together as a family no matter how much we all still need to "grow through", Jesus is among us. He has not left us, He is STILL holding out HIS Mercy, so if HE can, I can too!
      Twitter: kmac4him

  13. Ron, a question for you. If you had to pass one and only one leadership principle to others leaders, What would that one principle be and why that one?

  14. As a non-Pastor, I would love to say committees and business meetings! There can't be a bigger waste of time. Being a Southern Baptist, we have to form a committee just to make sure we have the right people on the committee! Problem is, business meeting are an improtant part of the life of the Church, so I guess we'll have to call them a necessary evil?
    Twitter: bryankr

    • I kind of think on your comment that if we look in the Bible, we can see that JESUS had a few of those "business" meetings HIMself and how did He handle them?
      Twitter: kmac4him

  15. 1. Wrong focus,
    When Church members major on minor issues, while being unconcerned with the major issues of the Bible like Love for one another, and the Great Commission. Nothing makes me feel more like a failure then when it feels like they haven't been listening to a word I said.

    2. Preparing sermons for people who may or may not decide to come to church that week, while expecting the Pastor to be there when they do decide to come.

    • It is really not your failure, and Jesus was pretty frustrated too at times with people, I think about the time at the tomb of Lazarus and they knew who He was, what He had taught, what He was capable of and yet they still did not really "hear" what He was saying, they kept putting it in language they could understand :"yes I know Lord he will rise on the last days" that is NOT what Jesus was saying and then telling JESUS not to open the tomb… and finally HE said, Father I don't say this for me, I have to say this for them…. it is our failure, we are not hearing, we are not doing even though the power of HIS Word is being preached… change is needed!! I kind of feel like people are so tapped out all week long, over committed and running crazy that when Sunday comes, nothing is left, they could not hear you if you had a megaphone… back to the basics…we need to go…
      Twitter: kmac4him

  16. Complacency…It runs rampant through the church at times and it’s debilitating for people’s growth in Christ.

  17. Rumors are a big one. If it doesn’t involve you; stop talking about it. If it involves you but not me, stop talking to me about it. Keeping secrets, sometimes sad secrets, is part of my job. That probably doesn’t help my patience with those who keep talking. 🙂

    Here’s a frustration I have as a non-pastor: when the pastor refuses to trust feedback about message delivery. If there are people who speak as part of their jobs, and they are providing specific feedback – like say, make your point and move on, stop circling back and giving the same message two times at one session (not a vague “shorten it up”) – it’s probably worth listening to.

    As a side note: Ron, you might be the best list maker ever!

  18. Excellent list. I concur wholeheartedly and will love to see the most exciting things about pastoring. However, since we're talking peeves (this may go under time-wasters), giving someone sound counsel and watching as they ignore it. This hurts and frustrates as we are asked to reassemble the pieces of a broken life.

  19. Fakeness. Don't act like everything is fine when it isn't. It's ok to be "sucky". My pastor and I were talking about this last week and I told him I'd rather have a church full of sucky people than "perfect" ones. We can minister to sucky. Just be real and let God's people help the hurting so they can be healed, then help the next sucky person behind them.
    Twitter: kathyfannon