5 Things Your Pastor Wishes He Could Tell You

I don’t know why I wanted to write this today. But I did.

Other than a brief time in law, pastoring a church is what I’ve been involved in for my adult life.

I’ve probably had thousands of conversations with people (and so have you), but if you’re like me, there are some things you just never get around to saying out loud.

It’s not that you don’t want to…it’s just that you don’t.

Yet saying them could help you and maybe even help scores of great people who are working so hard at your church.

They might even make things…better.

Here are 5 things I think most pastors wish they could tell their congregations:

 

1. I’m trying to step off the pedestal people keep putting me on.

I’m not better than anyone else. Really. I have never believed I’m better than anyone else. And I promise you if we got to hang out more, it wouldn’t take long for you to see I don’t belong on a pedestal either.

I’m not in ministry because I’ve got this all figured out, or because it was an ambition of mine. I honestly feel I was called into it. Believe it or not, I tried to resist the call. But people kept affirming what I couldn’t stop sensing—that God was calling me to serve in the local church. So I obeyed.

It gives me a lot of comfort that the heroes in the scripture were flawed people. Peter barely got it right. Paul had his critics. Noah was a flawed leader. So was Moses. But reading their story gives me hope for my story. And—you know what—it gives me hope for your story and for the church.

God doesn’t use perfect people. His grace flows best through broken people.

God belongs on the pedestal. So why don’t we keep him there and keep ourselves below it?

 

2. I also have doubts

I realize you might think my faith is rock solid. And in the end it actually is quite strong.

But I have days when I’m not sure my prayers make it past the ceiling. I have days when I read the scriptures and it seems like just another book. And I have days where I wonder where God is in the middle of this. Just like you.

But I’ll tell you why I can’t let my faith go or shake it. Because God’s faithfulness keeps overshadowing my doubts.

God has been consistently patient, kind, gracious and giving toward me. And he has been toward you too.

And the days where the prayers seem empty and the scriptures seem cold are inevitably followed by the days in which God’s presence is almost palpable and the scriptures read me.

So don’t let your doubts do you in. Persist through them. I have and I do, and all I keep finding is the faithfulness of Christ. You will too.

 

3. I don’t always know what to do

I don’t have all the answers. I don’t always know what to do.

I know you know that. But there’s something in all of us that wants our leaders to know what’s next.

I’ve become committed to telling you when I don’t know, and I hope you can accept that. You also need to know I’m doing my best to surround myself with incredibly wise people. Together, we are far smarter and wiser than any of us is alone.

The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for a generation. No one understood why Jesus was so determined to go to the cross. And the birth of the early church in the first century probably made many peoples’ heads spin. But God was in all of it.

I’m sure as we pursue Christ as best we can, we’ll figure out where he is in the middle of all this.

 

4. I so appreciate it when you cut my family some slack.

It’s fine for you to put me under a microscope. I get that. I got called into this and I’m accountable.

But this church is a place where my family is growing up. It’s a place where my kids are asking their own questions and where my wife comes on her good days and bad days.

When you treat them as people who are on their own faith journey and hold them up to no greater standards than you do any other family, you give my family an incredible gift.

We are pursuing Christ together, and when you give us grace, you actually make that journey richer. (Thank you Connexus for doing this so, so well.)

 

5. I’m more grateful for you than you realize.

I realize how demanding life is and how busy you are.

I know you worked late on that project this past week….and still came to the event at the church.

I realize you haven’t had 8 hours sleep in about three years and your kids are driving you crazy…and you took time to seek God today.

I realize your family argued on the car ride to church and still walked through the door anyway (we do that too sometimes).

I realize the school trip cost more than you thought and you’d really like to get to Disney this year but you’re giving anyway.

I know that you serve in a number of organizations in the community but you still throw your weight behind this mission at the church we’re in together.

Thank you. Really.

The church is the most blessed organization in the world.

We have an eternal mission that will make far more sense when we stand before Christ than it does most days now. I think only then will we see how important what we’re doing now really is.

We rely on the good will and the hard work of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people to be the church.

And I want you to know how incredible grateful I am for you. I am.

 

How About You?

If you’re a pastor, is there anything you would add?

If you attend a church, is there anything you would want to know or that you would add?

I’d love to hear. Leave a comment.

And once again…thank you. This is something amazing we’re all caught up in, isn’t it?

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  • Brian Adams

    Carey,

    Great post. I’d add, “I’m not the head of the church, Jesus is.”

    Thanks for the encouraging, motivating, correcting and loving posts on your blog.

    Brian

  • Beth

    Carey, I love your blog. But I’m wondering if you realize that women pastors exist. Every reference to pastors is “he,” every spouse is a “wife.” You could try to be a little more inclusive.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Beth. Thank you so much for the reminder. I appreciate it and apologize.
      *Carey Nieuwhof, Lead Pastor *
      *Connexus Church*
      *546 Bryne Drive, Unit E Barrie Ontario L4N 9P6* *connexuscommunity.com * *careynieuwhof.com *
      *facebook & twitter cnieuwhof*
      *instagram careynieuwhof*

      *Sent from my personal email account. **If adding others, please use cnieuwhof@gmail.com to include me in the conversation. Thank you!*

  • Gabriel Hernandez

    very well said sir…thank you for this and I encourage you to say those things when the Lord leads you to

  • Sharon

    want to say so so well written. and there are another kind of PK’s. Physicians and Physician Kids and their families. (wives, etc). we have struggled badly here for this balance, as a wife of an obstetrician, who view his calling as a mission (and sees essentially the bulk of the church). He is no white knight, like any other man…. and desperately needs other men to encourage and be real with. But (most) people cannot handle that they are broken healers themselves. we are all walking wounded. And he gets lonely. ALOT. because this is the expectation. People have so much pain, and carry so many needs…. and any good-willed man delights in meeting those needs and reaching out with mercy. But margin (for them, too) is so badly needed. Physicians (not motivated by power, greed , or money, but wanting to be humble servant leaders) and pastors (described using those same words) have SO much in common. you never hear this talked about. i think both can suffer loneliness in ways that are particular and profound. And the (wives, in this case) of both NEED others to walk alongside. and NEED some slack cut. And the same grace and mercy extended to them, and their families, as they are attempting to reach their own calling with. thank you so much for sharing this. much needed words.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Sharon…thank you for this. I never thought about the link between a physician’s kids and a pastor’s kids. I have a few physician friends and will be mindful of this. Careful boundaries can help avoid that.

  • Broken Hearted Pastor

    I am preaching a series on relationships that if practiced would save your marriage…maybe your relationship with your kids or personal finance…but you weren’t there…because it rained…because it snowed…because it was a sunny, warm day. When you do come, you will want me to listen to your complaints…about your spouse…about your kids…about your finances.

  • Pastor Phil

    How about, “I want to be a better pastor and leader, but i don’t want to appear like I’m begging when I request to attend a ‘pastors enrichment seminar’? If they could realize that such trips are not vacations, but much needed seasons to be revived and recieve continued education from people that comprehend them. They should know that when they are made to feel like such conferences are a burden upon the church, we would rather not go when the Bride feels resentment toward the ‘friend of the Bridegroom’. We will just keep loving, laughing and doing all we can do to serve as best we can! We will just continue to wait and mention the need again every 5 years or so”.

  • Lee

    As a preacher’s wife with lots of little people under my wing, this is wonderful! I so often wish that people would hold not only my husband and I but especially our children to an equal standard as themselves. I often sense they think PK’s should be perfectly behaved, never full of energy, know all the answers, etc. It just shouldn’t be this way. My kids are normal kids that just happen to have a daddy that is a pastor. I think that as a pastor and wife we should set an example but should also be normal. Making it to church on Sunday mornings is just as crazy difficult for me as any other family. Satan loves Sundays at our house! I love being a pastors wife and I love for people to allow me to be myself and not some unattainable woman.

  • Seano

    I think it’s wise for Pastors and leaders to be constantly asking, ” Are you getting into the word? and what has God been showing you?” this keeps us accountable to a cornerstone fundamental of faith, my Pastor does,

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Agreed!

  • Cathy Sims

    I would like to suggest another point. When pastors are giving the message in church, I think it would do their heart good to hear a word of response from the congregation once in awhile….when the church stays silent each and every service. it makes the pastor feel like he is talking to a brick wall! An amen or hallelujah would be nice every once in awhile :)

  • Lonnie Kingshott

    Loved this Carey…I know that when I have needed you I can count on you. My faith journey has not been easy you know that…I have recently discovered that you cannot go home again in the case of Zion church in Angus and know that when I am ready to return to worship you will be there for me at Connexus and that gives me great comfort!

  • Mark

    I know of a priest who will admit that he did not attend church for a long time, he said he saw no benefit in it. Later on he did start going and then went to seminary.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      That’s a great story Mark.

  • Lyndellbro

    Good transparency, Pastor. You sound like you understand the Psalmists, Carey. But, I do think you are one who has the ANSWER. The answer is: God has the answers. You seem to realize that we are all here by His Grace, and that He puts up with this motley group, because we are His Project and He will succeed in our sanctification and salvation. You sound a bit like my pastor. I have a pastor that never seems to forget that we are Christ’s Church, not his. As a result, God’s power just flows through this guy. Blessings on you!

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Thanks! I certainly do not have all the answers, and for sure, God’s grace is really what it’s all about. It all points to Christ.

  • Gil Henry

    Great article. As a PK, I know my father faced many of these questions. We were not a “perfect” family but we tried. That pedestal can sometimes spread to the children. We were normal kids in a normal family. Yes I grew up in the church but at 50,still struggle on my faith journey. Thanks Carey!

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Gil…thanks for sharing so honestly. My heart is with you. Thank you for continuing to seek Jesus. I know he loves you deeply.

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  • bardstine

    Sistagirlygirl hit the nail on the head. When I was in high school I had a friend who was a PK and a very rebellious. He told me point blank that he “hated the church” when I ask him why he said “Because the church stole my father.” That conversation has never left me.

    For me #4.5 on the list is “I love you but you are not my top priority.” I tell the church on a regular basis that “I love you, but I love my family more and my family comes first.” That means that many times when they call/text I am going to let it go to voice mail/not going to respond right back. If I save the world but lose my family then I have gained nothing. So when we are having “Fun Family Time”, on vacation, I am on a date with my wife, lunch with my Son, coaching my daughter with her basketball, or dealing with a family situation, the members of the church know they come 2nd and I will get with them as soon as I can. The corollary is that when I do call them back or meet with them that they have 100% of my attention and they know it.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Boundaries are so important, aren’t they? Love can sometimes be best communicated through limits as well as presence.

    • http://leadright.wordpress.com/ Brent Dumler

      Well stated. And I’d say that your church has a great blessing in you because you are modeling healthy boundaries for them. Hopefully those families will learn to do this with themselves.

  • sistagirlygirl

    Wow! said perfectly…thank you! I must say how grateful I am for my congregation who allows me to be me. If I could suggest another I would say #6 would be expectation to be always available. It would be great if everyone understood how genuinely pulled we really are…most times we teeter on exhaustion. No matter how we divide our time between church, family, visitations, meetings, counseling, secondary jobs and the list goes on. Some people tend to be or get upset if they are not the immediate focus. It’s not that we ignore you or look for something else to do but at times we have to prioritize which one gains our focus first…someone in the hospital verses someone wanting to take us out to lunch for a chit chat. Patience and understanding will always be greatly appreciated rather than offense because you had to be rescheduled. We don’t have favorites (pastor’s pets)…we don’t love them more than you…it simply comes down to what requires the greatest attention right now. We really are doing the best we can.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Such a great observation. It’s funny, but once your church grows to a certain point, people are much more gracious with your time than when it was smaller. For us it happened when we passed 600.

  • Dave Jagger

    Thanks much for this. Sounds so familiar. However, as you suggest in the header, how much actually sharing this could make things better. Do we have your permission to share this with our churches? Would obviously give credit where it is due.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Hi Dave…for sure. Please do. If you want to reprint it for publication, just email me and we can go from there. But internally, by all means go ahead. Thank you.

  • Martin

    Thanks for this! Good reminders and liberating to acknowledge. I think perhaps one more might be – it is more deflating for us than anyone (other than one of us) ever realizes when our friends leave our church.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Martin…oh wow. That’s so true. I don’t know how to not have a friend leaving hurt. It just does. Thank you.

  • Yankeerev

    Carey…I think that I want my people to know that sometimes I really struggle with my job. Let me explain. The times when God’s word takes us to a difficult passage where touching on a sin or boldly addressing a problem among God’s people and I am called to be God’s “Mouthpiece”. I remember preaching through a gospel and dealing with the woman caught in adultery and as I am preaching a woman whom I love is weeping. I can see her pain and I know that with each word she is hurting. Yet, to be faithful to my “audience of one” I must be careful, clear and honest with God’s truth.
    Also, when those times come when confrontation is necessary, please understand that I am praying and wrestling with the responsibility. I don’t want to do it, but I know that God has given me that responsibility.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      I think almost every preacher has had a moment like that. Thanks Yankeerev, and you’re right…you just have to keep preaching.

  • Alexis

    My dad has been a music sinister in a Baptist church my entire life so I cancompletely agree with number 4. It applies to all church staff members. We were held to a higher standard than any other church member. “Ms. “Smith” could miss Sunday morning and it was ok, but not for us. It was ok for this family to eat at a restaurant that had a bar but not ok for us to eat there or my sister to work there. Ministers.of any kind are human just the congregation…..

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Alexis. Ouch, I hear that. Thanks for weighing in. I think the part that must hurt the most is not the standard, but the double standard. Thanks for hanging in there and don’t let this trample your faith. So glad you responded!

    • Wayne Owens

      This is one issue that I have given lots of thought to and it seems to me or maybe I am just out there that if the Leaders are really good, no sinning and always there then I will be okay. A kind of surrogate Christian. Pastor you be good and it will cover my sins.

  • chickita

    Thank you for this post — it speaks to me, even if the language doesn’t. Please consider including us clergywomen in future posts. Blessings on your ministry.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Thanks for your grace.

  • bardstine

    Carey. Thank you for your honesty. I think that is what the church needs, more honest pastors. I have come out and told my church many of these things from stage on Sunday mornings and found it freaks some others pastors out that I do so. Too many pastors think they have to create this “mystique” about themselves. They always have the perfect family, always project they have it all together, always have an answer to every questions and solution to every situation, never show any doubt or lack of faith. I think to problem for many is that they put themselves on the pedestal not realizing the higher they, or their church, lifts it up the harder it is to survive the fall.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Thanks for having the courage to say what many don’t. That’s so good to see.

  • Terry K. Moore

    My only disagreement with this list, which is a beautiful list, is #1. Pastors aren’t super human, which I think may have been your point, but it didn’t come off that way to me. I feel like you’re over emphasizing the calling without giving weight to the qualifications; anyone able to meet the qualifications laid out in scripture is an incredible thing, an example for others to follow. That’s a bit of a pedestal.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Thanks for your point Terry. For sure, the qualifications are assumed in the calling, or else the calling is not authentic. But I wonder if it’s more of being an example to others rather than being put on a pedestal. I often sense that the pedestal is fraught with unsustainable and inaccurate assumptions about a person.

      • Rick L

        The “pedestal” to which you refer is an artificial one that has nothing to do with being qualified or being an example. But in many minds it’s where pastors are supposed to be. It’s closely tied to the unrealistic ideal that the pastor has all the answers. It’s not about example but about expectations that some in the church would never place on themselves.

        • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

          I agree. The pedestal is a false construction. That’s why we all need to step away. Thanks Rick.

      • Terry K. Moore

        Thanks for responding, and clearing that up.

  • Beverley Dugard

    Thanks for this reminder. We are instructed to honour and respect our pastors and elders. 1 Tim. 5:17 “the elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honour, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching”. This is just one of many passages that instruct us to love, respect, honour and pray for our leaders.

  • http://familystorylegacy.com/ Al Ainsworth

    “Yes, I have people around me constantly, but I am sometimes lonelier than you would ever imagine. I appreciate it when you befriend me as just me.”

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Al that’s awesome. So true. I think that’s hard in a local congregational context (I’m going to blog about that), but I hope you can cultivate friendships with colleagues or people who are outside your community as well. They have been game changers for me.

      • Christoph Koebel

        when I was in the pastorate I looked for friends for prayer outside our church, and found a dear brother

  • Bill Hamilton

    Great words Carey. Loved how you addressed #1. The banquet tablecloth covers all of our feet. Thanks for your transparency.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Sure does Bill, doesn’t it?

  • Todd Dugard

    Nailed it.

    • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

      Thanks Todd!

      • Ron Benson

        Great post. I’d add this – Some Saturday nights I can’t sleep, and I wrestle with being worthy to be your pastor. Some Sundays it’s all I can do to drag myself to the church. But then I worship with you, and I hear you sing, and I get a hug, and I catch your toddler’s smile, and God’s Spirit whelms up, and he confirms what really is not ever in debate: This is where I belong.

        • http://careynieuwhof.com/ Carey Nieuwhof

          Very honest! Thank you Ron.