I get to hang out and know many senior pastors. I have a great heart for them and understand, firsthand, some of the pressures, frustrations and joys that are unique to the role of a senior pastor. In my recent blog survey, over half my readers are in ministry and half that number are senior leaders.
When I first shared the points in this post a few years ago it was at a conference for executive pastors. I was asked to give my perspective as a senior pastor, since each of them reported to one. Specifically, the request was to share some things about senior pastors they may not know. I honestly didn’t realize what I was sharing would be so revealing for some of them. They didn’t know some of these about their senior leader.
And, granted, I can’t speak for every senior pastor in every church. I can only speak in generalities from what I know and personally experience—in my life and among the senior pastors I know. Thankfully, this blog platform and my personal ministry have afforded me access to hundreds of senior pastors.
I share this post simply for the purpose of understanding. I know and have felt the extreme love most of the church has for its senior pastor. I’m grateful for that in my own life. Hopefully this helps you love and understand your pastor even more.
Here are 10 “secrets” about many senior pastors:
1. Leading from this position is overwhelming at times. We know Christ is ultimately in charge, but we also know it often seems everyone is looking to us to have all the answers. And we know we don’t always have them. (Granted, some senior pastors are more honest about this than others.)
2. People tell the senior pastor all kinds of things about what is happening in their life or in the lives of others—many we would rather not know sometimes. And, frankly, some things we don’t need to know—such as gossip, rumors and information they don’t have permission to share. Many times it’s in the form of a “prayer request.” We don’t always know what to do with this information. (And again, in total frankness, some senior pastors have abused this information and hurt people in their church.)
3. Most pastors walk with a degree of uncertainty about our abilities to do the work we feel called to do. We intellectually know this is designed by God. It keeps us in prayer and walking by faith. But we are human, and the demands upon us and our insecurities in them can also make us question at times whether we have what it takes to do the work before us.
4. Many senior pastors fear the possibility of failing in their role, so they thrive on the encouragement and prayers of others—almost to a fault. They can become very insecure. If they aren’t hearing constant positive feedback, they can begin irrational questioning how people feel about them.
5. A senior pastor’s insecurities can cause them to become overprotective of their reputation and position. At extremes, it may even cause them to react with poor leadership, such as playing politics with leaders in the church or using information as power.
6. Senior pastors face the same temptations and occasional spiritual dryness as everyone else. This means we need accountability, but are often afraid to seek it.
7. The pastor’s spouse is sometimes the loneliest person in the church and often feels extreme pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations. Pastor’s children also feel the weight of expectations from the church. Many have told me they feel everyone is “watching” them.
8. The pastor, too, can experience loneliness—sometimes severely. The encounters through this blog with some senior pastors have revealed that some pastors have no true friends either inside the church or outside.