Let me get real "real" for a few minutes. Pastors get ticked off from time to time. It happens.
Don't judge them, and don't expect them to be perfect, just accept the fact that they are human, and faulty, and they have emotions too.
Y0u might also accept the fact that sometimes they're right to get upset or take something personally. Sometimes (not all the time), you would be ticked off too if you were in their shoes.
First, let me set the table. Imagine pouring yourself into someone. Guiding them. Praying for them. Listening to their complaints and rarely hearing their appreciation. Loving them. Trying to balance how to speak truth to them without making them walk away from you. Imagine being there for them every chance you can and never living up to their expectations. Imagine watching that person walk away, just to come back and leave again. Imagine knowing that eventually this fictional person that you care about is going to leave you for good, because that's generally the way it works.
Funny ... as I read that last paragraph it reminds me how I feel as a parent ...
Welcome to the life of a pastor.
Some of you might read that and think, "My pastor doesn't feel that way about me!" I can promise you that your pastor feels that way, not just about you, but about everyone he has a relationship with in the church. It isn't that he has a deeply personally relationship with everyone in the church, it's that he feels a deeply personal responsibility for everyone in the church.
That being said, let me share a few ways that people have ticked me off (read: broken my heart) as a lead pastor:
1. PLACE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR ME HIGHER THAN YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR YOURSELF
Somewhere people picked up the idea that pastors are supposed to be super-human. We are supposed to be perfect, not only in our morality, but in our attitudes, decision making, organizational planning and strategy, parenting, sermon delivery ... the list goes on and on. The funny thing is, I don't know a single pastor who doesn't already feel the "pressure of perfection" from themselves. Trust me, no one expects me to be more perfect than me! The last thing I need is everyone else placing that expectation on me too! The first thing I want is the grace from everyone else that they expect me to give them when they screw up. One of the hardest things for me to fess up to is the fact that I'm not "good" enough; one of the most heart-breaking things for me to realize is that in the eyes of many, I'm supposed to be.
I'm grateful that I have often been (and currently am) in environments that have allowed me to fail. I'm also grateful that when I have fallen, those who understand this point have been the first to help me back up again.
2. SECOND GUESS MY LEADERSHIP WITHOUT INVESTING IN IT
Several years ago I really got fired up about leadership. I think most churches/pastors did. I went back to Seminary and picked up my Master's Degree in "Pastoral Leadership," because I wanted to be a better leader of people. There have been a number of times that I have sought out the counsel and advice of those whom I respect. Long phone calls or numerous emails back and forth. Breakfasts or lunches with those who are willing to pour into me a little bit. The handful of people who have poured into me have never second guessed my leadership. They have questioned it. They have made me defend it. Sometimes they may have even disagreed with it.
It's funny, the people who have questioned my leadership the most are the ones who have never invested in it. Never reached out to me. Never sat down to ask me questions or even challenged me. Sure, they've asked other people about it or shared their leadership thoughts with other leaders, but not me. As if it isn't hard enough to lead a few hundred (or thousand) people all with different backgrounds, expectations, interests, and goals, pastors have to lead them while be constantly second-guessed by the same group, without the benefit of investment from most of them.
3. WITHHOLD YOURSELF FROM THE CHURCH
This goes hand in hand with #2, because most of the people who are second guessing the leadership of the pastor are also the least willing to get involved in the mission of the church. They'll come on a Sunday. They may get involved in a small group of people. It might even be that they attend an occasional event or two throughout the year ... but getting involved ... let's not get too fanatical here.
A pastor, by nature, is giving everything to their church. Not to boast, but most of our staff is involved in several areas of ministry/service every Sunday. Currently, we meet in a high school, so we have a lot to do on a Sunday morning. In a few weeks my schedule will consist of being on the set-up team (Saturday night), playing keyboard/piano for the praise band (Saturday rehearsal & 2 services on Sunday), preaching both Sunday services, and being part of the tear down team. That's all on the same weekend! The reason it isn't boasting is because I'm not proud of it - I'd GLADLY not serve in so many capacities, if only we had more people who would get involved. Knowing that you are so heavily invested with passion and practice towards a mission that others withhold themselves from (for whatever reason) is not only heart-breaking, it's back-breaking!
4. COMPLAIN ABOUT "GETTING CONNECTED" WITHOUT EVER TRYING TO GET CONNECTED
I sat in a meeting with a few families checking out our church a few weeks ago. During the meeting one of them made the comment, "We just don't know how to get connected here." Another followed up by saying, "We just don't seem to know what is happening at the church." Of course, I was concerned, so here were my follow up questions:
"Have you been to our website recently?" - No. "Have you been to our Facebook site much? - No. "Have you emailed or reached out to any of our staff about getting involved?" - No. "Have you filled out a Connect Card in the morning program/bulletin?" - No.
It was that last one that was so ironic. So ... you want to get connected, but you haven't filled out a CONNECT card?! It's kind of like going to a restaurant, being shown to your seat, given a menu, and told the specials, and getting upset when the server comes back and doesn't know what you want though you've never said a word to them!
Most pastors aren't marketing/communication experts, and in today's age of instant and constant communication, the expectation is that they be masters of a all forms of connection. The reason I put this one on the list is because it is probably one that I struggle with the more than most. There is nothing more demoralizing than having your weakest link constantly pointed out, especially by those who aren't interested in connecting nearly as much as they are interested in someone else connecting for them.
5. TALK ABOUT MY FAMILY
This is extra crushing knowing that my family allows the church unique glimpses into their lives through the stories I tell on Sundays. It's akin to sharing your secrets with someone only to have them judge and condemn you to others because of those secrets.
I'm not perfect and neither is my family ... but if you want to pick on someone, it better be me. I'm OK to hear you tear me down as as pastor/leader, and in most cases I have broad enough shoulders to take the criticism of my shortcomings as a father or husband. But don't think for a second that I'm OK with you shinning the light and centering my family in your crosshairs.
6. COMPARE OUR CHURCH TO THE LARGEST, MOST SUCCESSFUL CHURCHES IN TOWN (OR IN THE WORLD!)
I'm not Andy Stanley, and our church isn't Northpoint. I'm not Craig Groeschel, and our church isn't Lifechurch.
Imagine working your butt off to be the best ____________ you can be, just to have everyone you are leading tell you that you aren't as good as ____________ ... who happens to be one of the best in the world at what you do.
It's kind of like that ...
7. SHARE YOUR FRUSTRATIONS WITH EVERYONE EXCEPT ME
It's odd, but true. No one knows more about what the church is doing as an organization or why than the pastor, but they tend to be the last ones to hear about people's frustrations. I mean, come on ... it's not like we don't have our frustrations too! Believe me, no one is more frustrated at what the church is struggling with than the the pastor! We all know that people are frustrated, but it is heartbreaking to hear from someone else that somebody said that so-and-so was frustrated about ...
It isn't the frustration that's heartbreaking, it's the lack of, well, anything. It's the lack of trust, thinking we don't understand. It's the absence of concern, knowing that you're willing to talk to others, but not invested enough to talk to me. It's the realization that even though I'm trying to be transparent as a leader, the people who I'm leading are often interested in being transparent with everyone except me.
8. LEAVE THE CHURCH WITHOUT SAYING ANYTHING
This one is the most baffling to me. Just a few weeks ago a family left the church without talking to me. Even though they didn't tell me directly, I knew about it. I passed one of them on Sunday morning and asked, "How's everything going?" to which they replied, "GREAT!" ... only to hear from somebody else not 5 minutes later that they had resigned from volunteering and were going to leave the church. Imagine how awkward it's going to be when I see this family in Target next time!
Seriously, when you are a part of a family, or at the very least a fraternity of friends, would you ever consider leaving without saying, "Goodbye?" How about, "You know we love you, but this just isn't working out?" Or maybe, "Thanks for everything you do, but we feel like it's time to move on?"
Pastors are big people ... we can take it. The truth is, it is more hurtful by far for you to simply walk away saying nothing than it is for you to come and say goodbye in person.
I'm not writing this blog today to complain, I'm really not. I'm writing it to help Christians understand that leadership of any kind is difficult, and as a "spiritual leader," at times it seems unbearable. The strange thing is, it's not the workload or even the personal pressure that I put on myself that seem unbearable, it's the "parenting of the church" that weighs on me.
While some of you may say, "Quit your bellyaching and get a real job!" I'll simply say that quitting isn't an option. I wouldn't quit parenting my daughters because it got hard ... which reminds me of something my mother-in-law told Karrie and me years ago, and something we still say at home a lot: It's easy to be a bad parent ...
Here's to being a good parent, especially when it's hard ...