What your church members want from their pastor

Looking at the Pastoral Ministry section of almost any Christian bookstore, you might get the idea that congregations want great preaching, inspiring vision, and larger-than-life leadership from their pastor. While those extraordinary gifts are possessed by some pastors, most church members want four very simple things from their pastor:

  1. Your time. Your members know you are busy, but most of them want to spend some time with you — a meal, a cup of coffee, a conversation, or a moment where you both connect.  You can’t give all your time to all your members everyday, and they know it.  But make it a point to give some time to someone everyday.  I try to spend my afternoons visiting, calling, or meeting with my members.  My schedule doesn’t always work out, but when it does I am always blessed.
  2. Your ear. People like to know they have been heard and their opinions valued.  You may not always agree, but you can always listen.  Most people want a fair hearing even if the outcome is not their preference.  Really hear what your members are saying to you, acknowledge their comments, and assure them that you appreciate them sharing with you.
  3. Your presence. When people go to the hospital, they need the presence of their pastor to strengthen them.  When family members gather at the bedside of a dying loved one, they need their pastor.  When a father loses his job, or a single mom faces surgery, or an elderly couple makes the decision to move to assisted-living, they need a pastor to talk to.  Your presence represents God, their church family, their faith, and their hope.  Nothing else will do in those times except your presence.
  4. Your prayers. Concerns about family, worries about health, decisions, and mistakes — members have asked me to pray for these concerns and many others.  Take those requests seriously, pray earnestly, and follow-up later find out how you can continue to pray.

Great preaching and inspiring vision are a plus for any pastor.  But the real work of ministry happens in real life situations, especially in the small church.  Spend time with your members.  After all, it’s a compliment to your ministry that they want to spend time with you.

13 thoughts on “What your church members want from their pastor”

  1. I think it is a good list as well, but you must never sleep! There was a time when I could spend more time with the people in my church, but as the church grows it becomes a daunting task. We have a big meal every Wednesday and while everyone is eating I use that hour to get around to as many people as possible. This has really helped me stay connected to everyone.

  2. Thank you, Chuck, for this reminder. Being among the people is one of the most critical pieces of ministry. Yet it is one of the first things I can sacrifice in my own busyness.

  3. I agree with this, but I’d add that it’s not necessarily larger-than-life leadership that people want, just genuine leadership. And what you’ve written here is an excellent recipe for exactly that.

    Now that our pastor has stepped out of his contract, these things will fall back on those of us in leadership roles, so this is a timely word. Thank you.

  4. I think you could boil it down to three things instead of four: love your people, love your people, love your people. And, Steve, if we don’t have time to love all our people in the four ways Chuck suggests, we need seriously to consider following Jerry McGuire’s sage advice: “Fewer clients. Less money.” Instead of trying to supersize our congregations maybe a contrarian approach would work better: smaller, more intimate, more committed groups of Christians. I’m reading Elizabeth O’Connor’s book Call to Commitment about N. Gordon Cosby and the Church of the Savior in Washington, DC, and it’s really challenging my thinking on this issue. Chuck, thank you again for another helpful post!

  5. Hi Chuck! I just came across your blog and read this article on expectations. It’s really good and got me to be thinking. I was a staff member of a large megachurch for five years. Now I’m a pastor of a small church plant. The expectations of a pastor are definitely different. I referenced your article on my blog and have asked my readers for their responses. You can follow it over on Church Requel. Blessings! Mark Pierce

  6. Seems like Pastors no longer want to “pastor” or to shepherd the flock that has been entrusted to them…

    They want to write books, conduct mission trips, or travel to foreign lands – but they seem to no longer want to “shepherd” their congregations.

    They delegate, set up a fire wall to keep themselves away from the public.

    Perhaps they fear false accusations, litigious members, disgruntled factions who bully to control church direction and policy, myriads of confusions and misunderstandings, and bad press.

    Many prolly think it’s a “cleaner cut” to get in and get out without entangling themselves in the personal lives of their congregants.

    This is a tragedy because it has led to a de-personalization of a “mega church” mentality. Unless you’re a $1m/year donor you do not have access to pastoral care.

    Maybe this is why Jesus talked about the “narrow gate” rather than the “highway”. Only HE is the good shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.

  7. This is really informative. However, in a developing countries where majority of church goers are poor, they still expect their pastor to pay some of their bills and assist in empowering them. It is a serious problem. Since the Lord Jesus used small quantities of fish and bread to feed many people in the biblical time, they hope that such situation should repeat itself through their pastor in whatever ways or means. It is a great challenge.

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