Thom Rainer has a list of 8 problems that pastors face. The list are what he sees as common problems.
He starts out his post saying:
Before me are handwritten notes that I took over a few weeks from various social media interactions, emails, and a few phone calls. The total is nearly 200 separate communications to me. I kept a record of them for one simple reason: I wanted to identify the greatest pain points of pastors today.
Here are 8 problems he sees (he has a comments for each and you can follow the link above to see them):
- Criticism and conflict.
- Family problems.
- Sexual problems.
- Financial problems.
- Time management.
I realize that a few of my colleagues here at the Bluechip Pastor are doing quite well in their pastorates and respective ministries but i need to admit I am seeing a lot of this for our situation right now.
I learned something about burnout – the spectrum from laziness to workaholic. I admit I’ve struggled lately with near extreme laziness – and I know that is not a good sign. Perhaps my situation is a bit unique as I think maybe I burned out more from the trial of our wilderness time than from our ministry at the Grand Canyon National Park.
I really identified with his comments on the problem of conflict and criticism. That it seems to be on the rise and and an ongoing problem that most pastors are both not prepared (trained) to handle nor always physically/emotionally /spritually able to endure (we’ve been facing constant ongoing and high level conflict and criticism since we’ve been here in East NC – 8 mos now).
While conflict is normal and neither good nor bad but neutral (since it is more about how you manage or regulate it that is good or bad) – when it is constant and ongoing, personally, my concern would be if it was a sign of a serious problem. I realize it would all depend on the reason for the conflict but my concern would be that, while conflict and criticism in ministry is all part of the territory (so to speak) I don’t think constant and ongoing high level conflict and criticism is. My c0ncern would be if maybe the pastor facing all the conflict might be out of their calling or ability to fulfill the calling (while we’re all called to some level of ministry, not all are able or ready to be the lead pastor for example). Perhaps there is a calling there but is that right place for them? Could too much conflict be an indicator that perhaps one is in the wrong position for them?
I fully realize that some criticism is illegitimate but that also can be very legitimate – many bring it on themselves – they seem to relish in it (a sign they have deep long held emotional wounds that need healing). At the same time, perhaps operating out of our calling or perhaps outside of the level of ministry we are ready to handle (trying to be the lead Pastor when we need more time as an associate, or are better fit as an associate, for example, which can be quite difficult to do since so few small churches have associates beyond a children’s worker or “youth” pastor, etc), leads to inadvertent levels of conflict and criticism that could easily diminish once we move ourselves to the place we are better fit to serve?
Its fully possible too much of the conflict and criticism stem from lack of training as well so I want to be careful to make blanket statements – but here I guess I am speaking from the place of one who has an MDiv. I never took one conflict resolution class in seminary – there wasn’t one to take that I remember (it is a class in the DMin program but not at the Masters level). There are folks who have all the training in the world but still seem to face too much conflict and criticism and I am wanting to know why?