4 Little Known Burdens of Pastoral Leadership

Pastoral ministry in the local church is hard work.

To be the lead or senior pastor of a local church is so tricky on some days that the stress is beyond description. I’ve been doing it for a long time and am still not beyond the impacts of the weekly tension.

I recently read a blog post from Dan Rockwell where he briefly discussed The 4 Burdens of Leadership People Don’t Understand. Dan always gets to the point or points in 300 words or less.

My mind immediately saw the application of this four-point outline. So, I asked permission to use it, and Dan graciously agreed. His points are in bold, and my amplification of how they apply to pastoral ministry is what follows.

I’m not necessarily describing my present plight. I’m addressing pastors and the common challenges that most experience. I also experienced these while working as a denominational executive, the privilege of leading other leaders.

Let’s dive in!

1. Others don’t care as deeply as you do.

Pastor, you need to adjust your expectations. Everyone will not care to be as committed to the local church as you are. Some of your members couldn’t care less about your vision for the local church’s future. They have no desire to see the congregation grow healthy in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.

There’s so much eternity-bearing ministry to be accomplished and many priorities to be managed. Yes, there’s always something that could hinder your sleep. You’re the person who sometimes lays awake at night, asking God to help solve the latest problem. And even though the local church is classified as a non-profit, church finances can be troubling. You know the expenses can’t repeatedly exceed the income.

Now, in defense of others, they can’t care as deeply as you do because they don’t always know the contributing details you know. That is the burden of leadership, isn’t it?!

Thank you, pastor, for caring so deeply. You are seen and appreciated. God sees your burden, and many others do too.

2. Questioned motives.

Pastor, God has called you, and your daily decisions affect many others. You work to ensure you do the right thing by checking your motives frequently. But so do others. Other people will sometimes question your motives despite how long you labored before making the latest big decision.

You do your best to not play favorites or be selfish. Pastors like you try to look ahead and make the best long-term decision for the local church. You want to please God. Alas, someone will question your motives even in the little choices.

Thank you, pastor, for approaching the ministry with pure motives. Some of your congregation and many of your peers know and understand. God knows your reasons, even when others misunderstand your decisions. You are appreciated.

3. An other-ish focus.

You’re a pastor, and you serve God by serving others. But have you come to grips with this? The average person who shows up for a Sunday service is more self-focused than they realize. They have needs and wants that they hope will be met by something or someone within the worship service.

As the God-called leader, you serve the whole household. You can’t design the worship service or the entire ministry around one person’s needs. Your focused planning has been for the whole of the congregation and reaching the community. While some can get by thinking only about themselves, you show up daily thinking about everyone else.

Thank you, pastor, for serving God by focusing on the needs of your local church. God and others see how you sacrificially serve the individuals within and without your community.

4. Low appreciation.

Many local congregations have an annual clergy appreciation focus. But you deserve more than a yearly pat on the back. Some churches don’t plan for any appreciation because they think, “that’s why we pay you.” To make this worse, some of us aren’t good at receiving appreciation.

This not feeling appreciated is a commonality. Everyone in any field of service work has these occasional seasons. But pastoral ministry in the local church is nuanced by the continuous emotional investment that sometimes yields little return.

Pastor, do you know why you are often underappreciated? The majority of your congregation can’t fully relate to what you do. We regularly do things that most people find more intimidating than death. You’re a holy spokesperson for God and the head of pastoral care. You lead volunteers and paid staff members. You’re also the superintendent of the campus and all other ministries that go forth. Finally, you’re never really off the clock.

Even those lay leaders who helped you discern and accept your divine call to this church cannot fully appreciate what you do.

Thank you, pastor, for continuing to give your best for God’s glory even when you don’t feel appreciated. I appreciate you, and so do many of your peers. God sees your struggle, and He loves you, His child.


Pastor, the daily work we do has eternal implications. Despite the burdens that come with pastoral leadership, it is a privilege. Many joys come with seeing lives changed to the glory of God.

The reality is that there’s no way to avoid the tension. Our souls experience “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” (Jim McKay) as we love people, grow Christians, and multiply leaders. You’ll probably get too much blame when things are going poorly. You’ll probably get too much credit when things are going well.

So, while pastoral leadership will never be free from tension, you can learn how to manage it more effectively with these three tips:
1) Adjust your perspective by seeing the current problem through someone else’s eyes.
2) Understand that hidden within every problem is an opportunity for individual and organizational growth.
3) Alleviate stress by talking with a trusted confidant outside your local church. Let them help bear your burdens.

If you need an anonymous ear to listen and come alongside you in prayer, I’d be glad to help out. You can reach out to me by email or a private social media message.

3 thoughts on “4 Little Known Burdens of Pastoral Leadership

  1. This is an excellent perspective.

    Thank you

    Doug Bartlett

    Evangelism & Missions Director, Asst. Supt.

    North Carolina IPHC Conference

    Falcon, NC 28342

    910-980-1162 ext. 103

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: The 10 Most Popular of ’22 | williamstricklandblog.com

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