4 Things Your Pastor Needs to Hear You Say

Here is a short recap of conversations with my mom as a teenager:

Mom: “You shouldn’t do that, Hannah”
Me: “You don’t get it, Mom. It will be fine!”

Mom: “I think this would be a better choice.”
Me: “But, I like my idea better!”

These conversations usually ended with me skipping away in blissful ignorance.
Sometimes figuratively. Sometimes literally. I enjoy skipping, okay? No judgement.

The ignorant skipping continued until I got to college and was forced into almost adulthood. And that’s when it happened. The Mom Moment. The moment that I realized, after all these years and a whole lot of skipping, that my mother had been RIGHT. About everything. For my whole life. I found myself with gut-wrenching guilt after realizing that I should have noticed what she was doing all of those years. Wishing that I would have responded to her differently. That I would have paid more attention.

At the beginning of 2016 I was thinking about the relationships that I have.  More specifically, I was thinking about the leaders who have been a part of my life. I have truly been blessed to know and be led by incredible men and women of God for an entire decade.

And now I’m finally having the Mom Moment.
I’m looking back and wishing I had treated the pastors in my life differently; wishing I had noticed what they were doing for me and for the Lord earlier. After four years as a pastor and only a small taste of what this role entails, I am grasping how difficult this calling of God truly is. For most, the truth is easy to ignore. I don’t think we want to face the facts about what our spiritual leaders are facing. We don’t want to hear the stories of burnout and breakdown. And we certainly don’t want to admit that we may have contributed in even the smallest of ways.

But here is the truth:

  • 80% of pastors feel discouraged
  • 70% of pastors consistently battle depression
  • 78% of pastors say they have no real, close friendships
  • 94% of pastors feel the pressure to have a perfect family
  • 90% of pastors report working 55-65 hours a week (more if they work a second job)

If you have a person in your life who leads or shepherds you spiritually, they may very well be the face behind these statistics. And maybe, like me, it’s time to change your response, to realize what you’ve been missing, and to say the words that desperately need to be said.


You arrive at the doctor with a sprained wrist. You sit down in the exam room with your doctor, who you know well, and you begin to tell him everything. You share about your daily routine, explain your family history, and you spew out every symptom you’ve ever had. After listening attentively the doctor stands up and gathers some supplies. As he approaches you and begins to offer his professional medical advice, you abruptly cut him off: “Can I call you doc? Cool. Listen doc, I appreciate you listening to me, but I don’t really want you involved in this situation. My wrist really hurts now so I’m gonna leave. I don’t think this concerns you anymore.”

Pull this with your doctor and not only do you still have that pesky co-pay, but no good has come of your visit. You still have a hurt wrist. And you’ve left your doctor in the dust, questioning his involvement in your case. Pull this with your pastor and the same thing happens. You won’t get a bill in the mail, but you may have just put a ceiling on, not only your pastor’s calling, but on what the Lord is working in your life as well.

Many believers make everything their pastor’s business. Finances. Prayer needs. Church quarrels. Job issues. Children. Marriages. Struggles. Victories. Facebook posts. Pictures of the family dog. Everything is the pastor’s business and everything is the pastors concern…that is….until you say its not.

We often want our pastor to be involved and attentive to us, but only until that involvement threatens a life that we have found easy, comfortable, or self-serving.

Essentially, we are telling our pastor that we trust him or her to be led by God, until they wander into something we aren’t willing to change, and then we slam the same door that we opened wide for them.

Your pastor needs to hear that you not only trust them to preach, teach, marry and bury, but that you trust them to speak into your life with godly counsel and discernment. They need to know that you trust them to speak into you in every season of your life. When it’s happy. When it hurts. When its hard. And even when it makes you hate them.

When you say these words to your pastor you are giving him or her permission to do something that God has already called and equipped them to do. 


“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”
{John Donne’s Devotions, 1624}

We need each other. We were created to be a part of something greater than ourselves.
But sometimes we feel small and alone, don’t we? And pastors are not exempt from this feeling.

Being in ministry and leading others is often a practice in the proverbial shuffle of shuttling people on and off  and on and off your island.

Pastors are the human inbox for every prayer need, every family crisis, and every hurt feeling. People arrive on their island and they tell their story, receive their prayer, post their complaint, make their debate and before the pastor knows what’s hit them, the visitors depart for the mainland, leaving the pastor alone until someone has a reason to return.

No man or woman should feel like an island. The pastors and spiritual leaders in your life need to know that they are not alone. They need to know that as they are pouring themselves out in service and prayer for others, someone is willing to do the same for them.

Tell your pastor as often as you can, “I am praying for you. I am praying for your family.” Better yet, ask how you can support them in prayer.  They may give you a fluffy answer at first, but don’t be fooled. As a pastor myself I constantly struggle with the boundaries of being vulnerable with anyone other than my husband. I often think that I can’t be real with people, even if they were to ask me how they can be praying for me. How much should I share? Will my sharing disqualify me as their leader?
Will my struggle make me look selfish? Will this person honor my vulnerability?

No matter how they answer, pray and continue to ask. Ask on a regular basis how you can intercede on their behalf. Defend them. Protect them. Let them know that your relationship is not one-sided. And watch their jaw drop. See their face glow. See their ministry flourish and their fruit multiply.

When you pray for a pastor, you are empowering them through the Lord to continue to be a prayer warrior themselves. 

 3.”THANK YOU FOR______”   

I have an unhealthy appreciation for Jimmy Fallon. Seriously. He’s cool. After my wedding, I tweeted and asked if he would help me with our Thank You Notes. He still hasn’t replied. Still, when his book “Thank You Notes” came out you better believe I ran to Barnes and Noble, bought it and then sat in the parking lot and enjoyed every single page in all of its pun-filled glory:

  • Thank you the phrase “Let’s agree to disagree,” for basically saying “You’re wrong and I’m sick of talking to your face.”
  • Thank you oatmeal for looking like I already ate you, before I eat you.
  • Thank you apostrophes for being pretty cool, even though you can be a bit possessive.

Have I mentioned I enjoy Jimmy Fallon?

But seriously, if it can be so much fun to say hypothetical “thank you’s” to mostly inanimate objects, how much more should we enjoy saying very real “thank you’s”  to people who have impacted us?

Your pastor needs to hear specific and intentional gratitude from you on a regular basis.

They need to hear it not just on Pastor Appreciation Sunday or on their Birthday, but throughout the year and when they least expect it. While being a pastor may not be as thankless of a job as road-kill collector or IRS agent, it often feels that way. And sometimes the “thank you’s” that pastors do receive sound more like they’ve come from the sarcastic desk of Fallon than the heart of a grateful friend.

This year, choose to go above and beyond in your gratitude.
Don’t just say, “Thank you for that sermon pastor” or “Thank you for praying for me“.
Be specific. Be intentional. Ask their spouse or best friend what makes them feel most loved and appreciated and then fill their tank with the thanks that will fuel their energy and passion for what they do.


I often find myself saying something but then feel my body doing the absolute opposite. It happens mostly when I’m around chocolate. I can’t explain it. And I won’t even try to make excuses. “I’m only going to have one cookie“, I say. “I’m trying to stay away from sweets“, I lie, as my hand independently approaches the dish of gooey sweetness.

Sometimes we do this when it comes to people.
We say one thing. But our actions say something else.

You may say to yourself, “I definitely don’t expect my pastor to be perfect. I know I’m not.”
Well, I’m sorry friend, but those are just words; words that are no more powerful or true than every New Years resolution ever made and then broken. Our words need to be proven by our actions and our attitudes.

Sadly, we are often caught giving lip service of intended grace to our pastors, while our hands quickly point out their many imperfections.

Several well-meaning people have surprised me by doing just this. After sharing a specific struggle I was having, they said something attuned to, “I didn’t think pastors were supposed to struggle with that.” OUCH.

Whether we say it out loud or show it with our actions, we often hold pastors and spiritual leaders to a higher standard than others. They are, in many cases, expected to be perfect. They should never have an attitude, they should never need to vent, and God forbid they ever have doubts. No sin should entangle them. No burden should be enough to weigh them down. No struggle should ever cause them to stumble. After all, aren’t they supposed to be…different?

The answer is yes. Pastors are supposed to be different. The same way that you are supposed to be different. They are supposed to have renewed minds and Christ-like attitudes, just as you are. They are supposed to flee from evil and zealously love the Lord, just as you are.Which reminds me, how’s that going for ya?

Do you still fight your flesh from time to time?
Do you ever get a little too cozy with evil?
Do you struggle to love God with your whole being?
Yeah…so do they…so do I.
Looks like we aren’t so different after all.

See, I’ve realized that any illusion of perfection someone has somehow seen in me is simply an implant; a loan from my good, good Father. Because the truth is this: The only thing perfect in my life is God. The only thing perfect in anyone’s life is God. The high bar of perfection we seek on earth is but a mere footstool for His throne.

When we set the bar of perfection for someone, pastor or not, we are pushing them not only toward an impossibility, but onto a throne that they are simply too small for. 

But wait. Didn’t Jesus tell us that we should be perfect because our Heavenly Father is perfect? He did. The problem is that we think of perfection incorrectly. To most people perfection means being without fault or without flaw. But thankfully, Jesus doesn’t look at things the way we do. When Jesus is calling us to perfection the word He is using actually means completion. He isn’t pressuring us to meet an impossible standard, but rather He is beckoning us into a life of spiritual maturity and wholeness.

“So you also are COMPLETE through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” {Colossians 2:10}

We are to be made complete, not in ourselves, but through our union with Christ.

When it comes to spiritual leadership, our greatest concern should not be perfection but possession.

I’ll take a leader who belongs to Christ and is daily being made complete in His presence over an outwardly perfect pastor every. single. time. This is why 1 Timothy 3 says that spiritual leaders are to be, not perfect, but above reproach. Being above reproach and being perfect are not the same thing. One expectation is supported by scripture while the other is not. One expectation is necessary for leading people and the other is not. A leader who is above reproach is not perfect or flawless, but instead is someone whose words, teaching and preaching are supported by the public and private life they live. In other words, they not only talk the talk but they walk the walk. And most importantly, they don’t walk alone.

Please understand that the only thing that makes a pastor or leader above reproach is the grace and forgiveness of God. Their effort does not. Their deeds do not. Their ability to preach or teach does not.

In fact, nothing about being a pastor has anything to do with perfection except for their necessary, grace-fueled connection and dependence on a PERFECT God.

What your pastor really needs to hear you say is, “I don’t expect you to be perfect. But I do expect you to be relying on, seeking, and surrendering to a perfect God.”

When people start to urge their pastor into a life of deeper dependence on God, what will rise to the surface is so much better than perfection,
so much better than flawlessness…

It will be FRUIT.



2 thoughts on “4 Things Your Pastor Needs to Hear You Say

  1. Hannah I love this post. You have an excellent way with words. Your use of metaphors to plainly illustrate your thoughts and heart are wonderful. Good word for all of us and excellent ways we can support those in leadership through not only words, but also our deeds. Thank you for being an amazing Student Pastor and may we at COTK love, encourage and support you in all these ways.


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