Dear Pastors: Stop Whining

By Joel A. Hess

Since seminary, I have been told by seasoned pastors and “expert” first timers that pastoring is a tough, thankless job. They encouraged me to set boundaries so I don’t get lost in the work and forget about myself and my family. They scared me stiff, perhaps hoping I would not be overwhelmed by surprise when I went out on the front lines. The dark forecast was cast with even more doom and gloom for my wife. At seminary, there were groups for pastor’s wives that met like AA, all bellowing, “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen…”

This chorus of martyred voices continues to shower the blogosphere with sundry titles all along the line of “A Confession of a Pastor’s wife.”  Then, of course, there are the organizations serving the hurting pastor and his wife, offering respite and healing. And finally, I am regularly reminded of all the pastors who do not have calls because their former churches threw them out.

Now, I am not arguing that pastors and their wives have it easy or that we don’t need help and compassion by others. Oh Lord, we do! Just stop the whining. Everyone in our congregations has it tough! Very few have job security. Most of our people work more than forty hours a week and work on weekends. Many wives in our churches have left their families to follow their husbands to places they did not want to go. Many of our members pay for their own health insurance, if they even have it, and fret about retirement.

Certainly, there are occasions in which a pastor is thrown out in an unjust and unbiblical way. However, I have met far too many pastors who probably deserved it. They are not martyrs, and they are not without a call because they were preaching the truth to remnant. Worse than pastors who brag about their numbers are pastors who brag about their low numbers. Herr Pfarrer—You are no Elijah. Yes, there are some terrible situations out there, but I have encountered too many guys who, for whatever reason, are very poor pastors. Quite frankly, I have seen far too many instances of congregations irrationally putting up with their pastor’s asinine behavior! Their situation reminds me of beaten wives who tell the police and their friends, “But I love him.  He won’t do it again!”

There is definitely pain and suffering that accompanies the shepherd and the shepherd’s wife. We all need prayers, let alone the Word of God, confession, and Christ’s holy body and blood! And for sure, sometimes we need it bad. Let’s just stop crying and speaking about it as if somehow the pastor’s struggles are heavier than other vocations. May the Good Shepherd continue to pick us up, dry our tears, and lead us on toward those green pastures!


5 thoughts on “Dear Pastors: Stop Whining

  1. Having an insider’s view on the life of a pastor, you are in a position to speak with authority. From the perspective of those sitting in the pews, most of us realize that among yourselves, pastors must have interesting discussions about the day to day life of an LCMS clergyman. We certainly suspect that you have the whiners and complainers among your peers. That is why the positive people, the problem solvers, the optimists, are so essential to the church, “not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.”(Romans12:11).


  2. Joel,
    At the risk of being seen as defending whiners, I don’t think this third post on the same subject is going to accomplish what you want it to accomplish. No doubt, there are pastors (as in any other profession) who whine. Whether it’s out of frustration, despair, stress, laziness, whatever–whining doesn’t do anything. And I’m glad that you seem to have had things so good in the parish, unlike the “far too many pastors” and the “too many guys” who have (you seem to think) deservedly been thrown out of their churches. (Although, it makes you sound like your experience has, apparently, been good because you’ve been wiser and nicer than those “too many” other guys.)

    Again, some pastors are jerks and they certainly shouldn’t be. But I don’t recall that being one of the reasons to remove a pastor from the Office. You make it sound like the whiners outnumber the non-whiners by a significant margin. Maybe, but I think it’s far less likely that this third post will be the charm for the jerks, and far more likely that the pastors who are undeservedly being attacked constantly will find this also used against them if they try to defend themselves.

    And I actually think that the pastoral office is a more difficult vocation than others. I think that not only are the burdens of the pastoral office more significant than other professions (James seems to think so [3:1]), but many people are unable to understand what they are or why they weigh so heavily. Being a pastor is not a more important vocation than any other, but the devil isn’t going to focus his attacks as vociferously on the mechanic (who probably has his own reasons to complain) as on the one who’s been tasked with preaching the Word of God and giving out His gifts publicly.

    I have no doubt that some pastors have used that as a excuse for their laziness or jerkiness. But do you really think that’s the majority of those you’ve heard complaining? And additionally, maybe they don’t want to complain, but the only time they’re able to vent their frustration is to other pastors, who, they think, might understand their situation?

    I can’t say I’ve never complained about my situation, and I know it doesn’t accomplish anything. However, I can say with certainty that while I’ll never actively discourage any man from entering the Ministry, after my own experience I’m damn well not going to encourage my sons to do so. Whining? Maybe. Or maybe just realism about some situations.

    Some guys need to stop complaining. But other guys might simply need a little compassion because they’re not going to catch a break from those who have no idea what it’s like to serve as a pastor.

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  3. Dear Rev. Hess,

    It seems as if you’ve posted this article more than once. I seem to recall reading it – or ones very similar – two or three times. Seems like you are whining about other pastors who whine. Ironic, is it not?

    Maybe you have writer’s block and can’t think of a new topic; if so, please know it IS okay not to post anything. You may wait until you have a new topic. That would probably be best.


  4. I think we should lighten up. Everyone complains and whines about something. The point is that the process of complaining needs to end on a positive note, and when we arrive at a solution or even an acceptance of reality, we move forward. We must never remain in the complaining state of mind. It is a negative place to expend our energy. Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Questioning is a form of complaining about issues and practices, and isn’t the “Jagged Word” a kind of forum for whining, debating, and complaining? I am certain that the Apostles complained to Jesus, as did Martha and Mary. Paul complained about Peter and the Judaizers. In my view, the positive approach is where we should be as Christians, but sometimes complaints bring up important issues which need to be addressed and solved. Soli Deo Gloria.


  5. A good article, facing the reality that every occupation has its official grumbles. When I was in the Air Force, every base was referred to as the armpit of the universe, or some other less decorous body part. Ministers have their professional whines too. I have been a pastor just short of 40 years. I love serving the Lord and serving His people. I have been driven out of a congregation, served for years without a paycheck, watched my son driven out of a congregation for less than Biblical reasons. Still want to be a pastor and I love my people, even those who do not seem to love me. Sometimes the whining is a pressure release. Sometimes it indicates that someone entered the ministry for the wrong reasons, and with faulty theology. God puts His servants where He wants them, to do His will, not their own.


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