7 Things Small Church Pastors Need To Be Set Free From, pt. 2

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If you haven’t read part one you might want to before reading part two.

4. Pastors need to be detached from peer acknowledgment and approval.

It feels good to have a peer—whether it’s a fellow pastor or denominational supervisor—tell you you’re doing a great job. But this seldom happens unless, of course, your church is growing.

“So, Bob, how are things going at your church?”

“Well…our numbers have been about the same for the past three years.”

“Are you kidding me? Why, that’s fantastic! I can’t believe what a good and faithful pastor you are. How about you speak at our next regional conference?”

Never gonna happen.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to have peer acknowledgment and approval, but needing peer acknowledgment and approval in order to feel positive about yourself and your ministry is a recipe for frustration and disappointment.

5. Pastors need to be detached from personal ambition.

Personal ambition is an illness of soul where one only feels good about oneself, or worthy in the eyes of God or man, when one is constantly accomplishing and achieving.

I need to be brave enough to prayerfully ask God to show me if I need to be detached from ambition. Maybe I need an ambition to be detached from ambition?

6. Pastors need to be detached from feelings of insignificance.

A long time ago I remember a college professor telling me, “Dave, we must learn to embrace apparent insignificance.”

Of course, the key word in in my professor’s sentence was apparent. No one is insignificant in the eyes of God. No one’s church is insignificant in the eyes of God. You might feel insignificant, someone might even incite you to feel insignificant, and that church down the road that is bigger than yours might make your church seem insignificant in comparison—but those feelings are telling you a lie. It’s just apparent insignificance, not real insignificance. There are no insignificant people or ministries in the eyes of God.

7. Pastors need to be detached from the need to be liked.

One of the most common things I run into in my coaching practice is “pastoral intimidation.” By this I don’t mean the pastor intimidating his/her parishioners, although there’s plenty of that, but members of the congregation intimidating the pastor. It’s a subtle thing that is hard for the pastor to recognize, let alone admit.

Many pastors avoid confrontation for fear of the ramifications. I don’t blame them. In some churches a confrontation with the church board can result in the pastor getting fired. If Aunt Suzie is an influential member of the church you’d better not ruffle her feathers or there will be a price to pay. We want to grow our church, not shrink it, so we strive to keep people happy. If in our attempt to lead we step on people’s toes or offend people, they might leave the church and take their money and help with them. In a church that is struggling financially (and many are in this category) and for a pastor who is barely making enough to live on (and there are many in this category), losing people can lead to having your salary cut. Once again, these are legitimate concerns that I’ve experienced in the past so I certainly don’t fault a pastor for having them.

The problem with all of this is that the pastor is leading out of fear and intimidation, which is a nearly impossible way to lead. Pastors can become people-pleasers. They may avoid rocking the boat at any cost. They know what needs to be said or what needs to be done but, due to intimidation and their need to be liked, they may stop being able to act, and instead become paralyzed.

Detachment: the action or process of separating yourself from something in order to reduce anxiety or stress.

Once I detach from reputation, numbers, success, peer acknowledgement and approval, personal ambition, feelings of insignificance, and the need to be liked, I will be in a better position to attach to the life-giving, truth-based, healthy things I need to be attached to.

Questions for reflection:

Of the things listed above (peer acknowledgment and approval, personal ambition, feelings of insignificance, and the need to be liked), which one do I need to be detached from the most?

  1. How did I become attached to this in the first place?
  2. What steps do I need to take in order for me to detach myself from this
  3. What steps do I need to take in order for me to detach myself from this?

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The above article is an excerpt from my book: Mile Wide, Inch Deep: Experiencing God Beyond the Shallows, Soul Care For Busy Pastors and the Rest of Us.

Find your copy here.