10 Reasons Ministry Pain is really Tough

By Chuck Lawless

Most of us who have done ministry for any length of time know the pain of this work. Sometimes it’s gripping … ongoing … overwhelming.

Here are 10 reasons why ministry pain is especially difficult:

  1. We start ministry with excitement and joy, never thinking about the potential pain.But then it happens. It catches us off-guard, and we’re not immediately sure what to do with it. Confusion compounds the pain.
  2. No one can adequately prepare us for the pain.Veteran pastors, seminary professors and good friends can share their experiences, but there’s no way to describe the pain until you’ve felt it. No way.
  1. Sometimes it’s good friends who bring the pain. It really hurts when someone you love stabs you in the back. Losing a Christian friend—particularly for unknown or unfounded reasons—hurts.
  1. It often comes unexpectedly.I still think about times when I thought our ministry was going quite well, only to be caught off-guard by conflict and opposition. Not only does the pain hurt, but it then also feels like, as a leader, you’ve missed something somewhere.
  1. Our families often hurt more than we do.That’s because they sometimes hear more than we do through the grapevine—and they also naturally jump to our defense. Even when we might let go of the pain, our family may still struggle. 
  1. Some of the reasons/causes for the pain are ludicrous.I’ve often said that we pastors could not make up some of the things we’ve faced in ministry. I stand by that statement: It’s amazing what crazy things some church members will believe (and do).
  1. When pain robs us of our joy, we sometimes begin to question our calling . . . or whether we still want to fulfill that calling.The situation hits at the very core of who we are. Pain leads to questioning, confusion and doubt.
  1. After too many episodes of pain, some of us begin to look for the next pain.We’re sure it will happen, and we don’t want to be surprised—so we operate with suspicion of anyone who doesn’t seem to be on board. That’s a terrible way to lead.
  1. Sometimes our pain reminds us of times when we were wrongly the cause of someone else’s pain. We want to let it go, but we still carry guilt over yesterday’s actions. The enemy resurrects the situation in our minds, and we give him a stronghold.
  2. Many of us choose to carry the pain on our own. We don’t readily share with our spouses, lest they get angry and hurt too. Nor do we typically talk with other pastors, if we don’t want them to see us struggling. Our isolation in the pain only compounds it.

Church leaders, what would you add to this list? And what do you do to avoid letting yesterday’s pain consume you today?

This post originally appeared at Church Answers.

Published August 13, 2021

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Chuck Lawless

Chuck Lawless is a leading expert in spiritual consultation, discipleship and mentoring. As a former pastor, he understands the challenges ministry presents and works with “Church Answers” to provide advice and counsel for church leaders.