A Major Moment: 3 Biggest Challenges Pastors Face Right Now (And What to Do About it)

A Major Moment: 3 Biggest Challenges Pastors Face Right Now (And What to Do About it)

I believe we are staring into the eyes of a major moment. A major moment for many pastors and for many churches.

The challenges pastors face right now are abundant, but the biggest of these challenges go far deeper than staggeringly lower attendance or too many ministries in re-build mode.

The biggest challenges pastors face right now go deeper than the many cultural moments that are in front of us as the world around us continues to change and think differently about social issues.

Over the next couple years we’ll find out just how well we met the moment.

I pray that we take heed.

3 Biggest Challenges Pastors Face Right Now

1. Many pastors are worn out

We call it fatigue but it’s more than that.

Many pastors are worn out. They are exhausted. But not just physically.

Many pastors are worn out emotionally.

And the coping mechanisms many of us utilized in the past just don’t seem to be cutting it this time.

Some pastors sense that what they are experiencing is more than a “season” of difficulty.

It might be depression.

It might be anxiety.

Whatever it is, our bodies are letting us know that something is wrong.

And as this continues, it’s not like leading in ministry is getting any easier. In fact, the challenges that we see on the horizon are abundant.

But when you’re already worn out from the trek you’ve been on, is there enough “gas in the tank” to take another hill?

I sense that this is a question many pastors and church leaders are asking themselves. It’s a question I’ve asked myself.

2. Many pastors are disoriented

2020 and 2021 have been filled with two things that have caused this disorientation:

  1. Transitions
  2. Criticism

Transitions. A lot of pastors are aware that droves of families have left their church. Sometimes for another church and other times for no church at all. Add to that, the anonymity of online attenders and a lower number of those attending in person gatherings and you get a lot of real and perceived transitions.

But the question all this transition begs is this: who are we pastoring?

When you’re not sure of the answer to that question, it’s disorienting.

Criticism. The volume of the encouragers seems to have been drowned out by what sometimes seems like the full-blast volume of the critics.

With an entire world that is full of worn out people, leaders of all kinds have received the brunt of that anxiety being dumped out by the people they lead.

And pastors have felt it deeply and abundantly.

As I’ve heard others muse: because people attend a church service, they think they know how to lead the church. And many don’t hesitate to let you know about that.

Over the last year, pastors have been drilled with criticism.

And with all that criticism comes the question: who is with us to take the next hill?

When you’re not sure of the answer to that question (and you’re already worn out on top of it), it’s disorienting.

3. Many pastors are dealing with near-sightedness

We’re having trouble seeing beyond the next few months.

Vision?

Let’s get people back together again.

Let’s get back together at full strength.

Beyond that? It’s blurry.

Over the last year +, we’ve shifted, adjusted, innovated, and now our focus is on re-building what we had before Covid was a word we used every other sentence.

But as Carey Nieuwhof and others have pointed out, that’s not vision.

Yes, we should focus on the “why” and zoom out to help others do the same.

The problem is, the first two challenges above are contributing to this one.

A Major Moment

If I’m way off on this, I’m grateful.

But if I’m right – if these three things are converging at the same time – this is a major moment we are upon.

It’s a major moment for a lot of leaders.

It’s a major moment for a lot of churches.

What to Do About it

Now, if I’ve described your experience, please know that I’m lifting you in prayer.

But… what should you do?

This is what has worked for me.

  1. Make the call to a counselor and give yourself to the process. Resolve to dig deep.
  2. Order the book, Managing Leadership Anxiety by Steve Cuss and start reading it. To go along with that, start listening to his podcast too.
  3. Distinguish between your responsibilities and your concerns. Oftentimes, we become most overwhelmed when we treat a concern of ours as a responsibility of ours. Instead, give your concerns to God and ask Him to work through you in your responsibilities. Wayne Cordeiro made this clear to me in his book, Leading on Empty. I highly recommend it.
  4. If you don’t already exercise on a regular basis, start doing so.
  5. Ask God to renew your joy and heal your heart.
Here I go deeper on the five ideas above.

And remember, Jesus told us that we would have trouble in this world. But He also told us that He would be with us through it all.

Maybe on the other side of this moment, we’ll realize that God did some of His deepest work in us through our time of feeling worn out, of feeling disoriented, and of feeling near-sighted.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we boast in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:1-5 (CSB, emphasis added)

Join the Conversation

What are your thoughts? Have you sensed this too?

Let me know in the comments or share in our private Facebook group for pastors.

Want Some Preaching Help?

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Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Lead Pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, IN. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.

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