The discouragement that pastors can experience is very real. Fact is, just about every pastor in every size of church and context faces discouragement at some point.
This is especially true these days as pastors are still navigating the ramifications of the impact of COVID. Many pastors wake up on Monday morning disheartened, demoralized or even ready to quit.
A pastor once told me that he had lost count of the number of times his wife had talked him out of resigning on a Monday morning. He said that tongue-in-cheek, but I could clearly perceive the discouragement behind his statement.
The reality of pastoring a church means that not every Sunday is going to be a pinnacle experience. Sometimes church can just feel flat.
People seemed to mumble through the songs and appear disengaged. No one came forward in the invitation. Attendance was down. The offering was down. There were no baptisms. Someone gave a sharp, ugly criticism just minutes before the start of the worship service.
Social media is replete with pictures and comments of the great things happening at other churches. In addition, there are seasons of pastoring that are difficult—seasons of numerous funerals, crises in the church or with families in the church, conflict with members or between members, and times when the pastor’s vision and passion for the church seems to be falling on deaf, unresponsive ears. All of this can and does lead to discouragement.
Pastor, when you are in a season of discouragement, remember that you are in this for the long game. Your preaching and leadership have cumulative effects only realized once you have experienced the varying seasons of a pastorate.
There will be good days and bad days; times of harvest and times of waiting and struggle. Be patient. Look beyond one tough Sunday or several of them in a row. Trust every Sunday and every season, the good ones and the difficult ones, to the Lord and His purposes and providence.
Remember the positive impact your ministry is having on many that you do not see and do not hear about. And remember your calling—to selflessly shepherd the flock God has entrusted to you. You are not living for temporal reward or for the ones who give you praise or criticism. You are living for what is eternal and the One who will one day say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Pastor, please persevere. You are so needed! When discouraged, spend time with the Lord. Spend time with fellow pastors who know what it’s like to be in the trenches. Double down on what you have been called to do.
Start studying even harder for next Sunday’s message. Go visit or call a church member. “See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord” (Col. 4:17).
Church member, encourage your pastor. Pastors carry the burden of things I have mentioned in this article more than you know. Pray for them. Write them a note. Say a kind, affirming word. Little things such as these can be difference makers in hard weeks and seasons.
Thank you pastor for your committed and tireless service to Christ’s church and His kingdom. We need you! Press on!