As a pastor, it can be easy to become discouraged. There are often people that are unhappy. The criticism is often directed at you. It stings because what we do is personal. When someone leaves a church because the preaching is no longer “deep” enough — it stings. It doesn’t take much for people to get upset and as the leader you have a big target on your back.
At the same time, we have to deal with our own insecurities and inadequacies. When the church down the street is seeing explosive growth it can be easy to become discouraged and wonder what’s wrong with the church I lead. It’s unhealthy, but way to easy to compare your struggles to another pastor’s Instagram highlights. We often fail to see the struggles of other pastors. We see successes and it can leave us feeling less than when we fail to see the same type of wins.
I’m naturally an optimistic person. I tend to see the bright side of life. Nothing has challenged my optimism like being a pastor. I’m convinced most pessimists where one time optimists. Three years ago, I almost became a permanent pessimist.
I’ll save you most of the gory details… but what I will say is that after a season of experiencing incredible growth as a church, I had four staff members transition off the team. Despite my best efforts, people left. When they left, they were not happy. I struggle with feeling like I was a failure. I struggle because I felt alone. This was an incredibly difficult season and it wasn’t like I could talk to my church about it.
I went to see a counselor to try and sort through my discouragement. It helped some, but I still felt beat up and broken. I’ll never forget receiving a phone call from Pastor Chris Sonksen during this season. Chris listened to me and then said the words that gave me life. It wasn’t advice, coaching nor inspiration. It was empathy and encouragement. Chris said, “Rob this is tough. I hear you. I’ve been there.” He then said words that spoke life into me. He continued, “Rob, you are a good leader and you will lead your church through this.”
I’m convinced one of the reasons we feel discouraged is because the criticism we hear validates what we already feel about ourselves. We feel unworthy, overwhelmed and often unsure if we are capable of doing what God has called us to do. On that day, what I heard was that I’m not alone. And that’s what I want to say to you.
Leading a church is hard. You don’t have to do it alone. You are not alone. The struggles you face are nothing new. They are the same struggles other pastors have felt. I want to say to you the same thing Chris said to me. I know what you are going through is hard. You’re a great leader and God has given you what you need to lead through this. You may be discouraged now, but joy comes in the morning. You are not alone.
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. ~ Galatians 6:9.
Scripture is clear that if we hold on and don’t give up we will reap a harvest. I know it’s difficult. The pain of criticism, the feelings of rejection and the hurt of someone you care about leaving. I know the feelings of not being good enough. I understand what it’s like. God hears you, sees you, and loves you.
If you are a pastor who is feeling discouraged, I would encourage you to find someone safe to vent to. Find someone who can show you empathy and support. One of the best supports I’ve had comes from being a part of ChurchBOOM and the SouthHills network. Leading a church is hard. Don’t do it alone.
To close, I just want you to be encouraged. You may have made mistakes, may be facing incredible obstacles, may be going through a season of discouragement — but don’t give up. The work is too important. Life is too short. There are too many hurting people who need the love of Jesus. God has strategically placed you here for such a time as this. Don’t give up. Keep going. God’s got this.