Criswell: October is Pastor Appreciation Month

October is “Pastor Appreciation Month.”

And yes, I am a pastor.

But I am writing this based on going to church for 41 years while growing up, going to college, being a high school teacher, coach and a banker.

For the past 32 years, I’ve been a pastor.

A recent survey was sent out in the independent Christian churches Churches of Christ, 500 responded.

Seventy percent of preachers in the Christian Church and Churches of Christ drop out of the ministry during the first 10 years.

Forty-three percent of pastors who responded stated they were seriously considering leaving the ministry.

Something is seriously wrong.

Here are some general reasons for which I won’t go into detail on why they leave: financial stress, time pressures, a gnarling sense of failure, leadership dysfunction and constant criticism.

A business executive who resigned from an international corporation to accept a position as the administrator of a large church once said, “It’s much more difficult to oversee a church than to run a business.”

Others, including ministers and elders in small churches, have echoed his conviction.

Business analyst Peter Drucker once suggested the three most difficult jobs he could imagine were hospital administrator, university president and mega-church minister because those tasks require the leader to wear so many different hats and meet so many different expectations.

The oversight of a church of any size is difficult.

Here are 10 reasons Bob Russell says why:

A cumbersome structure

The lines of authority are usually clearly drawn in business.

But church leaders typically have to work with two separate leadership silos: the staff and the elder. And the two often battle for control.

Murky goals

In business, everyone understands the purpose is to make a reasonable profit, develop satisfied customers and create a positive work environment.

But ask people in the church, “How do you measure a win?”

The answers are varied. Is the goal to increase attendance? Have more baptisms? Change lives?

Community service? Spiritual growth? Completion of buildings?

Keep people happy? Maybe to please God?

Success is a moving target, and the minister has so many different expectations, he’s always vulnerable to criticism and removal.

The ministry attracts more than its share of kooky people

The business world rejects the applications of those who don’t fit.

But the church welcomes anyone.

We seek and save society’s outcasts, and that’s the way it ought to be.

But disenfranchised people can be draining and sometimes make life difficult for church leaders, especially when they become leaders.

Church members can also be negative, set in their ways, selfish and cause all kinds of problems.

Long term members consider themselves experts in how the church ought to run

Few people in the business world know what goes on in the day-to-day operation and don’t pretend to.

But people who have been to church for a while consider themselves experts on what a church is supposed to be.

They are like the fans who sit in the stands at ball games and find themselves more knowledgeable than the coach.

We are dealing with such vital issues that trigger strong emotional reactions

The stakes in the church are eternal, and good people can become irrational if they feel their most dearly held values are threatened.

If the preacher fails to mention the memorial flowers, dares to move the American flag or is bold enough to teach what the Bible says about divorce, homosexuality or abortion, he discovers otherwise intelligent people can become unreasonable in their response.

Christians are notoriously poor at confronting

Accountability and confrontation are expected in the business world.

But since the church is supposed to be a loving family, many are reluctant to confront disagreements, and they fester.

The church is almost totally dependent upon volunteers

The business world has leverage on employees, but church leaders rely on people giving of their time and money voluntarily.

When people don’t follow through with their commitments, it creates frustration and stress.

The number one problem in churches is, “How do you get people involved?”

The moral standards are higher than other occupations

This is as it should be.

We are to walk worthy of the calling we’ve received.

But the personal standards for ministry apply 24 hours a day, 365 days a year resulting in unrealistic expectations

There are a few acceptable ways to vent frustrations

A CEO of a business can get angry, slam the table, even curse, and employees walk on eggshells for a few hours.

Those responses are unacceptable in ministry, where leaders are supposed to be Christ-like all the time.

The high demand for a weekly presentation to the constituents

A CEO has to face the stockholders once or twice a year.

If he’s a lousy public speaker, it doesn’t matter if the company is making a profit.

Ministers face their constituency every week, and his job performance is evaluated primarily on whether he’s able to keep their attention without alienating them or their family.

To preach every week is like having a major term paper due every seven days. It’s an awesome, overriding pressure.

When the Apostle Paul listed the hardships he faced, including shipwrecks, imprisonments and beatings, he added, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11:28)

Church leaders need our prayers and deserve our support because, at times, they have a pressure-packed, challenging assignment.

They remain in ministry because they are called of God to serve in the most vital work in the world.

While they may occasionally whine about its difficulty, they know the church with all its problems is still the body of Christ on Earth, and the gates of Hades cannot prevail against it.

So I want to salute and clap for all pastors and leaders in our churches.

There is not a better time for the church.

In Clark County, maybe 30,000 don’t go to church. People are searching for meaning in their life.

They need hope, and they need to fill that God-shaped hole we all have in us.

It’s not drugs or social media that fills that hole.

It’s Jesus Christ, and God has placed you at your location to lead and pastor.

So don’t quit.

This week, those of you reading this, take a moment to encourage your pastor.

He or she needs encouragement just like you.

Whit Criswell is pastor of Cornerstone Christian Church. He can be reached at or 859-621-9012.