Ministry Today – Serving and empowering church leaders

Stress killer
Does stress prevail within your staff? (Stock Free Images)

I heard it again today: “Only senior pastors can understand the incredible pressure a senior pastor is under.”

I have no reason to doubt the statement or any way to gauge the level of stress a senior pastor deals with. My only experience as the top dog was for 2 1/2 years in a small church in Texas. I’ve lost count of how many pastors I’ve met with, but my perspective is mostly secondhand. From what I’ve observed, however, the lead guy is often in a pressure cooker.

At the same time, I don’t think most senior pastors understand the pressure their staff is under. While they may have been a staff pastor at one time, the “curse of knowledge” says they probably don’t realize they don’t remember what it's like to not be in control. So, for all the senior pastors, here’s a peek at the pressure they bring to the staff.

Here are eight senior pastor stress-inducing phrases:

1. “We’ll figure it out.” Translation: I come up with ideas, and you figure out how to execute them. I can’t be bogged down with the details.

2. “It’s a possibility.” Translation: There is no way in heck we’re going to do that, but I don’t like to say no. So instead, you keep thinking it's a possibility, and I’ll keep dreaming up new ideas for you to work on.

3. “That’s a great idea. Talk to the staff leader.” Translation: That’s a terrible idea, but I don’t like to say no. (See “Its a possibility” above.) I will send you to a staff member who will say no for me, so you’ll be mad at him instead of me.

4. “I was talking to my wife, and she agrees we should change it.” Translation: The law of the pastor’s wife is as unchangeable as the law of the Medes and Persians. There’s no debate, no modification, no appeal. Just make it happen.

5. “We’re going to do what New Elevation Lifechurch does.” Translation: I went to another church conference, and now we’re going to change everything so we can be successful like the really big churches.

6. “We’re going to stop doing what New Elevation Life Church does.” Translation: I know we just changed everything, but I don’t want to do that anymore. We’ve been doing it for three months, and we’re not seeing the results I think we should see. So now we’re going to do something else. (See “We’ll figure it out” above.)

7. “We need to reorganize.” Translation: It's time to play staff musical chairs again. Where you stop, nobody knows. Hopefully it won’t involve moving your family this time.

8. “We need to make a change.” Translation: Someone is going to lose their job. As a staff member, you’re never quite sure when this one is coming or when the ax will swing your way. As comforting as it is to know how gut-wrenching this type of decision is for the senior pastor, it still tends to sting a little. (Extreme sarcasm alert in the previous sentence.)

These examples are an exaggeration and compilation of all the pastors I’ve worked with. The point is there are two kinds of stress when working for a church: the stress of being in control and the stress of not being in control.

I’m not saying the stress the staff feels is as intense as the senior pastor’s, but it's good to experience what it’s like to be on the other side of the desk occasionally. Maybe your stress isn’t worse than mine, just different.

Geoff Surratt has served as the pastor of church planting at Saddleback Church and pastor of ministries at Seacoast Church. He is the co-author of The Multisite Church Revolution and The Multisite Church Roadtrip, as well as the author of 10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing.

For the original article, visit

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Discouragement can be a serious struggle.

    Guard Your Spirit Against These 4 Crippling Attacks

    Are you struggling this Valentine's Day with one of these discouraging issues?

  • Some of the toughest lessons reap the greatest rewards.

    10 Tough Lessons Every Pastor Should Remember in Ground-Shaking Trials

    One is that your suffering may turn out to be the highest compliment the Father ever gave you.

  • Why Many Christians Misunderstand This Crucial Leadership Trait

    Great leadership doesn't start with a great education, although that is incredibly valuable. ...

  • Worship leaders, keep your team's attitude in check.

    This Can Quickly Erode a Worship Team's Culture

    God has given us talent and He calls for excellence, but excellence with this is not honoring ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Your Source of Unlimited Kingdom Energy and Power

    Jesus said that we can do greater works than He did and that He will do whatever we ask in His Name.

  • What reasons can you think of that leaders might not choose to delegate authority?

    7 Reasons Some Leaders Dump Delegation

    These could have a lot to do with stalled growth and low team morale.

  • These seven responses can get you on the right track.

    Responding Like Jesus When Your Church Kicks You Out

    It's a pain that many in the ministry have felt at least once and maybe more.

  • A 'What's in it for me?' mentality could bring your church down.

    The Mentality That May Be Killing Your Church

    And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued or declining.

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders