Maybe We Should Cut Pastors a Little Slack Sometimes?

March 27, 2024 Mario Villella Discipleship

This title probably sounds very self-serving, because I am a pastor. However, the issue I want to raise in this particular article doesn’t apply to me as much as others. I’d like to advocate for graciousness toward other pastors who are in different situations than the one I’m in. Particularly the guys who pastor churches smaller and bigger than mine.
So, let me begin by saying that one thing I’ve learned over the last 13 years is how much church size affects church leadership and culture. This phenomenon is explained well in this document by Tim Keller that I have recommended several times on previous occasions.
One of the big ideas in that essay is that churches of different sizes are very different entities. At one point Keller says, “A large church is not simply a bigger version of a small church. The differences… are so great that the leadership skills required in each are of almost completely different orders.”
I happen to pastor a church that is neither small nor mega. So, I am in a different situation than the small church pastor or the mega church pastor; they both have problems that I don’t have to deal with.
THE SMALL CHURCH PASTOR: This one I can relate to because I used to be one of them. The small church pastor is often overwhelmed by a multitude of issues that come his way, because he often has very little support. If he is the one having to do almost all the baptisms, the funerals, the Lord’s Suppers, the weddings, and the counseling, perhaps you should cut him a little slack regarding his sermons. So what if he’s not as good as the megachurch pastor that you like watching on YouTube? He doesn’t have as much time as that guy has to dedicate to sermon preparation because there are twenty other responsibilities on his plate. Your favorite internet preacher probably wasn’t up late on Saturday night folding bulletins because the volunteer that normally does it got the flu! Besides, when your loved one passes away, and you need someone to comfort you, YouTube guy isn’t going to be there for you.
THE MEGACHURCH PASTOR: Though I’ve never been one, I can see that church leadership also can get more and more overwhelming (in a different way) the larger the church gets. While it is true that I now have more support staff than I did back when Good News was small, I can also notice that our church has more problems that arise (organizationally; and/or in the lives of the individual people) compared to back when the church was smaller. I can imagine that the leader of a church of 1,500 people might have triple the issues/members/staff to have to be responsible for, compared to a church of 500. This is one reason why I think people should cut megachurch pastors a little slack.
I have often been complimented by people for being an “approachable” pastor. People have said things like, “I think it’s cool that you know so many of the people at your church by name. I love that, on Sunday mornings, you don’t hide in some greenroom somewhere, but you walk around the auditorium talking to people all morning long.
In reaction to that, I have three thoughts:
  1. Thank you. That’s cool that you’ve noticed. I’m glad you appreciate it, because it is something that I have worked on over the years, and it’s not the way I’m naturally wired.
  2. You probably only think that because you came from a church bigger than Good News. Of course, I’m more accessible than your previous pastor; he had way more people to handle. In fact, people who come from smaller churches before attending Good News probably don’t even think I’m that accessible. After all, their previous pastor was probably there at every birth, death, graduation, and retirement. And they probably have his personal cell number, too. Now that our church is no longer small, I can’t possibly be as available to each person as I used to be. You only think I’m accessible because you are comparing me to someone who has far more people to deal with than I do.
  3. And so, if I can’t personally be there for every individual person who attends Good News, imagine how much more the preacher at the giant church can’t be there for every individual person. Perhaps that guy is not in that greenroom being sinful and selfish. Maybe he’s in there praying just before he goes to interact with a room containing thousands of people. Maybe that greenroom is necessary for him to stay sane in a building where a lot of people would love to have his attention all at the same time.
So, I say this, if you haven’t pastored a church around the same size as the one you are currently a part of, consider extending grace to the leader(s) in that congregation regarding these issues. It might be that they are dealing with things that you don’t know much about. And if you are a small church pastor or a megachurch pastor and you are reading this, please know that I feel for you. In different ways, you have a tough job, and you must depend upon God to enable you to fulfill the assignment he’s given to you. 
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Mario Villella

Lead Pastor / Elder

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