Please Don’t Be Mean to Your Minister/Preacher

There’s a clear line between constructive criticism and simply being a critic. I’ve always welcomed constructive criticism, believing that I can learn and grow from anything that’s said in a loving spirit.

I’ve also never been one to wear my feelings on my sleeve. In fact, I’ve always felt I have thick skin when it comes to people’s criticism or unkind comments. That’s why I’ve had a hard time writing this. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, whining or being thin-skinned, because I’m not. I just would like to make a point … there is a shortage of preachers/ministers in this world, and one of the reasons is because of unkind criticism and unrealistic expectations.

This past week Lea and I were a part of a group from Childress that went to Austin to represent our community before our state representatives. Before I left I told my leadership that I was going to have someone cover my Wednesday evening class, just in case I didn’t make it back in time to teach. They agreed.

It just so happened that I did make it back in time this past Wednesday, but still allowed the man who prepared the class to teach the class.  One man, when he realized I wasn’t teaching, said loudly enough so everyone could hear, “Hey, why aren’t you teaching tonight?” I tried to briefly explain that I’d been in Austin. His loud response, still in front of everyone, “Don’t we pay you to teach the class?” I chose to ignore that one. Then he topped it off with a, “Maybe you should be looking for a job in Austin,” and then quickly followed it up with a, “You know I’m only kidding you about all this stuff.” At this I simply smiled and said as kind as I could, “If I moved, I wouldn’t get to spend any time with you and that would make me sad.”

Just so you’ll know, I serve a very loving church that treats me WAY better than I deserve.  They are loving, supporting and I’m honored to work with them.  So why would someone say something like this? Who knows, maybe this man was just having a bad day. He was probably saying what he was thinking, but should have kept it to himself.  I’m not mad, nor am I frustrated with a man who didn’t know what he was talking about.  What’s important is that we need to realize we need to be kind to one another and not jump to conclusions.  Remember the old saying, “If you can’t say something nice … don’t say anything at all.” If you have a problem with someone, talk to them privately in a kind way. I promise it will go much better.

The point I’d like to make is this … please be kind to the people who serve in your churches. They aren’t perfect people, and they’re not always going to be able to please you.

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Article by Trey Morgan

I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast. Read 1182 articles by
43 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Peter P says:

    I’ve heard many people say things like that is jest not realizing that the things they are ‘joking’ about take root in other people’s minds and cause them to question things they should be questioning.

    We really do have to be so very careful with what we say. Words have so much more power than we think they have… even when we don’t mean them!

  2. John Dobbs says:

    Excellent as always, Trey. People do say such odd things and do not seem to realize that that preacher they are talking to is a human being with real feelings too! On the other hand I’ve seen some blowhard preachers who made rear-ends of themselves regularly. I’ve done it meself!

  3. Well said, brother. We all come into this world “AS IS.” None of us are perfect. Rather than belittle our brothers and sister, even under the disguise of joking, we should uplift one another. Words are little seeds that impregnate us. Too much negativism will inevitably bring out the bear in us. I believe that’s the reason Paul instructed the Christians in Ephesus with these words: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Enough of my ruminations. Good article. Very well constructed. Keep up the good work.

  4. Jake says:

    Trey, I couldn’t agree more- Congregants shouldn’t talk to their pastors like that. Frankly, humans should be nicer to each other. I think people occasionally justify this kind of behavior because they lack understanding about what it means to be a minister OR more specifically, they don’t know what you do when you aren’t teaching or counseling. I bet this man has certain expectations of you, the church etc. that may or may not be justly held. The whole notion of ministry is service, so a minister is called to be a servant. Maybe he isn’t feeling “served” (that sounds ridiculous).

    Of course, that can be taken too far and I wouldn’t ever expect any pastor to live in such a way as to keep their congregation happy because suddenly, the people have room to make ridiculous claims on their pastor’s life and time… but I think this whole superstar-pastor thing we do in America keeps some ministers from serving their communities and makes them look as if they’re serving themselves- especially those who aren’t rich and famous yet and are trying like hell to get there. You guys walk a fine line and unfortunately, live in fish-bowls :)

    So, his speaking out as he did was entirely out of line, BUT I think it’s worth some investigating, too. Also, he might just have baggage from another church experience. Either way, you have a tough job and I hope I didn’t come across as critical or crass… because I get where you’re at and perhaps we should try to understand where he’s coming from too?


  5. Rick Morgan says:

    The “I’m joking” line is supposed to be permission to say what ever, it’s like saying “I’m just telling you the truth”

  6. Jim Martin says:

    Trey, I’ve heard this for many years: “I’m just joking.” What this often means is, “I don’t want to take responsibility for what I just said. If you get upset, it is because you lack a sense of humor because I am only joking.” Far too often such a comment is a cheap way to say whatever and then refusing to own what was just said.

    We were created for so much more.

    • Trey Morgan says:

      “I’m just joking.” What this often means is, “I don’t want to take responsibility for what I just said. If you get upset, it is because you lack a sense of humor because I am only joking.”

      Jim … you have such wisdom. That line is excellent.

  7. Clayton McCool says:

    As much as we hear of this problem, if it is a problem, for some it seems it is, some seems as if it is not, what is causing it? Why do some feel compelled to say such? I am infamous for saying Preachers are not inspired. I say it just to remind them, for some seem to believe they surely are. Worse than that many members believe preachers are inspired too. It’s as if “my preacher said so and so” and that settles it. This isn’t just in the churches of Christ either it’s in all denominations. Have we given them to much say?

    The early church did not function in this manner. There was from the street corners and before those that had not heard of this Jesus. A closer look at the text will indicate followers were dialogging and not sitting glared eyed st

    • Clayton McCool says:

      glared eyed staring at the back of the head in front of him.

      ( Welllll a premature sending cut me off mid sentence.)

      I believe if Preachers could lower their know it all lecture attitude and allowed for more open conversation concerning the text with an attitude of lets see what this text teaches and see if we all can come to the same conclusion. But thats just how I see it so all that means is this may not apply to all preacher or even most, but that attitude does exist more than some may think. Just sayin :)

    • Ray Reavis says:

      As a pastor, I regularly tell people not to take my word for something, check behind me. I also encourage them to speak to me if they feel like anything I have said is incorrect or could be misunderstood. So far no one has taken me up on it, and I’m kind of disappointed. I really love having theological discussions because I can’t speak for all preachers, but I wrestle with God’s word every week when I’m preparing for the sermon.

      I also am against prooftexting — where a pastor will find little tiny snippets of scripture that back up the point they want to make. I teach my congregation to study scripture in light of other scripture.

  8. Clayton McCool says:

    One more thing? I do not say this to be mean or hurt feelings but for us all to think!

  9. Angie Cox says:

    There is a personality assessment called true colors. It’s very interesting to see how the colors fall when in a group of people who know each other well. Blues, Greens, Golds, and Oranges. Greens tend to say what comes to mind with little regard for anyone’s feelings.

    I worked with a very strong green for a number of years and my touchy-feely blue seemed to spend most of my time smoothing over the ruffled feathers and hurt feelings. They have some positive attributes, but most of the time it’s difficult to get past the “jerk” of that personality type. They aren’t very patient with blues (who are usually the ones getting their feelings hurt). They tend to be un-approving of oranges, who tend to be the fun-loving party types. Golds probably tolerate them best because Golds tend to be more focused on organizing, leading, and getting things done.

    Anyway, it’s almost as if this is a DNA level personality trait. Frustrating, yet it seems to help knowing what they actually are. Maybe we’d all be better off if they were required to wear a warning label.

  10. danny prado says:

    Brother trey, I am truly sorry that you had to bear that gentlemans remarks, obviously, he was having a bad day, you are to be commended for the wonderful work that you do in our community,and, the church. keep your chin up,and turn the other cheek!W.W.J.D? May God bless tou with his infinite wisdom, so that you may continue your mission towards salvation,and those around you may be touched by Gods teachings. “Onwards Christian Soldiers!”

  11. Charlie says:

    Trey, I am always grateful to have you for a friend/preacher. My only complaint with you is not liking country music! lol. I jest. Have a wonderful week!

  12. Lura says:

    The tongue is a two edged sword and difficult to control. A quiet and gentle spirit comes when we put all our faith in God knowing that He is in control and causes all thing to work to the good of those who love Him. As christians we often confuse judgment with discernment. We forget that we have to walk in our own shoes.

  13. Steve Gauntt says:

    I can’t believe you wrote this! Seriously, I can’t believe you had the guts to write this article without changing it to some “I heard this from another minister” story. I also can’t believe you had the love to write this…I know you are filled with love – but love expressing itself in telling a story like this is rare.
    For those who don’t know me, I am a minister. I write that it takes love to write this because it is a lot easier to just store a story like this in the corners of the brain and bring it up during times of doubt and uncertainty. It is easier to use a story like this to distance self from other because of that comment they made in ignorance. It is easier to let it go and hope the sparks of doubt that a story like this creates do not fan into a flame of distrust and animosity.
    But love looks to others not self. And love understands that this story is playing itself out in nearly every church of every variety under the sun. And love realizes that if others understood what was really happening when those comments made in jest are spoken for everyone to hear, then it might be possible to raise the awareness of congregations and actually raise up a group of people who focus on the good they can do and not the petty things they can pick at.
    I can’t believe you wrote this – but I’m glad you did.

  14. vanilla says:

    Most times when someone says, “just kidding,” they really mean what they say, but don’t want to own it, as others have said. Scripture, too condemns this practice, “As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death,
    So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?” Proverbs 26:18,19

  15. No one seems to have addressed (yet) the problem we have created with our unspoken “pastor system.” We are victims or our own invention of a professional class of paid “ministers” to do our preaching and teaching for us. No where in Scripture do we find such a thing. This invention has spawned many abuses and driven many a preacher out of our pulpits (another invention) and often, out of our churches. If some in the congregation see us as “paid to teach and preach,” then such a misunderstanding finds expression in “Don’t we pay you to teach this class?” The problem is far more basic than an unkind comment. Members of the church need to see us as “supported to proclaim the gospel,” not “hired to be ‘the minister.'” Much more can and needs to be said but I’ll spare you that. You are a good man, fine father and outstanding preacher…and that’s not just my opinion. So, stay the course, fight the good fight and preach the word.

  16. Greg England says:

    Been there … the only thing those people are “joking” about is when they say they are only joking. Swindoll once wrote (quoting someone else, but I got rid of all my Swindoll books) “No one ever built a statue to a critic.” For what it’s worth. I finally got to a point where I would just publicly ignore the comment, which was left hanging in the air and usually made the commenter look rather foolish.

  17. John Knox says:

    Trey, Thank you for your timely comments. I think this post will make a real difference.

  18. Some churches are abusive toward their ministers. This is the main factor in why I got out of full-time parish ministry. Just as well. Turns out that just isn’t my bag, baby. Ya.


    • Trey Morgan says:

      Adam … I wish there was another reason you got out of full-time ministry … like people were just TOO nice to you. :) Even though you aren’t in full-time ministry anymore, I appreciate what you do for the kingdom of God.

  19. Ray Reavis says:

    I have been treated with less respect and more resentment in the 3 years I’ve been a pastor than in 20 years I spent in the IT sector. Thankfully, it’s only been a few. I serve some very loving people who exhibit Christian love, but there are a few that have caused problems.

    My theory is that many people in positions of authority at church have no other experience supervising others. Private sector companies spend money and time training others on how to relate to people for job evaluations, offering feedback, and other “soft skills.” Maybe churches should require that anyone who serves on a church board that has any oversight over pastors or other church employees should take a biblically-based training course on providing feedback in a constructive, loving way and in encouraging development of pastors and staff.

  20. Candice says:

    Some people don’t realize how much hard work preachers do every day of the week (not just Sundays and Wednesdays) to help their churches grow and prosper. I have heard church members speak poorly to my dad (who is also a preacher) on more than one occasion. It hurts to see fellow Christians behave this way when we expect them to support and encourage us rather than judge us. Don’t let one person’s rude comment discourage you— some people are impossible to satisfy.

  21. LB Lane says:

    Hang in there Trey. As a football official I hear it all the time. The only difference is that those folks are not joking!! :)

  22. John Knox says:

    Trey, as always you inspire me.
    I responded to this post in my blog post today.

About Me

Trey Morgan Here are my thoughts about marriage, family, raising children, humor, faith and the life God intended for us all. I am a Christian husband and father, who moonlights as the minister for the church of Christ in Childress, Texas. My wife Lea and I have been married for 25 years. We are doing our best to raise our 4 boys, who are all growing up way too fast.

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Trey Morgan
Husband, father and cancer survivor & Senior Minister for the Childress Church of Christ. Tweets about life, marriage, Texas Rangers and randomness.
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