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As a pastor for over 20 years, I have worked with good pastors and I have worked with some really crappy ones too. Truth be told, I have been a crappy pastor at times. Not all pastors and church leaders intend to be crappy. In my opinion, crappiness of pastors is often due to either a rigid theology/philosophy of life and spirituality, or due to being uninformed and under form in the area of emotional health. Intentions are usually good and with a desire to be helpful (although not always). The problem is that some of the help given can be more hurtful than helpful and cause people to trust God and others less.

Being able to trust someone with your pain is one of the most valuable tools a person can have for health and wholeness. Likewise, having no one safe to talk to will almost guarantee our staying stuck in our pain.

Being able to trust someone with your pain is one of the most valuable tools a person can have for health and wholeness. Likewise, having no one safe to talk to will almost guarantee our staying stuck in our pain. Now, not every person is 100% trustworthy. We are all flawed and have our struggles with pride and selfishness. It would be great if all we needed was to talk to God and all our pain would god away. The truth is that God is the place to start with but God likes to use people for His best healing work. The key to finding trustworthy people is found in the honesty and transparency of those we hope to share with. Sadly, pastors are not known for honesty and transparency… it’s more likely they are known for their piety and secrecy.

Quit scraping and fawning over mere humans, so full of themselves, so full of hot air! Can’t you see there’s nothing to them? Isaiah 2:22 (The Message)

Sadly, pastors have become less accessible than in years past. No longer is it the role of the pastor to care for the flock. Many pastors are too busy being CEO’s and pop stars to take the time to listen and help. That assignment is either delegated to others, just not done, or done only from a stage. It’s no wonder that trust in pastors is at an all time low. We have done very little to help ourselves be conduits of God’s love and grace.

I don’t want to hate on pastors, especially because I have been one for a long time. There are some fantastic men and women leaders in the church ready to love and listen. How do you know what you are sitting with a great one or a crappy one? Here are some 5 indicators that your pastor might not be the best person to share your pain with.

  1. If your pastor, or church leader has easy answers to difficult problems… find someone else.
  2. If your pastor, or church leader doesn’t listen and talks too much… find someone else.
  3. If your pastor, or church leader never attempts to relate by sharing their own fears, pains or failures… find someone else.
  4. If your pastor, or church leader uses shame, judgment, or condemnation to motivate you or others, find someone else.
  5. If your pastor, or church leader advises you to see a counselor/therapist but has never been to one him/herself… find someone else.

So who should you talk to you when you are hurting or facing a difficult life situation? The first place to look is your most trusted and non-judgemental friends. If you don’t have any of those, you might need new friends! The second place to look is to someone safe who can listen and empathize with your pain and/or situation. If you have a pastor who can do that, go ahead and give it a try.

If you don’t, you may need to seek the help of a professional therapist, a life coach., or even support groups like Al Anon, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Celebrate Recovery. These people don’t have to be your buddies, just good a listening and letting you process out loud. It’s important to find safe, non-judgmental people who will love and support you toward health and wholeness.

What has your experience been? What indicators would you add to my list? Who has helped you process your pain?

Coach Matt

Coach Matt

Matt has over 20 years experience as a pastor, organizational leader and coach. Matt is a survivor of pain, trauma, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts and codependency. He has learned to not only survive trauma and pain, but live a passionate and fulfilling life and loves helping others do the same.