In my latest non-scientific Twitter survey, I asked the following question of pastors and church staff: What is your biggest challenge in ministry? Here are the top twelve responses with representative quotes. I've taken the liberty to expand most of the quotes from their abbreviated form in Twitter.
1. Apathy and internal focus. "I have been in ministry for over twenty years, and I've never seen church members more apathetic and internally focused."
2. Staff issues. "I inherited staff from the previous pastor. It's not a good match, but I don't have the credibility to do anything about it."
3. Leading and keeping volunteers. "It's a fulltime job itself."
4. General time constraints. "I end every week wondering why I got so little done."
5. Getting buy-in from members. "I spend half my time developing a consensus from members about decisions from the mundane to the critical."
6. Generational challenges. "It seems like the older generation is determined to nix any new ideas or excitement from the younger generation."
7. Finances. "You can sum up our challenge in four simple words: We need more money."
8. Holding on to traditions. "I wish our members would put as much effort into reaching people for Christ as they do holding on to their traditions."
9. Criticism. "Some leaders in the church have appointed themselves to be my weekly critics."
10. Leadership development. "We miss too many opportunities in ministry because we don't have enough leaders ready."
11. Majoring on minors. "We spent an hour in our last business conference discussing the fonts in our bulletins."
12. Lack of true friends. "One of the toughest realities for me as pastor was the awareness that I have no true friends in the church."
What is fascinating, if not discouraging, about this survey is that virtually all of the challenges noted by these pastors and staff were internal challenges. It appears that many of our churches in America are not effective conduits of the gospel because the members spend so much energy concerned about their own needs and preferences.