The #1 Thing That Makes Pastors Unhappy

What makes pastors unhappy? It is so valuable to ask questions of the people you encounter, especially when they are experts in their field. Recently I met a person who makes their living coaching pastors. This is a prominent person with an insider vantage point from which to view church leaders.

I used the opportunity to ask, “What is the greatest challenge to healthy ministry?” Without hesitation the person answered, “Misalignment . . . misalignment of pastors’ skills and gifts and the work they actually do.

Wow. It’s amazing to think that of all the challenges pastors face, gift alignment problems are what are making some sick.

Puzzle piecesMy expert gave the example of an unhappy senior pastor. This pastor used to be an incredible associate pastor. In that role the pastor’s strengths and gifts were used every day. He was happy and effective. This happy associate later became senior pastor. It seemed to him (and most people) the next logical step up the ladder. However, as senior pastor, this person isn’t using his strengths every day. He is manufacturing energy to do a job that doesn’t fit him. He is suffering and so his church.

Over time, pastors can become so “others focused” that they no longer consider themselves. They fail to ask, “Am I happy?” or “Do I feel God’s pleasure in doing this?” While self-sacrifice is part of following Jesus, being a mismatched part of His body is not.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ . . . The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  (1 Corinthians 12:12-23)

Most people have a sweet spot. It’s doing the work that they are called and gifted to do. The work comes naturally and in a way that satisfies.

MismatchOn either side of that sweet spot is work we can do, but it requires unusual amounts of effort. These are the areas in which we are capable but not gifted. These areas may get us a paycheck, but they will never get us awards. If we continue to work outside our sweet spot we become weary, worn down and burnt out. This mismatch of skills and work assignment isn’t good for us or our teams. Just because we are capable of something doesn’t mean we should do it.


Aligning our strengths with our job really isn’t hard. Here are some simple tools that will help you determine your skills and gifts. Once we know what they are, it’s relatively simple to find the kind of assignments that play to our strengths.

JOURNAL FOR A WEEK: Strengths expert Marcus Buckingham recommends that we keep a small notebook with us for a week. Each time we do something that energizes and encourages us, write it down. Conversely, when we do things that leave us drained and frustrated, write them down. The things that energize you are the things you should be doing professionally.

STRENGTHSFINDER ONLINE ASSESSMENT: Take this test online for $10 and it provides you with your “Top 5” strengths. I use this with my staff and with all finalists for a job opening. Most people say it paints an accurate picture. It gets illuminating when you compare your results with those of your co-workers. Take it here:

FREE SPIRITUAL GIFTS INVENTORY: In addition to our innate talents, God is at work in us. The Holy Spirit gives each of us special abilities:

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.  (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

To help determine your gifts, these assessments are available free online:

Free Spiritual Gifts Test:

Free Spiritual Gifts Inventory:

puzzle piecesHonestly, how good of a fit are you to your current job? Are you energized when doing your duties? Do you accomplish them with natural ease or forced effort? Do you look forward to going to work? Do you enable your organization to go further or are you holding it back?

Don’t be a frustrated, misaligned cog when you can be an aligned and energized superstar. What we do is so important it shouldn’t be any other way.


How did you discover your strengths and align them with your work? Leave a comment below.


Three Reasons Leaders Should Lead, Even If They May Not “Win”

Are you someone who will lead even when you know there’s little chance of winning a championship? There’s more to winning than receiving a trophy. Here are three things leaders should consider, as illustrated in this real-life story.

Fallen leavesEach fall thousands of people gather outside Portland, Oregon amongst brilliant foliage, in cold wind and rain. The best of the best high school marching bands come to fiercely compete for the title of champion – the very best in the Pacific Northwest. It’s a sight that must be witnessed to be believed. Someday, someone is going to make a movie about this.

Bus loads of musicians travel hundreds of miles. They’re accompanied by tractor-trailer trucks stuffed with instruments, equipment and props. This one incredible day is why they have prepared for months.

The cutthroat competition starts early; twenty-four bands sequentially take the field, one immediately following another. They are allowed only thirteen minutes to set up, perform and strike their elaborate show, which each involves hundreds of people. They compete for one reason . . . to win one of the precious evening finals competition slots. By late afternoon the results are in.

About half the bands don’t make the cut.

The evening finals competition begins, but with a strange sight that is easily seen by the entire stadium. The crowd witnesses the “winning” bands competing on the field while at the same time the “losing” bands are seen just behind the field. They are packing up their uniforms, elaborate props and school spirit signs. Eventually, the bus engines start and they slowly limp away from the stadium. All of this is in plain sight of the remaining bands that are now competing for the championship trophy.

NWAPA Hillsboro Marching Band Championship - Buses Depart

Crowds watch as busloads of musicians depart during finals competition.

How sad it is to see hundreds of musicians lose and leave on buses before the completion has even ended. Our family empathetically nicknamed them the “frowny-face” buses. A frowny-face emoticon 🙁 seemed to best sum up the seemingly sad early departures. Despite months of relentless practice, investment and effort these wonderful musicians would not be champions.

So what is the point of leading a huge effort when there’s little chance of glory? Leaders who lead teams that aren’t likely to win the championship know something other leaders miss:

1. Leaders create hope. You can’t win if you don’t play. Leaders position people to play, creating the possibility of winning. The presence of hope in your organization has immense value.

2. Leaders create an environment for all sorts of wins. While you may not win the championship, you will have wins along the way. These wins can include personal bests, organizational bests and “regular season” victories. These moments create the memories and stories that give your team identity. Don’t underestimate the power of “hearing the bell ring” for your team, even if it’s simply succeeding in a small challenge.

3. Leaders create a community. A lot of really talented people can play, perhaps just not consistently at championship levels. Bringing people together for an endeavor allows people an opportunity to learn, strive, fail and prevail. They create ideas, bonds and friendships. The journey together is worth far more than winning the prize.

So how did our band do? We scored high enough to make evening finals competition but didn’t come close to winning the Pacific Northwest championship.

But to our people it didn’t really matter. This year we won the championship in our regional competition (the first time in four years). This year we received our highest-ever score in the Pacific Northwest championship, despite performing in a stormy gale. This year our beloved band director suffered health concerns but individual team members jumped right in. They rose to the occasion in his absence. The director returned to a band that was as strong and positive as he left it.

These stories count. They are memories. They are experiences and education. They are about relationship, friendship and progress.

I now know that there’s no such thing as a frowny-face bus. Losing teams may exit early without a trophy. But on those buses are leaders who don’t let the nicety of winning trump the critical need to lead their people.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. — Theodore Roosevelt



Keywords: NWAPA, Championships, Hillsboro, Oregon, Stadium, Marching, Band, Competition, Finals, Preliminary, Century, Showcase, Awards, Trophy, Competitions, Championship, Northwest, Association, Performing, Arts