Can you talk honestly to your pastor?

When you're around your pastor, are you able to be open and honest—or does the presence of a pastor make you clam up and behave differently?

A very short reflection by a former pastor at Dear God raises an interesting, and slightly worrisome, issue:

Now, I am on the outside of the church looking in and I don’t like what I see.... Now that I am not a pastor, people are honest with me. I had no idea how hard life was for so many people because when they came on my "turf" they pretended just as much as I did.

There are obviously several different serious issues raised by his reflection, but Jollyblogger has a good bit of commentary that focuses in on one question: Are people able to speak openly to their church leaders? He's not referring to you keeping a lid on what you really think about the pastor's new haircut; he's asking if it's common for people to hide their true selves and hurts from their pastors.

I've wondered about this in the past, but mostly in a somewhat lighthearted way: I've noticed that having a pastor in a social group tends to cut down on people's use of profanity, as if people (even non-churchgoers) feel some pressure to behave in the presence of a pastor. But I'd not considered the more serious implications.

Do you have trouble being open with your pastor? Does your pastor know your real spiritual struggles and concerns, or do you put on a mask to hide your real feelings? If you've ever spoken to your pastor about personal struggles or spiritual problems, are you able to be completely honest and straightforward about them, or do you try to whitewash or hide what's really going on?

Pastors, do you sense that people in your congregation are keeping their personal problems and struggles hidden from you? And what, if anything, do you think might change this situation?

Comments (14)

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Wow.  I thought this would be a hot topic.  Are we afraid to speak up?  I think it is pretty natural for people to either put on a ‘Happy Face’, or to clean up their act, around a Pastor.  I think my pastor may be one of those around whom people feel more free to be themselves and be real, partly because his own flaws make it easier for us to be flawed around him.  That can be frustrating at times, but I think it’s better than having a pastor who appears “perfect” and makes others feel like they should be, too.

I am really worried about my grandson. He is serving in the Army reserves and just got a pentagram tattoed on his arm and has told his mother, my daughter, that he belongs to the wiccan religion.  I would love to be able to talk to my pastor about this, but we belong to a small congregation and my pastor’s wife is a bit of a gossip. I am a pretty open person, so this is very hard for me not to be able to talk to him. What do I do?  Sandra

Personally I think it’s sad that we have concentrated all the authority of offices of the local church into one office, the Pastor. A term that is used once in the New Testament. I think it’s a hangover from the middle ages when a Priest would represent the congregation to God, consecrate the host and provide all the intermediary spiritual duties. Paul and Timothy were careful to appoint several elders and several deacons for each local church. Preaching, exhortation and prophetic responsibilities were spread among several people. While many Pastors have performed wonderfully and are legendary, in general, I think it’s too much pressure to thrust all the authority, pastoral duties and preaching responsibilities upon one man. It’s unhealthy both for the “Pastor”, leading to burnout, and the congregation, who become Sunday pew sitters, or the laity. The pressure to be brilliant every Sunday, delivering fresh revelation and insiteful therapeutic lectures must be crushing. Of course we would fear to talk honestly to the the priestly Pastor just as the israelites feared Moses. My heart goes out to this former Pastor. Perhaps he was called to the Eldership office but lacked a team of co-laborers to share the responsibilities.

My dad is a pastor, and it appears that people are able to speak very honestly with him. He often speaks of sometimes “not wanting to know” anymore - it’s hard for him when he knows the ins and outs of every person’s life in our small church. There is a lot for a pastor to keep under wraps, and a lot to take in and still think objectively about. I can’t imagine what it would be like for a priest whose vocation it was to listen to his congregration’s confessions.

I find it very easy to talk to my pastor, lol.

Sandra, I will be praying for you & your daughter & grandson.  I think you should share this anyway, because you, and your family, may not be the only ones going through this - wicca is pervasive in today’s culture.  You said you belong to a small congregation, but are you also in a small town?  If you can, set up an appointment with the pastor of a larger, or even different, church.  Some churches have free counseling, and if one of these churches is in your area, don’t hesitate to take advantage of the confidential help available there.  If you have other grandchildren, a wide-open door has been provided for you to discuss the things of Christ vs. false religions with them.  Go to the library or bookstore - there are several good resources in the Christian section of Books A Million, for example - and the web to find out more about wicca so that you can have confidence when you speak to others about what is going on.  Remember that, as much as you love your grandson, the Lord Jesus loves him even more, and pray, because your grandson can argue with you, ignore you, dismiss his upbringing - but he’s defenseless against your prayers.  God bless you my sister, I hope this helps.

I am sorry to hear this.  I will pray for you and your grandson. 
With that said, I urge you to share this with people in your congregation so they can pray too.  I think you will find strength in the people of God.  You can share with your pastor as well, as he might have good and comforting insight, but I’ve also found that God often uses the people I wouldn’t expect.
Either way, if you bring this before the Body, you will not have to worry about gossip.


Andrew,  Thank You for your suggestion, I had never thought of it that way.

Christiane Li,  Thank you so much for your comments, I do live in a small
town and people are somewhat judgmental here.  You offer some good
suggestions and I didn’t realize wicca was pervasive in today’s society. I
checked wicca out on the internet and I found out some information, but I
believe I need to do some more investigating.  Thank You for your
suggestions.  Pebbles

I know I can be completely honest around my pastor, and I am. I’m also in the process of becoming a pastor, so it’s great to know this ahead of time so I can talk about it and watch for it.

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