Facing the Fear: A Guide for Pastors to Overcoming 8 Common Anxieties

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The Fears of a Pastor

As spiritual leaders, pastors carry a significant responsibility to their congregations. They are tasked with guiding, counseling, and uplifting their communities while also managing the day-to-day operations of their church. With such a heavy burden, it’s no surprise that many pastors face fears and anxieties unique to their role.  

In this post, we’ll explore some of the most common fears pastors face and offer practical advice on how to move beyond them.

8 Common Fears of Pastors

Fear of Failure

Failing is one of the most common fears for pastors. Whether it’s the fear of not meeting their congregation’s expectations or falling short in their personal lives, pastors often struggle with the pressure to be perfect. To overcome this fear, pastors must first remind themselves that they are human and prone to mistakes. Failure, on some level, is inevitable. Secondly, pastors should focus on their strengths and recognize that they are doing their best to serve their community. No leader is competent at everything. When you discover your strengths, you can better lean into the spaces you more often succeed while delegating weaknesses to others. 

I wrote another post after watching my daughter lead a dance party at a concert. You’ll have to read it to understand the connection: Your Followers Are Waiting On You To Go First

Fear of Conflict

Conflict is a natural part of life, but pastors may fear conflict more than most. They are often called upon to mediate disputes within their congregation, and the fear of being unable to resolve conflicts can be overwhelming. Like failure, conflict is inevitable. It’s impossible to gather people together and avoid conflict. The best path past this fear is to focus on “how” you engage than “what” you say during the engagement. When we enter into a conversation of conflict from a position of curiosity and posture of empathy, we reduce the conflict temperature and gain confidence in conflict navigation. 

Fear of Burnout

Pastors are passionate about their work, but this can sometimes lead to burnout. The fear of becoming exhausted and unable to meet the needs of their congregation can be paralyzing. To move beyond this fear, pastors should prioritize self-care. They should take time to recharge and pursue hobbies or activities outside of their work. It’s important for pastors to set boundaries and not feel guilty for taking time off when they need it. Practically, it’s helpful to build personal gauges as you see on your car dashboard. Personal gauges allow us to see trouble coming before it hits. This approach is how we practically engage in self-care. 

I did a POOR job of monitoring my emotional and physical health for a long time. And it eventually caught up to me. If you’ve been there, are there, or are trending there, this post may help: Why a Month Away from Leadership Saved My Leadership Life

Fear of Criticism

No one likes to be criticized, but pastors may fear it more than most. They may worry that their sermons or decisions will be attacked by their congregation or other members of their community. After all, pastors are placed in positions to address the most challenging issues and problems in our world. To move beyond this fear, pastors should remember that constructive criticism can help improve their work. They should seek feedback from trusted colleagues or mentors and use criticism as an opportunity to grow. From each criticism, pastors should take what they can take from each person without taking it personally. Take it professionally, not personally. 

At our peak, the church I led (Woodstock City Church) had 37,000 active attendees. It is exciting to have so many people offering unsolicited advice. I wrote this post to help us all respond better: A Much Better Way to Respond to Unsolicited Advice

Fear of Loneliness

Pastors are often seen as the leaders of their community, but this can sometimes lead to feelings of isolation. The fear of being alone or not having a support system can be overwhelming. To move beyond this fear, pastors should prioritize building relationships with trusted peers and friends within their community. The instinct for pastors is to claim isolation as part of the position, but this isn’t a job requirement. The opposite, in fact.

Loneliness is damaging. If you are experiencing any version of this, please read this: Five Healthy Solutions for Lonely Leaders

Fear of Technology

Technology is rapidly changing the way we live and work, and pastors may fear falling behind. They may worry that they don’t have the technical skills to keep up with the latest trends. To move beyond this fear, pastors should embrace technology and seek out resources to help them learn. Additionally, pastors recognize those around them who love new technology. These people are probably willing (and able) to teach or lead the technical side of the church. 

Fear of Losing Control

As leaders, pastors may fear losing control of their position, church, or congregation. They may worry that their community will not follow their guidance or that they will lose their influence. To move beyond this fear, pastors should remember that control is only perceived. Control is never fully available or achieved, and the more pastors attempt to grab it, the more they strangle away the life of their church. The most powerful way to fight control is to embrace surrender. 

Control has always been a struggle for me as a leader. If true for you, too, perhaps this other post would be helpful: How to Focus Your Leadership in the Spaces You Control

Fear of Change

Pastors resist change for a multitude of reasons. Most commonly, pastors fight change because they are unsure how to change, not if things should change. The need to adjust or modify becomes obvious for most leaders as metrics and results wane. Knowing that change is needed is only the first step to change. To overcome this fear, pastors must acknowledge the outcome of change is far more prosperous than the outcome of stagnation. Pastors less adept or experienced with change leadership should seek help and support from other leaders and/or consultants specializing in change. 

I’m passionate about change. It’s our only way forward. If you need help leading change, grab this e-book: The Challenge of Leading People Through Change

Fear Not…

As we are human, it’s probably impossible to move to a position of full fearlessness. It would certainly be dangerous! But pastors can normalize fear and work to fight against it by naming the specific anxieties and worries and addressing each head-on.

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