Are People Really the Best and Worst Part of Ministry?

People 1I’ve heard dozens of pastors repeat the same words … “People are the best and worst part of ministry.” When I hear those words, I sympathize and cringe at the same time. I sympathize because I think I know what these pastors are trying to say. I cringe because I think the wording of the sentiment is a bit off.

I think most pastors are trying to say that relationships are the hardest and the most rewarding part of ministry. This is true for the full time minister, the bi-vocational minister, and even the lay volunteer.

On the one hand, relationships are certainly hard.

  • Relationships don’t happen overnight. They take time and energy, not only to establish but also to maintain.
  • Christian ministry requires that you build and maintain relationships with a wide range of personalities.
  • Relationships come to an end. People leave  your church. Job transfers take families away. Faithful members die.
  • Even the best relationships are marred by the reality of indwelling sin, both in your heart and in others.

Nevertheless, relationships are also the most rewarding part of ministry.

  • Of course our highest aim is God’s glory, but Christian ministry is all about connecting people to that aim.
  • The friendships you forge in the work of Christian ministry have a depth that surpasses any other relationship.
  • There is tremendous joy when you invest in people and see them grow as faithful followers of Christ (3 John 1:4).
  • Relationships were the foundation of Jesus’ ministry, focusing on a few men rather than the masses (Mark 3:13-19).

Are relationships the hardest part of Christian ministry? I think they are. I also know they’re one of the most rewarding parts of Christian ministry. They’re a source of incredible joy and certainly worth sacrifice, risk, and hard work.

Pastors and church leaders, be careful when you disparage God’s people out of frustration and hurt. Yes, the relationships that we have in ministry are challenging. But they’re not the “worst part” of our ministry. Relationships with people are our ministry.

Originally published April 3, 2017 on