Practical Wisdom for Pastors: The "People are unhappy with you!" scenario

I am working on a book right now which will be release for the upcoming pastors conference. It will be a resource of practical wisdom for pastors about situations we face that tempt us to say, "Oh no! Bible school never taught me this!!"

Pastors and leaders, you may have heard this before. “Pastor, there are many who are unhappy with you, but they won’t tell you.” Ha ha. I have an excerpt below out of the book that addresses this topic. 

“Pastor, there are many who are unhappy with you, but they won’t tell you.”


Vij Illantee has a forceful personality and is usually not happy with how Pastor Sam Sincere is leading Let’s All Get Along Church. He regular shares with Sam his laundry list of complaints – everything from “The music is way too loud” to “You are not feeding the sheep with your messages.” When Vij is trying to make a point of how bad things are, he says, “Pastor, there are many people in the congregation who are unhappy with your leadership, but they won’t tell you. They are afraid they will hurt your feelings or that you will become angry with them. I hear this all the time from a great number of people.” What advice would you give Sam?


  • I should not be a pastor if anyone I am leading is unhappy with my leadership.

  • I should not believe I have any areas I need to improve on as that would demonstrate unnecessary weakness to those I lead.

  • I should not confront Mr. Illantee on anything because he might get mad. 

  • There is no doubt Vij is a messenger of Satan, and he should be asked to leave the church.

LIFE AND LEADERSHIP CORE VALUES TO CONSIDER (these are pulled from a list of ~100 core values for leaders that will be included in the book):

  1. In any people group we want to influence, we look for the “son of peace” (or daughter of peace) to work through.

  2. I am primarily a developer of leaders.

  3. I regularly educate our people about our ministry’s philosophy and process of decision-making regarding potentially controversial or confusing things.

  4. I am a God-pleaser, not a people-pleaser.

  5. I have established clear protocols for our people to use whe n they have concerns or questions about how I am leading this ministry.

DISCERNING WHAT GOD IS DEVELOPING IN YOUR LEADERSHIP THROUGH THIS SITUATION (instead of just reacting, it is wise to know what God is doing in your life through this): 

  1. He is helping you deal with dysfunctional behaviors in your ministry.  

  2. He is causing you to evaluate how open you are to get feedback from those you lead.

  3. He is teaching you to not need everyone’s approval to walk in joy and peace.


  1. How well do I really know how the people in my ministry are feeling about my leadership?

  2. What insecurities might this be stirring up in me?

  3. How well have I equipped my people to process their concerns or questions about how I am leading?

  4. Do I invite people into my life to give me feedback, or do people sense I will respond negatively to them sharing their concerns? Do people think I am approachable?

  5. Do I have the courage to eliminate patterns of gossip and grumbling in our ministry?


  1. Train your people how to process disagreements or negative feelings they have about what is happening in church – There are few things more important to the relational health of a ministry than the people having good training and modeling in how to manage problems in the ministry. Many church attendees come from poor family backgrounds and do not know how to do relationships well. It is the wise leader who is proactive in teaching relationship and conflict resolution skills that emphasizes honor and the principles taught in Matthew 18:15-17.

  2. Refuse to be a dumping ground for those with critical attitudes – If we tolerate constant negativity to be spoken to us, it will keep on happening. Instead of passively or angrily receiving other people’s garbage, we can tell people what they are to do if they have a disagreement with leadership or others. It  is wisdom to proactively give people pathways for processing their concerns and questions. 

  3. Have a plan to overcome any unhealthy need you have for the approval of people – We can lessen our desire for the praise of people by the following: 1) Get healed of our insecurities. 2) Understand every leader has to learn how to overcome being criticized by others. 3) Keep moving forward in your life because people who are growing are less likely to dwell on what people think of them. 4) Learn to laugh at yourself, and at the lie that we cannot have the joy of the Lord when there are people unhappy with you. 


  • My people love and trust me because I have their best interests at heart. 

  • Every dysfunction in our ministry is being transformed into a strength. 

  • I have life-giving boundaries and protocols in our ministry which greatly eliminates strongholds of negativity from lives.