The Pinterest Pastor

Someone on Pinterest just finished the perfect kitchen remodel,  planted a shade patio garden in a pallet, and flawlessly executed a pirate themed birthday party for their six year old.

Pinterest users can browse categories and find recipes, home decor ideas, and even inspirational quotes.  It’s a popular social media destination for parents and crafters.  

Such collections of creative ideas can be inspiring, but they can also be depressing.  Who has time to buy all the ingredients for those tasty, healthy family meals?  Who has the money to convert their walk-in closet to a custom laundry room?  Who has the time to convert a Craigslist dresser into a bathroom vanity?

There are two downsides to websites like Pinterest.  First, it facilitates boasting.  Pinterest gives you the virtual space to boast about your DIY miracle, flea market find, or homemade 7-layer cake.  It’s easy to cross the fine line between sharing something that could benefit someone else and screaming, “Look at me.”

Second, it facilitates jealousy.  It’s an envy-evoking website where you can digitally drool over all you don’t have.  How many people become dissatisfied with their closet when they see a dramatic overhaul?  I’ve found myself lost in a sea of wishes, scrolling through images of all the things I want but don’t have.

While you may not be on Pinterest, it’s easy for pastors and church leaders to fall into the comparison game with other pastors and leaders, and develop an unhealthy view of themselves; we call it the “Pinterest Pastor” syndrome.

See if any of these symptoms sound familiar.  

Pinterest Pastor Type 1:The Uppers

Like the moms who plan a birthday party with pictures for Pinterest in mind, these kind of pastors do things to get the attention of other pastors.  They aren’t necessarily doing what’s best for their church or ministering out of their unique calling, gifting or personality, they are doing stuff to get noticed.

It’s a publicity stunt, provocative outreach campaign or the press release precisely timed with a community service.  It’s a big event, because big events yield good pictures.  And those pictures are great in denominational newsletters and church leadership blogs.

Pastors aren’t exempt from pride and insecurity.  Attention is an addiction, and those who stand on stages or in pulpits are not immune.  It’s easy to get drawn in by likes, favorites and social media shares, and before you do it, you’re looking at your congregation as a platform to propel you into prominence rather than a flock to be lovingly shepherded.

Pinterest Pastor Type 2: The Downers

There’s a second type of Pinterest Pastor, one who has fallen into the comparison trap.  You feel like you can’t live up to the other cool things others are doing.

It’s easy to understand why pastors can feel so beat down by success of others on their same team.  With a few clicks, we can compare church size, influence and even salaries.

It used to be the spirit of competition was geographic or denominational, with pastors swapping stories at conferences and meetings.  Today, social media has closed the comparison gap. You’re comparing your children’s ministry area to the Disney-esque church with the million dollar budget.  You’re comparing last week’s message to the conference talk of the mega-church pastor.  And you’re comparing your website to the top 100 websites in the world.

Nevermind that the people in your church have never heard of the famous podcast pastor or will never visit the other children’s ministry.  Their existence and recognition is enough to make you wonder what you’re doing wrong and why you’re not experiencing that level of success.

Steven Furtick says pastors often feel bad about their message because they are comparing their everyday talk to the A-game conference special of their communication hero.

The drive to go to the next level, fueled  with knowledge of cool things other people are doing, can keep you from focusing on where you are and who you are.  Suddenly, your identity as a leader is being shaped more by what others are doing and what you should be doing, than by the One who saved and called you.

“It is vital that you cross the finish line in ministry, and to finish well, you have to refuse the urge to compare yourself to others. The measure of your success is fulfilling God’s calling on your life, not the standards set by others,” says Rick Warren.

But God didn’t call you to impress other pastors on social media – He called you to your place of service.  If he’s entrusted you with two talents, it’s not helpful to compare yourself to the pastor with ten.

So, are you guilty of being a Pinterest pastor?  Where are you naturally drawn on the people pleasing spectrum?