Top 10 Barriers to Connection

Are you a failure? I was! For most of my 35 years, as a lead pastor, I thought my job was to tell people how to find God, how to life for God and a whole lot more. I was a teller. Why was I a failure? Because most of them just went on doing what they wanted to do.Connecting

Pastor, people are wanting to connect with you in a meaningful way. You will become the hero pastor they need and want when you connect on a deeper level, share empathy, and welcome their open heart. Here are ten barriers to avoid:

  1. Counsel. Seek not to advise solutions (until asked) but listen and reflect back the person’s experience.
  2. Defend. When you explain, justify or rationalize, you invalidate the other’s experience. You can create a time to offer your experience, but for now, just listen.
  3. Shut down. This happens when we say things like: “Just have faith. It’s could be worse.” People are more likely to open up when they feel they’ve been heard.
  4. One-up. Saying, “Oh, that’s nothing! Listen to what happened to me!” gives the message, “Your experience doesn’t count.”
  5. Reassure. It’s OK for people to feel their feelings. When we try to console (“It’s not your fault; you did the best you could…”), we take people out of their feelings.
  6. Pity. Sympathy and pity (“Oh, you poor thing!”) are very different from empathy, which is simply a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.
  7. Commiserate. Sharing stories of your own similar experiences is not showing empathy; it turns the focus away from the person with the problem.
  8. Correct. First listen. After the other person feels fully understood, then see about correcting any misunderstandings or inaccurate impressions.
  9. Enlighten. Don’t attempt to educate unless your opinion is asked.
  10. Interrogate. Too many questions distract from the feelings at hand.

When you treat people as people and not projects to fix, you find people who are ready to connect and be real. Pastoring then becomes a meaningful spiritual experience for you and those you shepherd.


If you are struggling as a pastor with disappointment, not knowing what to do next or burnout, Take the Four Seasons of Ministry Assessment and get a clearer picture of where you are and how to move forward. Go to Four Seasons to take your assessment.


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Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications

Bill Graybill

Founder & President
Dr. Bill Graybill, a recognized expert in conflict resolution, team building and strategic planning. He works with organizations and leaders to build healthy and successful teams. Overcoming conflict by changing the culture ensures lasting results. Healthy teams are able to problem solve, create out-of-the-box solutions and move forward. Working with teams to accomplish this is Bill's forte.