|Healthy, Long-term Tenures of Pastors…
The smoke from the anxiety cleared the consistory room as another church began to dust itself off for whatever was coming next in the future. One old crusty Elder was heard saying as he left the building, “Well pastors come and go, but this is our church.” Indeed, pastors come and go, but managing the challenges of change requires pastors and leaders who demonstrate healthy behavioral traits. By the way, you may have heard this riddle: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: One. But the light bulb has to want to change. That’s where many pastors fail – they can’t get the light bulb to want to change. So the pastor leaves and the keepers of the ancient ways and sacred traditions move forward because this is their church.
Imagine what would need to happen for a pastor to remain at a church for 10 years or more. Imagine what kind of traits he or she would need to develop if most of those 10 years were healthy ones. Imagine what would happen to the transformation of a church and a community if a pastor were to have a longer tenure in a healthy situation.
Thom Rainer approached more than 30 pastors who tenure exceeded more than 10 or more years. Here are the 10 leading traits he discovered that were exhibited by this group of pastors:
“1. They pray daily for their church members and staff. Many of the pastors kept the church membership roll in front of them and prayed through the entire congregation and staff every year.
2. They view their family as their first line of ministry. They did not see a dichotomy between church and family. To the contrary, they saw their family as the first priority of ministry in the church. Pastors should especially be aware that Satan is doing his best to destroy their families.
3. They connect with—and love—people in their community. Pastors are more likely to stay at a church longer if they love the community in which they are located. That love must be deliberate and intentional.
4. They choose their battles carefully and wisely. Not every issue is worth a fight. Long-term pastors are not cowardly; they are just highly selective.
5. They welcome structures that make them accountable. Certainly, they don’t seek structures that hinder their leadership. But a leader who avoids accountability is headed down a path of destruction.
6. They spend time developing staff. These pastors view their staff, whether full-time paid, part-time, or volunteer, as one of their highest priorities for development and mentorship.
7. They expect conflict and criticism. They are a reality in any family or congregation. But these leaders are not surprised or frustrated by conflict and criticism. They realize, if it is handled well, it can be healthy for the church.
8. They connect with other pastors and ministries in the community. They realize that their congregations cannot minister to and reach the community alone. Thus, other churches and pastors become partners in ministry rather than competitors.
9. They affirm both theology and practical ministry. Their foundation is the Word of God. They have a robust theology. Still, they don’t neglect such practical issues as attendance trends, outreach ministries, financial health, and parking lot capacity.
10. They ask long-term questions. They are constantly seeking to lead the church beyond their own tenure. They avoid short-term solutions with long-term negative consequences.”
So wonder about these questions:
· Can you identify any other traits that are relevant to you in terms of a long-term healthy pastorate?
· If you have been in a church for at least 10 years, what personal and ministry practices have enabled you to remain there?
· How have these practices transformed the church and community?
· Can you identify any downside to a long-term pastorate?
The Apostle Paul reminds us in Philippians 3:13-14: Brothers and sisters, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14 (ESV)
– Wayne Van Regenmorter
Wayne’s contact information:
10088 Prairie Knoll Ct.
St. John, IN 46373
Mobile: (941) 302-1281