History has shown that long-term pastoral tenures are better than short-term tenures because they produce more effective churches. By long-term we mean 20+ years. Yet the average pastoral tenure is only between four and five years. So what needs to happen so that we have more long-term tenures of over 20+ years?
Bloom Where You’re Planted
Often new pastors have to start out at a small church with a lot of problems. And, as is often the case, these pastors long for the day when they will be at a bigger and healthier church. If they only had a good church they could make a difference in the world. So as soon as a better situation arises, they move.
What needs to happen is for a pastor to consider the present assignment as the only one he or she will ever get and set out to make the most of it. I call this “bloom where you’re planted.” Don’t wait for a better opportunity. Instead make it happen were you are. You may eventually move on, but until then, take the perspective that you will be there for life and work your butt off.
Stand Up to Bullies
If you try to make a difference in a small church, you will probably be confronted by two or three bullies that like to intimidate everyone so they can remain a big fish in a little pond. In order to stay beyond the third or fourth year you will have to take them on and beat them at their own game. This means not being nice for the sake of the gospel. It means helping the congregation see them for what they are: bullies who need to be converted, neutralized, or asked to leave. That means you will probably have to overcome your mercy gift.
Be Willing To Grow Continually
Make sure you don’t allow your present environment to determine your growth process and keep your vision small. Instead you must grow faster than your church is growing.
Think of Your Church as Twice Its Size
See the potential for the church. What if it were twice its size? What if the church really tried to make a difference for the Kingdom? What would you have to start doing and what would you have to stop doing? Is your vision up to this?
Cast a Vision of a Thriving Church
On my first Sunday at the church I remained at for twenty-four years, I cast a vision of a church of thousands that would change the face of the city. I was preaching to 37 people. They all thought I was crazy. But the church was in the midst of a city of 600,000 and growing. It could be any size it chose to be, but it was dying when I arrived. It had no vision and you know what happens to people with no vision. So I cast a big, hairy, audacious vision, it became contagious, and we flourished. And yes, the bullies came out of the woodwork. I had to fire one, ask another to leave, and withstand an onslaught of angry people. But the church thrived. You can do the same.
Set the Agenda
If you allow the church to set the agenda, it won’t grow and you will soon move on. If a congregation knew what to do to grow they church, they would have done so, but they don’t, and they shouldn’t set the agenda. You should. It doesn’t matter what your supervisor tells you: set the agenda and lead and hold on for dear life. If you come out the other side alive, well, and still pastor of the church, you will look back on that time as some of the most important days of your life.
Question: How have you changed your perspective from that of a short-term pastor to that of a long-term pastor? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.