Pastoral Tenure

One of the things that has changed over the course of years I have served in  ministry is that the tenure of pastors has increased. I think this has been a good shift. Many pastors are called to local churches desiring to make that their final call. It does not often work out that way, but the desire is good. There is much to be gained from longer-term pastoral ministries in the same local church.

In my understanding of calling, gifting and pastoral ministry, any ministry move is lateral. There is not a moving up or a moving down in ministry. Seeing it in those terms is more secular and carnal than it is biblical and Christian. And size is not a determiner of whether or not it is a move up or down. All moves in the kingdom of God and in the church of Jesus Christ are lateral – we continue to serve as a joyful slave of Christ, while the location where we do that shifts.

Thom Rainer recently addressed the longer tenure of pastors and gives Six Reasons Why Longer-tenured Pastorates Are Better

  1. Our research continues to show a strong correlation to pastoral tenure and church health. Of course, correlation is not the same as causation. Nevertheless, the evidence is strong, if not overwhelming, in favor of long tenure.
  2. The breakout years of pastoral tenure typically begin after years 5 to 7. In other words, the best years of a pastor’s tenure, both for the pastor and the church, do not begin until at least five years have passed. Unfortunately, the majority of pastors in America do not stay at a church for five or more years.
  3. Relationships take time, particularly in church leadership. Keep this perspective in mind. When pastors begin ministry in a church, they are the newest people at their respective churches. Relationships are already established among the members. That is why I’ve heard from many church members that a pastor did not seem like “their pastor” until about five years passed.
  4. Nearly nine out of ten churches in America are in need of turnaround leadership. Turnaround leadership is most often methodical and incremental. It can’t be accomplished in just a few years.
  5. Community relationships and impact take time as well. In most communities, pastors are not considered a part of the locality until they have been there at least five years. A church, to be effective, must have a positive presence in the community led by an accepted pastor.
  6. Pastors and churches will have had time to go through a crisis or conflict. The typical period for significant conflict is in years 2 to 4. The longer the pastorate, the greater the likelihood that the church and the pastor have gotten to the other side of the conflict.

A few questions:

  • How long have you served where you are?
  • What are your thoughts about the tenure of pastors serving in the same local church?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of a longer-tenured pastorate? What about a shorter-tenured pastorate?

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