Saturday, June 22, 2024
Saturday, June 22, 2024
HomeAll The NewsCHURCH HEALTH: Pastor Tenure

CHURCH HEALTH: Pastor Tenure

How long should a pastor stay at a church? While the answer to that question can be quite subjective, there are a lot of prayerful considerations that must go into such a crucial decision. Statistics suggest that the average length of tenure is somewhere between 2.5 to 5 years. Unfortunately, that means many leave their church right before the most fruitful years are about to occur. Dr. Kevin Blackwell stated, “We must see a continual increase in pastoral tenures if we want to see lasting revitalization and the strengthening of churches across North America. Too many times pastors leave a church right at the point of breakthrough.” 

Lifeway has described the stages of pastoring and the length of tenure as: “Year 1: Honeymoon. Both pastor and church have a blank slate and they enter the relationship hoping and believing the best about each other. Years 2 and 3: Conflicts and Challenges.No pastor is perfect. No church is perfect. Each party discovers the imperfections after a few months. Years 4 and 5. Crossroads, Part 1. This period is one of the most critical in the relationship. If the conflict was severe, the pastor will likely leave or be forced out. Indeed, these years, four and five, are the most common years when a pastor leaves a church.”

The years 6 to 10 are the time of fruit and harvest. This is when a church is “likely to experience some of its best years, by almost any metrics, during this period of a pastor’s tenure. The years 11 and beyond: Crossroads, Part 2. Staying over 10 years is actually a very rare opportunity that most pastors and churches never experience. Yet, the facts and data are clear that longer-tenured pastorates produce healthier churches because they have developed strong relationships, built trust and learned how to navigate difficulties and trials together.

Some pastors and churches never experience a honeymoon because of the toxic situation already present in the church that was never been dealt with biblically. Years 2 to 3 is the time period that can determine a long successful pastorate or not. Maybe the church has never watched a pastor willing to stay long enough to lead them through conflict management, but instead has always avoided addressing the issues and has run from them by moving on. Notice that years 4 and 5 are when most pastors end up leaving — just before the potentially most fruitful years are about to hopefully happen.

If you are considering a change or moving to another ministry, here are some things to consider in discerning God’s direction. If God placed you there, by clearly showing you it was His will, then do not question in the dark difficult times what God showed you in the light. Slow down and spend time distinguishing between God’s will and your will. Maybe you are receiving other offers and an opportunity seems almost too good to be true. Remember that usually, things too good to be true are, and an opportunity does not mean obligation. There are times to stay and go but that decision can only be discerned by seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Be careful about over-emphasizing circumstances because God’s will can be hard, difficult and requires enduring some difficult seasons. Just because it appears to be an open door and a better opportunity does not mean it is God’s will and what He desires for you and your church. In speaking about circumstances, Henry and Richard Blackaby said, “The key is not the occurrence itself but the presence of the Holy Spirit as He communicates through life events.” They continued in Hearing God’s Voice, “Just an open door is not in itself a sign of God’s will, neither is a closed door a sign that something is against God’s will.”

Here is a great process to consider in making sure that it is God who is calling you away into another ministry:

• Pray, pray and pray some more. This is absolutely necessary in listening to the Holy Spirit. Making a major decision when your spiritual walk and relationship with Christ are struggling can be disastrous. Bill Elliff in Prayer with No Intermission stated,“The greatest purpose of prayer is to come into the presence of the Father and align our will with His.” Make sure John 15:7 is a reality in your life, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” 

• Slow down and take your time. Consider getting away for a two or three-day prayer retreat. Have a renewed devotion and passion to your secret place as you focus daily on your relationship with Christ. In Matt. 6:6, Jesus first tells us where to pray, in the secret place, before He tells us how or what to pray. Psalm 91:1 says, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” Circumstances, advice and thinking things over are all good things, but the best thing is realizing that everything flows from the presence of the Lord — everything! That is why it is so important to wait on the Lord.

Then take even more time striving to discern His perfect will in the matter. Waiting on the Lord is not always easy, but it certainly is worthwhile. Quoting the Blackaby’s again, “We would rather climb Mt. Everest than wait on the Lord to speak in the stillness of the day. In times of silence, we tend to begin speaking rather than continuing to listen… Waiting on God can be one of the most profound, faith-stretching experiences of your life.” If you are going to tell your church that God told you to leave, make sure that is what He said!