Two myths about pastors float around in the church today. The first is the claim that the average tenure of a pastor in a local church is just 2 years, when statistics from most research groups show the number to be between 5 and 7.
The second myth stems from the first. People automatically assume that the relatively short tenures of many pastors are caused by a selfish mix of greed and laziness among the clergy. Stay at one church a couple years; use up your sermons and illustrations; then hop over to another church in a different town and do it all over again. Or even worse… Stay at a church and bide your time until a bigger and better opportunity arises; move to a higher position in another church and climb the church ladder of ministry success.
No doubt there are lazy and greedy pastors out there. And unfortunately, some pastors do make ministry decisions based on these factors. At first, the statistics seem to back up the accusations. After all, if a pastor stays only a few years at a local church, we assume must be some deficiency in the pastor’s character. I’ve even heard seminary professors (many of whom have never pastored a church in their life) dump on pastors for changing churches every few years. And thus, the myth of the church-hopping pastor begins.
But there is another side to this phenomenon. The statistics regarding ministerial tenure may be correct, but could our interpretation of these numbers be inadequate? Very few people take into account the church situations that many of these pastors go into.
Many ministers begin in small, rural churches. Many of these churches are run by prominent families or a deacon board with strong community and family ties. Often, these churches do not want to be pastored. They want someone to come and preach and perform ministerial rites. They do not want to be challenged or led into deeper Christianity. A pastor who preaches a Gospel that confronts complacency, apathy, and other sins may find he is not welcome in that church. A minister might wind up in two or three of these types of churches within a ten-year period.
So the picture is not so much of a pastor who greedily hops from church to church, but a man of God who wants to do God’s work being chased out of churches that have no interest in serious Gospel ministry. Think about it. Most young pastors have school-age children. What man wants to uproot his family several times over a fifteen-year period, just so he won’t have to come up with fresh pulpit material? Most of the pastors I’ve talked to yearn for solid, lifelong ministry in one community of faith. But sadly, many churches do not want to be truly pastored.
So let’s put an end to this myth about pastors with a hard, terrible truth: there are more pastor-chasing churches than church-hopping pastors.
written by Trevin Wax. © 2007 Kingdom People Blog