10 Reasons Pastoral Tenure Matters
Mark Dever sums up pastoral ministry with four words: “Preach and pray. Love and Stay.” One of the greatest helps in ministry is time. Staying in a place is almost always related to long-term growth. In the 93 year history of our church, its healthiest point was during the period of longest tenure for a pastor; namely. Why does pastoral tenure matter? 10 things come to mind: Tenure leads to trust – It takes time for people to trust. Whether we like this truth or not, it is simply a reality of ministry. The years spent watching children grow, performing weddings and funerals, being with people in times of crisis and rejoicing build equity and trust in ministry that leads to long-term trust, which in term contributes to the health of the church.
Rural culture values longevity– A great many of churches that need revitalization are rural communities where little, if anything, changes quickly or often. In such a context, the longer a pastor stays in the community, the more of a permanent fixture he becomes in the community. This permanence also often leads to growth
The pastor learns the people– There is always a honeymoon period. We often playfully refer to this period, but it is critical to understand that it is really there, and it really will fade. When that season is over, the pastor finally begins to gain some insights into the true nature of the church, can get his arms around the challenges he faces, and can begin to craft a vision for the future.
The church earns the trust of the community– As the church serves in the community, and the community sees a stable leader, many begin to open up with more opportunities for service. We are experiencing this, as more community organizations are demonstrating interest in partnering with us to do service work and to love others. This only happens over time.
The commitment to the long-term changes how you lead– Pastor, do you lead as though you will be there until you are with Him? Doing so radically changes your view of current challenges, difficult members, the enormity of the problems you are facing, and the time frame to provide solutions. Additionally, it helps you choose your battles wisely!
Long-term commitment is the only antidote to the stepping-stone syndrome– One of the major factors in the diminishing witness of the small rural church is pastors who treat small, rural congregations as though they are step one in a journey to the next megachurch. [quote]One of the major factors in the diminishing witness of the small rural church is pastors who treat small, rural congregations as though they are step one in a journey to the next megachurch.[/quote] Communicating and living out a vision for long-term growth is one step in breaking this cycle.
Teaching ministry requires longevity– If you are a fan of expositional preaching (like I am), then you perhaps recognize this already. In order to teach people how to accurately read and interpret the text, you simply have to stick around. Preaching well requires a long-term vision and commitment to God’s glory displayed through the teaching of the Word.
Longevity gives you opportunity to celebrate victories that you have waited on– Many victories in church revitalization come after a long season of preparation, multiple steps of implementation, hours of prayer and teaching, and a lot of sweat. Leaving early not only hinders this process, it often stops it completely. When it does, it makes it even more difficult for the person following you in ministry. Wait it out! It’s worth it.
Longevity is better for your family– Often, a better paycheck, or a better city, or a better house attract us as a better option. There is nothing wrong with loving your family, and wanting to provide for them. In fact, ministry starts for us with ministering to our families. We must consider, however, that staying in a ministry field may often be the best option for our families. The familiarity of friends and relationships, the consistency of educational opportunities, and many other factors may lead to staying being the better option for your family.
It paints a picture of the faithfulness of Christ– This, for me, is the kicker. When we bounce from one place to the next, we give an inaccurate picture of the faithfulness of Christ to us. There is something about the tenure of the community pastor that is a clear illustration of the faithfulness of Christ.
This is certainly not always the case. There are certainly situations where leaving is the best option. May I humbly suggest, however, that leaving isn’t always the best option. I was having a conversation once with my supervisor about people who bounce from one job to the next. His words stuck with me, and I think they are still accurate, even in ministry: “why spend your time bouncing from one job to the other? You take 90 percent of your problems with you when you leave anyway!” May we be a people committed to staying.