Friday, February 11, 2011

Guest Post :: Stay Where You Are

By: Jared Hollier

It seems like every year, a new study comes out addressing the brief tenure of ministers in Protestant churches. Though the numbers vary depending on who does the study and when it came out, the bottom line is always the same: Ministers don’t stay at churches very long.

Of course, “very long” is a relative term. If you’re the leader of a Jr. High boys’ group, a DNOW weekend can seem like a “very long” time. But in the case of ministers and churches, it seems like the average stay is somewhere in the neighborhood of 2½-4 years; I’d say that’s not “very long.”

Though I’ve only been working in churches for about seven years, I’ve attended church literally all my life. The church I grew up in has had the same pastor for nearly thirty years. When I went to college, I joined a church where the pastor is now in his thirteenth year of ministry to that congregation.

Having been very close to the inner workings of these churches, and very close personally to each of these long-tenured pastors, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is a direct relationship between staff stability and church health.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that each of these churches is growing, vibrant and healthy. They are making disciples, reaching the lost, and ministering to the needs of their communities, and I think a huge factor in that is the pastor’s longevity.

It’s amazing what churches can focus on and accomplish when they don’t have to worry about finding a new staff member every three years. I’m currently in my first pastorate, and after three years, I feel like I’ve just gotten my foot in the door. It feels like it’s taken this long to earn trust, gain momentum, and get to know people well enough to be a good pastor to them. If I were to leave now, the next guy would have to spend a few years doing all those things, and the congregation would have to go through it all again, too. Every time a new staff member comes in, it’s like the whole church hits the “Reset” button and has to start from scratch.

Constant turnover in leadership is toxic to a church, but long-term commitments can bear much fruit. There is something really special about long-time relationships that can’t be conjured up in eighteen months. It takes years to build relationships. It takes years to change communities. And it takes committed leaders to stick it out when things get tough and the grass starts to look greener at the church down the road.

Last summer, we went to a 50th anniversary party for a couple in our church. I haven’t been to many of those, but I know a lot of people who are divorced. When things get tough, it’s easy to pack up and leave. But I’m most impressed, and most touched by the people who stick it out. They’ll be the first to tell you that it’s not always easy, but it’s worth sticking around.

I look at ministry like I look at my marriage. There definitely are tough times. There are days when I feel like throwing in the towel and saying, “That’s it! I quit!” But that’s not what’s best for me, or the church, or the Kingdom of God. I think God is looking for men and women who will find a place to serve, and stay there, not for a few years, but for a few decades. I think God blesses commitment and longevity.

Do you want your ministry to grow? Do you want lives to change? Do you want to help change the culture of a community? Then stay where you are for a long, long time. It won’t be easy, but it’ll be worth it.

Jared is a cool guy I've had the privilege of knowing for the past few years.  Jared is the pastor of PeachTree Baptist Church in Jasper, TX.  He drinks coffee and hangs out with his wife, Elizabeth, and son Sam.  There's also a baby Hollier in the oven!  He posts some of his amazing creations on his blog, BadlyDrawnBible.  Make sure you leave a comment on one of his posts!


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