“As the chairman of the Elder Board, I wanted to introduce you to our new Senior Pastor. He will only be able to endure staying with us for about four years, so please say “hello!” to him when you get a chance.”
Sound ridiculous? Yeah, but realistically, statistics show that a senior pastor’s longevity is only about four years. Church, we can do better than that!
You are probably familiar with stats like the following regarding pastors (taken from EXPASTORS. COM website) though I don’t think it would be hard finding similar stats by doing a Google search:
*Most pastors are overworked.
90% of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week and 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.
And 70% of pastors feel grossly underpaid.
*Most pastors feel unprepared.
90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands and 90% of pastors said the ministry was completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry.
*Many pastors struggle with depression and discouragement.
70% of pastors constantly fight depression and 50% of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
Wait, this is huge. Let’s pause here for a moment.
This means that half of the 1,700 or so pastors who leave the ministry each month have no other way of making a living. Their education and experience is wrapped up solely in the work of the ministry.
So, not only do pastors struggle with their choice to leave ministry, they have to worry about how they are going to feed their families.
Speaking of families, most pastor’s families are negatively impacted.
80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. 80% of spouses feel the pastor is overworked and feel left out and under-appreciated by church members.
-Many pastors are lonely.
70% do not have someone they consider a close friend and 40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.
And then there is this:
50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years. 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form. And 4,000 new churches begin each year while 7,000 churches close.
From a Thom S. Ranier blog about the heavy pressures on a pastor and church staff, “the 12 biggest challenges Pastors and Church Staff face”, he writes:
1.Apathy and internal focus. “I have been in ministry for over twenty years, and I’ve never seen church members more apathetic and internally focused.”
2.Staff issues. “I inherited staff from the previous pastor. It’s not a good match, but I don’t have the credibility to do anything about it.”
3.Leading and keeping volunteers. “It’s a fulltime job itself.”
4.General time constraints. “I end every week wondering why I got so little done.”
5.Getting buy-in from members. “I spend half my time developing a consensus from members about decisions from the mundane to the critical.”
6.Generational challenges. “It seems like the older generation is determined to nix any new ideas or excitement from the younger generation.”
7.Finances. “You can sum up our challenge in four simple words: We need more money.”
8.Holding on to traditions. “I wish our members would put as much effort into reaching people for Christ as they do holding on to their traditions.”
9.Criticism. “Some leaders in the church have appointed themselves to be my weekly critics.”
10.Leadership development. “We miss too many opportunities in ministry because we don’t have enough leaders ready.”
11.Majoring on minors. “We spent an hour in our last business conference discussing the fonts in our bulletins.”
12.Lack of true friends. “One of the toughest realities for me as pastor was the awareness that I have no true friends in the church.”
I have served on church leadership boards in three different churches over many years and have had very close relationships with several senior pastors. I can personally affirm all of the above pressures and worries mentioned above.
So, what’s the solution? Three tangible ideas come to my mind (though there are many more ideas out there if church leaders would give it more thought):
1) continually support your church staff with prayer. Because of their high visibility and all the pressures they have in their leadership position (not to mention the presence of spiritual opposition) make every effort to frequently look for opportunities to pray by name for your pastors
2) offer them regular time away to recharge their batteries. Provide additional pulpit support so that they have time to get away from constantly having to prepare messages and so they can just soak up a message by someone else (even to get away and attend a church service somewhere else for fresh perspective and minimal distractions)
3) Initiate a “Pastoral Concierge” position, or area of responsibility. What is a “concierge? Typically, it would be (taken from Wikipedia) – ” a hotel employee whose job is to assist guests by arranging tours, making theater and restaurant reservations, etc.” In simple terms, a concierge is one who attends to the specific needs of a guest.
Considering the reality of all the above-mentioned concerns, which will affect a pastor’s health and effectiveness AND recognizing that many pastors are lonely, not knowing who they can trust, I would suggest the idea that this “pastoral concierge” is someone appointed by the Elder Board. This pastoral concierge needs to be a trusted person, with a recommendation from the trusted leaders in the church.
A Pastoral Concierge would be helpful to a pastor, who needs to have someone in the church they can trust, who they can vent to, who they can turn to for prayer support and encouragement.
So much of a healthy fellowship is about healthy relationships. Having a revolving door for senior pastors (like we see so often in churches today) surely does not promote a healthy environment.
I’ve been a believer for over 33 years and have never heard of a “Pastoral Concierge” position, but considering the horrible stats on the health and longevity for senior pastors in churches, what do we have to lose, and how much more does the church (and God’s work) have to gain? And if a position is not created, maybe just the talk of it will encourage church leadership to be very proactive in coming alongside our pastors for marathon church longevity, instead of 3-4 year sprints.