The Preacher’s Tenure

November 17, 2008

It seems these days that pastor’s tenures are becoming shorter and shorter. The career path of a preacher looks quite a lot like any businessman. In other words, they hop around every three to five years, hopefully to a bigger church with more staff and better perks. Then maybe they’ll stay for a ten year stretch at the so called ‘I Finally Made It’ church. Then they retire.

A century ago, pastor’s tenures were quite different. Preachers might stay for a decade, two, or even their entire career. Then they retired or died. Amazing how things change. Consider the dynamics that are at work:

A pastor with a long tenure cannot so easily recycle sermons.

A pastor with a long tenure gains more and more influence with his people as the years pass.
A pastor following the short tenure of his predecessor has an easier time ‘breaking in’ the church to his style.

A pastor following the long tenure of his predecessor has to deal with blue haired old ladies squawking at him about how ‘I’ve been here 63 years, and we’ve never done it like that before!’
A short-term pastor is less attached to the people, and vice verse. He is more like a hired friend than a genuine part of the community.

A long term pastor sometimes has to work harder to keep himself and his people interested in the ministry. Familiarity, it is said, often times breeds contempt.

At some point, a pastor has been at his church long enough and is popular enough that if he were to leave for another church in town, a significant number of people would follow him…Well, maybe. Or everyone is glad to be rid of him.

Just some thoughts to consider in an age of ‘serial’ pastorates. Perhaps your minister has stuck with your church for a long time. Maybe he passed by other ‘better’ opportunities to follow his calling at your church. Do you feel ‘called’ to stay at your secular job, passing over promotions? Would you be hurt or surprised if your pastor left for a ‘better’ church? If you like your pastor, when was the last time you told him so? Doing something about that question may help your pastor in those hours of temptation when another church is looking like an awfully sweet calling.