A seismic shift is taking place in American church facilities, a shift that will become even more noticeable in the years to come. Church worship centers or sanctuaries will become smaller than they were the past 40 years. As church leaders decide to build, a large number of them will decide to build smaller than most of their predecessors have in previous years.
I love pastors. I love affirming pastors. I love speaking positively for pastors. That's why this article is a bit different for me. Pastors, I want to talk frankly and, hopefully, with a spirit of love, about one of the biggest mistakes I see many of you make. Most pastors have little emphasis, or sometimes, even knowledge about the content that is taught in groups in their churches.
In early 1984, I began serving as a pastor for the first time. I would ultimately serve four churches as a pastor and nine churches as an interim pastor. In 1984 I was a young 28-year-old pastor without a clue. Today I am 58-years-old, and I'm still not sure I have a clue. So much has changed. So much has changed in pastoring in just thirty years. Let's look at major ways the pastorate has changed in that time.
Almost as soon as the ruling was made public, I began to receive inquiries through social media, by email, by text, and by phone. U. S. District Judge Barbara Crabb of the Western District of Wisconsin ruled unconstitutional a provision in the U. S. tax code that allows ministers to declare some or all of their ministerial income as a housing allowance. That allowance is not subject to federal income tax. Though it is still too early to gauge the full implications of this ruling, there are several questions many are asking. I will somewhat randomly try to respond to those questions I've heard.
Where is the hope in God? Do I not believe He can perform the miracles necessary to reverse the courses of these churches? Of course I do. But in Scripture, God usually works with a willing people, at least a willing leader. When He delivered the Jews from the bondage of Egypt, he had a leader named Moses. That leader was initially reluctant, but eventually He obeyed and the people followed.
I like to be a bearer of good news. I like to be able to be positive about situations, especially when those situations involve churches. At the same time, I refuse to deny reality. Such denial can only lead to a worsened condition. Churches typically do not move from good health to dying overnight. It is usually a more subtle deterioration. I have identified five simple stages:
Thank you pastor's wife. You may have one of the most selfless roles in the world. You are expected to be at the beck and call of church members, regardless of your own schedule. You are expected to adjust your life to the life of the pastor, who just happens to be your husband. You really have no independent life of your own.
While I'm not crazy enough to predict the total cessation of worship wars, I am willing to say that they will be ending in many churches. Here are three reasons why.
Please forgive me for the morbid and depressing title and content. I don't think posts such as these encourage many of you. I guess the impetus for writing such an article is the work I am doing to finish my next book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church. I have dealt a lot with the death of churches in my research and writing for that book.
I recently wrote the names of 23 pastors that, at least from my perspective, seem to find the greatest joy in their ministries. While such an exercise is admittedly subjective, it was nevertheless enlightening and encouraging.
I confess. I used to hate meetings. In fact I was very vocal about meetings being a waste of time. In most meetings I attended, I daydreamed about a dozen other ways I could be spending my time more productively. Over time I would discover the problem was not the meeting per se, but the way the meeting was managed.
I wish I could respond to every phone call, email, text, Facebook post, Twitter direct message, blogpost comment, and several other forms of communication I receive. Pastors ask me questions, lots of questions. I am both honored and humbled that they would think that I could be a source of information or expertise.
Most churches—more than eight out of ten—are busy. Too busy. These churches need to slim down their plethora of programs, activities, and ministries. They need to go a busyness diet.
For more than two decades I have studied, contemplated, and written about the tenure of a pastor. Why is pastoral tenure relatively brief on the average? Does that tenure contain common and distinct stages? Is there a particular point in the tenure when more pastors leave the church?
In my recent blog post, I noted seven reasons pastors burn out. I was delighted to receive a full response to my post from Lee Haley, executive pastor of Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I offer his response in full below: With over 40 years in the ministry, nearly 15 in an itinerant ministry, I have seen the challenges of many pastors who burn out. I offer the following seven responses for churches to consider:
I admit I haven't seen recent statistics on pastoral burnout but, at least anecdotally, it's high. It seems that hardly a week goes by that I don't hear another story of a burnout victim in pastoral ministry. Why?
As many of you requested, and as I promised, I am utilizing this article to address possible ways to respond to power groups. My list is not exhaustive, but I do hope these seven suggestions are helpful.
We would soon learn that Dr. Blackaby had a heart attack and became disoriented. Christians around the world were able to hear through social media of his latest purported location according to his credit card charges. Of course, we were praying that he was the one actually using the credit cards—and he was.
This topic will cause some discomfort for many of you. The very thought of the presence of power groups seems contrary to the spirit and grace of the gospel. But power groups are very real in churches.
I have made no secret of my introversion. In fact, being open and honest about it has been a great relief to me. I think a number of people understand me better. One gift I wish I had been given when I served as a pastor in four different churches was a mentor who would share with me how to function as an introverted pastor. I made a ton of mistakes! I hope my experiences, both bad and good, will prove to be meaningful to pastors today. I have written them in the form of seven tips.
The three trends I've recently noticed are not new. What is new is that a relatively few churches embraced these concepts a few years ago. Today, they are becoming normative. These three approaches have moved from the category of "exception" to the category of "mainstream."
In a recent post, we heard from Chris Bonts as he shared the painful story of his difficult church. Today we conclude the conversation as Chris tells us how to leave a difficult church. As a reminder, this story is very personal for Chris. He experienced these pains to the point that he was pressured to leave the church.
There are great rewards in the pastoral call. And there are times that there is great pain. In this post I have asked Chris Bonts to share his experiences in a difficult church, one where he eventually left under pressure. I encourage you to get his newly-released eBook on this topic.
Few people will argue that church attendance in many churches in America is declining. Our own research indicates that the majority of churches in our country are not growing.
Not too long ago, I wrote a post about pastors' wives, and what they wish they had known before they became a pastor's wife. The article struck a nerve. Much to my surprise, I discovered a depth and breadth of hurt of which I was unaware. I was ashamed I had been so oblivious to this pain.