For now, I have provided four examples of what non-Christians are asking of Christians. They were all comments at different points on my blog. Each section represents a different non-Christian.
In this post, I want to approach the issue from a slightly different perspective. I want to ask the question: How many hours must a pastor work each week to satisfy the congregation? Ultimately, I prefer to hear from pastors and church members and get their perspective.
In my Monday post, I looked at the issue of pastor/staff relationships from the perspective of the lead pastor or senior pastor. In this article we hear from the staff perspective, those other than the senior pastor who serve on a church staff.
I remember well receiving a call from one of my sons. It was his first day on the job as a new pastor. It was also his first fulltime ministry position. His words were amusing: "Okay, Dad. I'm here. What do I do next?"
It is one of the most unpredictable jobs one could have. There will be weeks when there won't be much taking place out of the ordinary, and the pastor will work a "mere" 40 to 45 hours. There will be other weeks filled with meetings, emergency hospital calls, a wedding, two funerals, and line of members waiting to see the pastor. That workweek could total 80 hours.
Okay, I'm joining the crowd. The majority of Americans are tired and angry about political leaders who put off major decisions, often called "kicking the can." It's called breaking the law when I kick the can. It's called politics when they do it in Washington. And they kick the can with billions and billions of dollars at stake.
Though this blog is four years old, I did not get serious about the pace of my blogging until about two years ago. If you have spent any time at my blog, you know that I devote a lot of my writings to local church matters in general, and to pastors specifically.
I feel like I'm walking on metaphorical eggshells with this blogpost. My challenge is that I am asked about this issue almost as much as any other. The question typically comes from a pastor or other church leader, but it could come from a leader of another Christian organization. Should we as Christians fire other Christians who work in our organization?
What is fascinating, if not discouraging, about this survey is that virtually all of the challenges noted by these pastors and staff were internal challenges. It appears that many of our churches in America are not effective conduits of the gospel because the members spend so much energy concerned about their own needs and preferences.
Most church members give little thought to the amount of time it takes a pastor to prepare each sermon. In reality, sermon preparation is a large portion of a pastor's workweek. Unfortunately, this work is invisible to typical church members.
After 25 years of consulting and researching local congregations, I have found four common approaches churches take to break attendance barriers regardless of size. There are certainly more than four possibilities, but allow me to evaluate these four more common approaches.
Preaching is central to the worship services in most churches. Indeed most services are built around the message. The sermon is critical to the life and health of a church.
Christians look at everyone else as if they've got targets painted on their foreheads. Nobody likes being hunted down or treated like someone else's project. Love does not seek to create clones of itself. Selfishness does.
I arrived on Saturday, so I have already had an opportunity to interact with a number of people. Most of those I have spoken with are here for the SBC. A few of them, though, work in Houston. I would like to share summary comments from two of them.
I was serving a church in St. Petersburg, Florida, when it hit me hard. One of my young children had playfully fallen on the floor in the foyer after a worship service. A deacon in the church came up to me and spoke forcefully: "You need to tell your kid to get up. Pastors' children aren't supposed to act that way."
My burden to see struggling churches become turnaround churches grows daily. There are an estimated 100,000 churches in North America that would be deemed terminal by most pundits. There are another 100,000 to 200,000 that are very sick and could soon be on the deathwatch.
There are few vocations that can engender burnout like the pastorate. The demands on a pastor's time, emotions, and energy can be overwhelming. When I was a pastor, I often felt at least the symptoms of burnout.
Most church leaders don't grasp the value of a website to get guests to their churches to hear the gospel. Most church websites are terrible
So what have I found these past seven months? I could give you a fairly extensive consultation report about the churches, but I prefer to distill my words into just a few helpful hints. Each of these issues clearly needed addressing in most of the churches I visited.
Over the past few years, I've heard the phrase "courageous leadership" used to describe the trait of those leaders who are making a difference today. Unfortunately, we also know many who are in leadership positions where that courage is not apparent. Indeed, they demonstrate leadership that is fearful.
I have used these lines many times in speaking venues. I ask the audience if they know how Baptists count weekly worship attendance. The knowing smiles break forth on most faces. I then began counting each person in the conference by saying 2, 4, 6, 8 . . . As the audience waits for the punch line, I say that every believer is indwelled by the Holy Spirit, so each person counts as two.
My recent blogpost on pastors' salaries drew a lot of attention. There are indeed some heated emotions on both sides of the issue. Much of the concern expressed about the pay of ministers seems to focus on those cases of real indulgence and abuse. But it's those cases that get the most attention and, sadly, hurt the vast majority of ministers who are faithful stewards of God's money.
Worship leader: your pastor is the single most important professional relationship you have. You may be the primary facilitator of music and media, but he's ultimately in charge—and he's usually the one taking the fallout when things go awry. You absolutely want a healthy, dynamic relationship with your pastor.
I must say from a pure statistical perspective, most churches with the symptoms I noted will die within a matter of a few years. Though I don't have hard data, I would be comfortable suggesting that the percentage exceeds 99 percent. In the midst of the gloomy news of terminal churches, I took a look at a few churches that had all the signs of impending death and then turned around to life.
Almost a decade ago, I led a major study on churches that had reversed negative trends and become positive breakout churches. I established the criterion that the breakout had to take place without changing pastors. I knew from previous research that most breakout churches had new pastors. I wanted to see if it was likely for a church to turnaround without getting a new pastor.