Depending on how you define it, somewhere around seven to eight out of ten churches are in need of revitalization. Many of these churches have leaders who understand the urgent need for change. Some of them grasp that, without a turnaround, the church will die.
Let's imagine for a moment you are talking to such a church about becoming their pastor. Almost all the leaders in these churches will affirm the need for change for the turnaround. And they are happy to accept change . . . until it affects them personally.
While you cannot totally prevent such misunderstandings or divergent expectations, you can offer a clear and concise letter or covenant to minimize the future problems. In recent months, I have been encouraging prospective pastors to put in writing clearly and concisely the expectations of both parties before the pastor agrees to go to the church.
When I make such a recommendation, the typical immediate response is, "What does that letter look like?" Here is a sample. It is far from perfect, but it can be used as a starting point.
Dear Members of Town Community Church,
I am humbled and honored you are considering me to be your pastor. I am also grateful you are aware and recognize the need for change for the church to become healthier. With that foundation, I humbly ask you consider this letter. Though it is not a formal covenant, it can become the path for how we will move forward if I indeed become your pastor.
As pastor, I will covenant to the following:
- I will pray for the members of this church daily.
- I will love you.
- I will listen to you.
- I will seek to lead this church in Christ's power alone.
- I will be transparent with you.
- I will be faithful to study God's Word so that I may preach and teach to glorify Him.
As church members, will you covenant to the following?
- You will pray for my family and me.
- You will allow my family to be church members just like anyone else.
- You will love my family and me.
- Because you know change is inevitable, you will make sacrifices of your preferences and desires for the greater good of the church.
- You will not gossip or criticize behind my back. If you have an issue that needs addressing, you will bring it directly to me.
- You will love other members of the church, even when you disagree with them.
- You will pray for this church because she is the bride of Christ.
Please consider these matters carefully and prayerfully. Change can be painful at times. I want us to be certain we are on the same page before we move forward.
Thank you again for hearing me, for considering these words, and for being willing to be the faithful bride of Christ. Regardless of your decision, I am truly grateful you considered me to become your pastor.
In Christ alone,
This letter is obviously meant for prospective pastors, but I can see it modified and used in a number of other contexts. Expectations need to be clear and mutually agreed to. Then, and only then, can leaders and members move forward with the great mission God has called us to serve.