Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Characteristics of Pastors That Last

Over the years I have read many times that one of the leading marks of a successful organization is that it’s leadership has been in place for many years.  Successful organizations have leaders who last.

Recently I read an article that started me thinking on this issue of pastoral leadership and church growth.  The article stated that the Southern Baptist Convention found a relationship between the length of time pastors had been in their churches and the growth or decline of those churches.  Approximately 3/4 of growing churches were being led by pastors who had been in place for more than four years, while 2/3 of declining churches were being led by pastors who had been in place less than four years.  Their conclusion: While long-term pastorates will not guarantee church growth, short-term pastorates essentially guarantee that a church will not grow.

Amazingly according to a 2009 Barna study the average length of a pastorate is just four years.  It seems that pastors are leaving their churches right at the time they should start seeing positive growth.  Why is it that some pastors can stay at their churches for many years while most pastors seem to move from church to church every four years?  What is the difference between the long-term pastor and the short-term pastor?  Here are some thoughts.

1. Long term pastors have a God-sized vision for the future.
Long term pastors come to their churches with a vision that motivates them.  It provides them with the zeal to stay the course.  A God-sized vision is one which cannot be accomplished in a few short years.  Capturing your town for Christ cannot be done over-night.  Developing leaders to start new churches or  multiple campuses takes years.  Sending missionaries to every continent is a long-term strategy.  Building a dynamic small group ministry that transforms lives can take a whole generation.  These are examples of  God-sized visions which cannot be accomplished in a short four year span.  Long term pastors have visions that are much bigger than they are.

2. Long term pastors protect their integrity.
Long term pastors work hard to protect their integrity.  They set moral and ethical  boundaries for themselves that they refuse to cross.  They not only hold themselves accountable but they allow others to hold them accountable.  Accountability partners have permission to challenge them.

3. Long term pastors have a sense of calling to their church.
Long term pastors sense that they are placed where they are by the sovereignty of God.   God placed them at that particular church for a purpose, therefore it is not seen as a mere rung on the ecclesiastical ladder in their climb to a larger more prestigious church.

4. Long term pastors maintain spiritual vitality
They take care of themselves spiritually.  They read the Scriptures, pray, study, worship, fellowship—and lead out of the overflow of their walk with God.

5. Long term pastors maintain physical health.
The long-lasting leaders eat properly, exercise regularly, and sleep well.

6. Long term pastors maintain mental health.
They are passionate about personal growth. They read every day.  They have an appetite to hear other pastors and leaders preach and speak.  They have a mentor.  They listen to wise counsel.  Their appetite for new knowledge and learning is insatiable.  They do not like failure, but they know that failing at something does not make them a failure.  They have learned how to make the most of their failures.

7. Long term pastors maintain family health.
The church does not come before their family.  In fact they openly share with the church that their family will always have a higher priority in their life than the church.  They understand that if they lose their family, they lose everything.

8. Long term pastors maintain healthy relationships.
They love people.  Long term leaders are likeable.  People respect them because they respect people.  When attacked by others they don’t become bitter but forgive.  To put it in the words of the apostle Paul, long term leaders are patient and kind; they do not envy or boast; they are not arrogant or rude. They do not insist on their own way; they are not irritable or resentful (1 Cor 14:4-5).

9. Long term pastors maintain a healthy sense of humor.
They have learned to laugh.  They do not take themselves too seriously.  They laugh at themselves and they laugh with others.

10. Long term pastors maintain a healthy legacy.
They understand that leadership is highly visual.  They know they are being watched and scrutinized as a Christians leader.  Therefore they work to insure that they are setting a godly example.  They know that how they live today will determine how they will be judged tomorrow.  They have a desire to leave their churches in a position to continue to succeed after they are gone.  They understand they are accountable to God for how they lead where they are in the time they have.