How Long Should Pastors Stay at Their Church?

Pastors need to teach that when life gets hard, faith overcomes.
This is best taught by taking a new church every four years.

Pastors need to teach that love is patient enduring service.
This is best taught by taking a new church every four years.
@FailingPastor

 

 

The average stay at a church for a senior pastor is about four years. Youth pastors last about three.

This constant leaving makes churches doubt pastors. Small churches feel like they are stepping stones to larger churches. No one takes the pastor seriously because they all know he’ll leave when greener pastures show up.

This constant leaving makes pastors impatient and covetous. If their church doesn’t meet their ideals, they leave. They are only truly invested if the church does what they want it to do.

Pastor turnover also undermines any teaching on reaping and sowing, patient endurance, perseverance, longsuffering, love, or any such topics. God will never leave you nor forsake you, but your pastor? He’ll be gone in about four years. Nice.

Practice what you preach, right?

Pastors have been dropping congregations so quickly Christians assume this is what pastors should do. Many people look at me weird when I tell them how long I’ve been at my church. “Can’t find another job, eh?”

I even have a family member who repeatedly says it’s not right for pastors to stay at one church their whole career. This is primarily because they had a bad experience with a pastor who was at their church, and still is, for a long time. If he would have left they could have stayed. So now all pastors should leave after a couple years.

I’m frequently amused by the number of pastors who criticize congregants for “church hopping.” Seriously? Church hopping describes most pastors more than most congregants.

If churches are going to help people grow in Christ, it’s going to take a long time (a “long time” is more than four years incidentally). It requires stability, consistency, patience, time, and effort. If every four years a believer starts over with another pastor who has no idea who they are, how are they going to grow? In what way are pastors helping people grow if they are constantly cutting out on people?

If a church is a bad fit, it’s a bad fit. I get it. Life changes. Sometimes change does do people good. There’s a time and a season for everything. There are times when a pastor and a church should part ways. Staying at a church for 50 years to prove a point is not the message here. But four years is hardly enough time to unpack your books and get them organized on the shelf.

I think pastors have been conditioned to constantly envy other situations. If I just get the right church, THEN all my plans will work.

We then blame our wimpiness on God’s calling. “I really feel as though God has called me for this change,” says every pastor who then can’t stand his church God “called” him to, and leaves again because another call came in. Really? Is God that shifty with His callings?

“But everyone’s doing it, what’s the big deal?” It’s how church business is done.

I encourage pastors to stick it out. Put in some time. Sacrifice. Maybe push through a tough season and endure. Show people what faith looks like. What it means to be longsuffering and how not fainting can possibly lead to reaping fruit. Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.

Dropping a tough thing for a hopeful good thing not only keeps you spiritually immature, it will potentially hinder the growth of those in the church.

Don’t quit on people too easily. Maybe churches aren’t doing what you want them too because what you want needs to change.

I’m not telling anyone what to do. I am encouraging pastors to suck it up, be a man, fight the fight, stick it out, give 110%, leave it all on the field, and maybe, just maybe, you can endure for longer than from one Olympics to another.

 

Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever.
–Hebrews 13:7-8

14 thoughts on “How Long Should Pastors Stay at Their Church?

  1. Great read, I agree with the sentiment you are writing from. I wonder how many Churches call a Pastor based on their ideals and qualifications rather than the calling God has on the man. I’ve seen many Churches place a time table on God and the God of the Bible plainly says “His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.” Sometimes I wonder if so called schooling is more important to a congregation that again the calling of God on an unschooled Man of God. If so, he knows four years worth of quick Bible Schooling and simply recits it and leaves because he has given all he has taken in and feels he has nothing else to give so pack up and move on to the next Church. Just some thoughts to also consider.

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    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Jason. I agree that the schooling thing has taken on a life of its own. I think the Bible bases qualifications on spiritual maturity/Christian virtues being present as well as a time of being tested serving in the church in a lesser role.

      The “calling” thing is very difficult for a church to determine. I have met a number of people who were “called” to being a pastor who were absolute disasters. Churches need to use something concrete, such as Christian virtues as outlined by Paul in the qualifications for an elder being present and experience in a lesser role. That’s what the Bible says anyway!

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  2. Nice read. I’ve been preaching over 40 years and have been at my current Church for almost 30. I’ve watched the babies grow up and get married and have babies LOL. It does get tough, and I’ve watched the church go through growth spurts as well as decline at times, but by God’s grace I continue to stick it out as long as the Lord lets me stay. Times are getting tough and people’s hearts are getting harder but I’m a firm believer in the power of the Gospel. 🙂

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  3. I have been a Christian for over 39 years and have had about 15 pastors, they mostly leave for bigger churches elsewhere. I live in Utah and it is hard for pastors here and I understand that. I have learned to grow myself in the faith and that is a good thing. I don’t have the respect that I should for pastors, but it is hard to respect somebody who is only around for 2 years. Then the very difficult process of finding another pastor.

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  4. Our pastor of 6 years has just told me two days ago he is leaving. His sermons about how we need to “have both feet in” are ringing in my ears. When he came here he was an answer to prayer…but now the magic words “God is calling me elsewhere” is the door slamming on any arguments to the contrary. After all, who are we to argue with Gods will? I know it’s not his fault…our churches are becoming more and more unfaithful. People only show up when they feel like it, no one wants to commit to ministry…in fact I’ve seen it become fashionable for people to openly refuse to join the church. They want to attend (sort of) but don’t see the need to join. All of this must certainly be a discouragement to our Pastors. Still, I can’t help but feel very hurt about his leaving. He says he loves us. But does that make sense ….seeing as he is now ready to go love some other church? Would a husband be right to tell his wife how much he loves her while he’s packing to go marry someone else 2 states away? I don’t get it.

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    1. Pastors are people too. Nowhere does it say a pastor is married to the church, not sure I’d go that far to compare it to leaving your wife. However, there is a flippancy on the church side and the pastor side that proves most are not in it for long-term relationship building, loving congregations. Both sides are at fault. Pray for your pastor and then apply yourself to edifying your church. The Lord will judge the heart and motives in the end.

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      1. Thanks. LOL
        Today I get to have one more in a long line of butt chew meetings over the years. (My butt is the chew toy BTW.) My biggest problem seems to be keeping people under me from getting rebellious and disrespectful. Staff or volunteer, people just reach a point where my leadership is substandard and they have to sit me down and tell me the story of my life from their critical point of view and force me to explain my self to their satisfaction. Nobody is ever satisfied at that point.

        I’m at a place where I am reflecting on the short careers of racing horses and pro football players. Just because somebody still looks strong and fit doesn’t mean they are still able to bounce back from injuries like they used to. Sometimes they can throw the ball just as far but the ability to focus under pressure just isn’t there anymore. The ability to land it accurately is in statistical decline.

        There are intangible organs and muscles in a spiritual leader for which we seem to be trying to develop x-rays or tests. We need ways to determine if someone has a season-off injury or a career ending condition.
        Maybe thats what these discussions are for.

        Thank you for sharing your journey. I envy your freedom.

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      2. That’s tough. I don’t even pretend to know what to tell you. I was stuck there for years. For me it got to the point where even I wasn’t being edified. The experience began to have a negative effect on me spiritually. I had to get out. It was self-preservation more than anything. For many years I was unsure I was edifying anyone else, but I was growing in my faith and that was worth it to me. When that stopped though, especially when it felt like it was slipping a little, I knew it was time to go.

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  5. This is a great site!
    I have been doing “church stuff” for 50 years. Planting, preaching, going, giving, etc. I have discovered that most of church work is done in the “flesh” from the pulpit to the pew and is the reason for moves, messes and misgivings. Notice the three points and now the poem. Mary had a little lamb that was a little sheep, it joined the local Baptist church and died from lack of sleep. I have to go. The moving van just showed up.
    May God bless our labors in the Lord and learn to be velvet covered steel.

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    1. Might I offer a suggestion? This site appears to be a great place for people struggling with leaving the ministry. Yet your comment seems to suggest anyone who does not last a happy 50 years like yourself might be deficient in some way. The fact is Elijah was not operating in the flesh when he finally reached his limit. Suggesting that most ministers are operating in the flesh could be a discouraging and even wounding. oversimplified statements can be hurtful for the people coming into this virtual emergency room for the soul. Sorry Failingpastor but I just resigned after 30 years this last week and reading that comment stung a bit.
      But isnt that a great example of the kind of cuts that bleed many of us dry over the years? Insensitive backhanded condescension disguised as spirituality.

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