Serving People Who Despise You and Other Perks of Being a Pastor

Pros and cons of loving people:
Pros: Loving
Cons: People
@FailingPastor

 

 

One of the bits of advice I heard when I was considering pastoral ministry was, “Love the people.”

That sounds common sensical and is very true. It is also very difficult.

It’s easy to love the idea of people. It’s easy to love people when you assume they will be so grateful for your life-changing sermons and advice that saved their marriage and helped them raise great kids.

But when people call you during supper to warn you they will leave your church “unless” you bow to their demands, love gets tougher. When people yell out disagreements at you during your sermon and invite people to their house afterward to inform them of how dumb the pastor is, love is hard. When old timers from the church invite you over for dinner, only to find out it’s an ambush so they can stand over you and lecture you about how you are ruining “their church,” love gets hard. When you are accused of being legalistic the same week someone leaves your church because you don’t enforce enough rules on the people, love gets confusing along with hard.

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Failing Youth Ministry

Our VBS theme this year: “Giving Us your Kid For 10 Hours 1 Week Won’t Overpower Your Family’s Neglect of all things Spiritual.”
@FailingPastor

 

 

Most are not shocked when kids who grew up in church leave the faith when they leave mom and dad’s house. I’ve heard statistics that like 80% of church kids leave the faith in their early 20’s.

We’re used to this news and yeah, some people are concerned about it, but most of the solutions to the problem demonstrate a lack of true concern. Usually we just double-down on what we’re already doing.

People are taught Christianity as kids; therefore Christianity is often linked in with “what kids believe.” To be an adult, someone who is sophisticated and a free-thinker, you have to depart from what you learned as a kid.

In today’s climate where atheism and materialism are considered cool and enlightened, kids flee the church. What’s rarely reported on is how many of these kids come back, especially when they have kids. I doubt the number is gigantic, but I know some who left the church for many years in their 20’s who later came back. The world holds out answers; young people try those answers. The world’s answers aren’t good; they tire of them and return to what is solid and helpful.

In all honesty, I doubt any kid is saved. I’m not saying none are, I’m merely saying I doubt they are. Kids don’t know enough. They don’t know the alternatives. All they know is what mom and dad say. They go with that and if mom and dad are playing games with faith, the kids will call them on that, blame the church, and leave what they think “the faith” is.

It is stupid to think that dropping your kids off at church will do the work for you. Kids follow the parents. Kids who leave the church generally have parents who aren’t in church much.

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The Top Four Reasons Pastors Leave Their Church

Hey pastors:

That new church you’re taking that looks so perfect?
Some pastor just left that church looking for a perfect church.
@FailingPastor

 

 

By the time I put in 15 years at my church, a guy I graduated with was on his fourth church. He couldn’t find a place that felt right. So he kept looking. He’s now at a church for an extended length of time and feels he has “found his church home.”

That’s good. I am happy for him.

From an outsider’s cynical view, finding his “church home” looks an awful lot like, “I found the place that pays me the most I’ve ever gotten for doing this gig!”

Now, again, I’m a terrible person and I am not the judge. I’m just saying what it looks like.

Did it ever dawn on anyone that maybe one of the reasons there are so many terrible churches is because no pastor will stay long enough to help them repair? Most churches have never seen selfless service in person. Many pastors are in it for themselves, not for the benefit of the church (Romans 16:17-18).

I know a lot of pastors and I listen to their words. They tell me why they are leaving their church.

We need to get more families/young people/old people/men/women but no one is willing to do what’s needed to get them to come.
— I hear this one a lot. There’s a certain market the pastor wants to attract for some unknown reason, and yet no one else in the church seems particularly concerned about getting that desired market. So the pastor leaves because the church won’t get him his audience he prefers. Why not just minister to the people who are there instead of firing and replacing the entire congregation?

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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.

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How to be a Pastor at a Potluck

Pastor Potluck Rules: go last in line, take most of what people took least, and sit with people no one else sits with.
@FailingPastor

 

 

My dad was a pastor and I learned these rules from him. He never told me these rules; he just did them. I was routinely amazed at his ability to be last in line. As a kid, I was top ten every single time! How can you not want to get in line for food?

Then, the stuff he took! Man, I stocked up on desserts and jello salad and cheesy casseroles. My dad would take all the gross stuff. He did that because he knew people would be offended if no one took their food. If it was particularly ignored food, he’d make sure to thank them for bringing it and tell them how much he really liked squid. I kid you not. One time we had a missions potluck and someone made squid. He and a junior high boy ate it.

My dad was a friendly guy and people liked talking to him. He had people in church who were his friends and he’d more than likely enjoy sitting with them and yucking it up. Instead he’d sit with that one family who was a little annoying and difficult to talk to. He’d sit with the old people who could hardly hear. He’d never take much food and he’d eat it quickly so he could make the rounds and sit with people who no one else was by.

My dad was a true servant. He always looked out for other people. Part of this was his inherent nature. That’s who he was. Part of it was actually pride on his part. He was a people-pleaser to the extreme. He pleased people so much he did not get much enjoyment out of life.

But he was still right in much of how he did his pastoral ministry. His potluck etiquette was impeccable.

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No One Cares About Your Theological Opinions

Whenever I’m tempted to spout theological wisdom, I just remember: Nobody cares.
@FailingPastor

 

Social Media has taught us that success depends upon branding yourself. You have to produce content, get followers, retweets, and likes. Get your message out there. Effectiveness is measured by how many people you can prove bumped into your content.

This mentality has come into the Christian world as well. Pastors feel this pressure constantly.

We are told to follow the Big Name pastors out there and we’re basically taught to envy their numbers. John Piper can put some cheesy good morning poem on his Twitter feed and by noon it has 2.5k likes. I put out one finely crafted Tweet succinctly summing up justification and it gets zero response.

I then feel pathetic and dumb. John Piper, bolstered by the 2.5k people who liked his poem, continues to write weird poems as though people need such things for sanctification to continue. He Tweets away, then occasionally lectures people for spending too much time on social media.

Sigh.

I did a theologically minded blog for over 15 years. There were about five people who regularly read it. There used to be nine, but I banned four of them from commenting anymore, so they eventually left.

I put out all kinds of stuff for my church people to use. I speak three times a week, yet hardly anyone shows up. I put out, what I think, is good theological content. Really helpful and inspiring stuff.

No one cares.

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Who to Blame If Your Church Sucks

Whenever I’m about to bemoan the stupidity of people in my church, I remember that their stupidity is why I got hired.
@FailingPastor

 

I mean, seriously, if I had a great church I wouldn’t be the pastor.

In all honesty, pastors who whine about their churches are quite funny. Many of my jokes about people in my church are made up. Many of the true ones are about people who have left. And, yeah, humans are funny, so I poke on some remaining people. But at the core of it, we’re all in this together.

Speaking of making fun of people who left my church. There was a guy who had a problem with my leadership in the church. He told me my leadership style was “my way or the highway.” He then went on to compare me to his jerk of a dad. He maintained that I enforced too much of a difference between clergy and laymen. I found that funny because my approach to church is so far from a clergy laity split it’s ridiculous.

The only difference between clergy and “laymen” is that the clergy are appointed to do some stuff in church. There should be a standard of conduct and faith maintained, but this same standard should be every Christian’s goal. Clergy are not above the rest. We all have feet of clay. All have sinned and all need Christ.

I’m not the smartest guy in the world. I know this about me. I know my weak spots and have a wife to point out the weak spots I’ve missed.

Pastors will attract people who are similar to them. They just do. If the pastor is intellectual and academic; the church will soon be made up of academics. If he’s hip and cool; then hip and cool people will go to him. There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general this is how it works. I dare say it even goes down to body weight! Fat pastors have fatter churches than skinny ones!

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