“I wish I had stayed.”
I’ve heard that sentence from many pastors. Given the perspective of several years, they wish that had not left a church as soon as they did. Indeed, I was one of those pastors.
For certain, there will be times that pastors should move on after only a few years at a given church. This post does not apply to all pastors.
And other pastors can’t help their short tenure because they were forced out of their churches. In some cases, they were appointed to another church by a judicatory authority.
But this post is about the rest of them.
The more research I do and the more I hear from pastors, the more I am convinced. As a rule, longer-tenured pastorates are better. Let me share six of the main reasons.
1. Our research continues to show a strong correlation to pastoral tenure and church health. Of course, correlation is not the same as causation. Nevertheless, the evidence is strong, if not overwhelming, in favor of long tenure.
2. The breakout years of pastoral tenure typically begin after years 5 to 7. In other words, the best years of a pastor’s tenure, both for the pastor and the church, do not begin until at least five years have passed. Unfortunately, the majority of pastors in America do not stay at a church for five or more years.
3. Relationships take time, particularly in church leadership. Keep this perspective in mind. When pastors begin ministry in a church, they are the newest people at their respective churches. Relationships are already established among the members. That is why I’ve heard from many church members that a pastor did not seem like “their pastor” until about five years passed.
4. Nearly nine out of ten churches in America are in need of turnaround leadership. Turnaround leadership is most often methodical and incremental. It can’t be accomplished in just a few years.
5. Community relationships and impact take time as well. In most communities, pastors are not considered a part of the locality until they have been there at least five years. A church, to be effective, must have a positive presence in the community led by an accepted pastor.
6. Pastors and churches will have had time to go through a crisis or conflict. The typical period for significant conflict is in years 2 to 4. The longer the pastorate, the greater the likelihood that the church and the pastor have gotten to the other side of the conflict.
The issue of pastoral tenure has so many implications. This brief post touches upon just a few of them. I look forward to hearing your perspectives on this important matter.