TEN REASONS IT IS MORE DIFFICULT TO BE A PASTOR TODAY

I can’t tell pastors today how difficult it was when I was a pastor.

To the contrary, I have to be honest and tell them it is more difficult now.

All three of my sons went into vocational ministry after serving in the business world. One of them is in seminary administration and two of them are pastors. I never pushed them in that direction. I knew they could not make it unless they were certain God called them.

Yes, it is indeed more difficult to be a pastor today than earlier years. At least ten major issues led to these challenges.

  1. The advent of social media. As a consequence, private criticisms have become public forums. The fish bowl life of a pastor’s family is now 24/7.
  2. Podcast pastors. When I was a pastor, there were only a few well-known television pastors as points of comparison to my inferiority. Today, church members have hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors on podcast they compare to their own pastors.
  3. Diminished respect for pastors. When I was a pastor, most people held my vocation in high esteem, even those not in church. Such is not the case today.
  4. Generational conflict in the church. While there has always been some generational conflict in the church, it is more pervasive and intense today.
  5. Leadership expectations. Pastors are expected today to have more leadership and business skills. We constantly hear from pastors, “They didn’t teach me that at seminary.”
  6. Demise of the program-driven church. In past years, church solutions were simpler. Churches were more homogeneous, and programmatic solutions could be used in almost any context. Today churches are more complex and contexts are more varied.
  7. Rise of the “nones.” There is a significant increase in the numbers of people who have no religious affiliation. The demise of cultural Christianity means it is more difficult to lead churches to growth.
  8. Cultural change. The pace of change is breathtaking, and much more challenging today. It is exceedingly more difficult today for pastors to stay abreast with the changes around them.
  9. More frustrated church members. Largely because of the cultural change noted above, church members are more frustrated and confused. They often take out their frustrations on pastors and other church leaders.
  10. Bad matches with churches. In earlier years, there was considerable homogeneity from church to church, particularly within denominations and affiliated church groups. Today churches are much more diverse. A pastor who led well in one context may fare poorly in another unless there is a concerted effort to find the right match for a church and pastor.

These ten reasons are not statements of doom and gloom; they are simply statements of reality. Serving as pastor in a church today has more challenges than it did years ago.

But challenges in ministry are common throughout the history from the first church to today. Such is the reason no pastors can lead well without the power, strength, and leadership of the One who called them.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 1, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Five Reasons Why Pastors are Getting Fired Because of Their Social Media Posts

 

By Thom Rainer

“It’s not fair I lost my job,” the pastor told me.

“My church members post a lot worse things than I do on social media. It’s a double standard.”

He’s right. It is a double standard. But it’s reality. And, with greater frequency, more pastors and church staff are losing their jobs because of what they post, particularly on Facebook and Twitter and, to some extent, their blogs.

By the way, churches will not always tell the pastor the specific reason for the firing. But, once we begin to infuriate our church members with our posts, many will find a myriad of reasons to give us the boot.

I recently recommended a pastor to another church. I think very highly of him. Indeed, the search committee chairman seemed genuinely enthused when I recommended him. He contacted me a couple of weeks later with this comment: “We can’t consider him. He’s just too snarky and sarcastic on social media.”

Of course, this pastor was not fired. But he never had a chance to be considered by another church.

So what are pastors posting on social media that is raising the ire of church members? It typically falls into one or more of these five categories:

  1. Generally combative and sarcastic comments. Do you know someone that seems always to be in debate on social media? They always want to prove their points, and they will take you on personally if you disagree with them. There are now a number of former pastors in this category.
  2. Political comments. If you make a political comment in today’s incendiary environment, you will offend someone. The persons you offend may just be the ones who push you out the church.
  3. Taking on church members. I cringe when I see church members posting critical comments against a pastor or church staff member. I cringe even more when the pastor decides to take them on in a public forum. Most readers have no idea the context of the conflict. They just see their pastor acting like a jerk.
  4. Criticizing other people. I have a friend who served as pastor of four churches. He loved criticizing well-known pastors, celebrities, Christian leaders, and others on social media. He was fired from his last church without a stated cause. I believe I know why. And he has gone three years without finding another place in ministry.
  5. Unsavory comments. A pastor or church staff member making lewd or suggestive comments on social media gains nothing, even if it’s a quote from a movie or someone else. The consequences are always negative.

This post is not about pastors losing their prophetic voices. It’s about pastors and church staff losing their ministries because of their failure to control their digital tongues.

“If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, then his religion is useless and he deceives himself . . . (The tongue) pollutes the whole body, sets the course of life on fire, and is set on fire by hell.” (James 1:26, 3:6)

Social media is not the place to vent or to wage petty battles.

The consequences are simply too great.

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 6, 2017. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

One Key Reason Most Churches Do Not Exceed 350 in Average Attendance

By Thom Rainer

Nine out of ten.

That’s a lot.

Nine out of ten churches in America have an average worship attendance of less than 350. And that percentage has not changed significantly for many years. Yet the unchurched pool of persons is increasing in most communities. There are people yet to be reached.

But most churches will never exceed 350 in attendance. Why?

A Few Caveats

Allow me to preface my analysis. First, big is not necessarily better. A church with more people in attendance is not necessarily more faithful than a smaller church. Second, some churches are in very sparsely populated areas. There may not be 350 people in a five-mile radius (though every community still has people who need to be reached).

My third caveat is key. I believe leadership is indeed a biblical and theological issue. It’s really a matter of healthy stewardship. I offer this third caveat because I will be addressing the issue of leadership in this post.

Attendance Levels of Churches in America

We are a nation and continent of smaller churches. And though we have far more small churches than large churches, there is a big migration of people from smaller to larger churches. In other words, many of the smaller churches are getting smaller, and many of the larger churches are getting larger.

Here is a simple depiction of the number of churches at three different levels:

  • 50% of all churches in America average less than 100 in worship attendance.
  • 40% of all churches in America average between 100 and 350 in attendance.
  • 10% of all churches in America average more than 350 in attendance.

Keep in mind that the upper 10% tend to include more of the growing churches, while the lower 90% tend to include more of the declining churches.

One of the Key Reasons

There is no single reason to explain the apparent ceiling of 350 in attendance of most churches. I do believe, however, that there is a major reason for this barrier. Such is the thesis of this post:

One of the key reasons most churches do not move beyond 350 in average worship attendance is they do not have sufficient leadership and structures in place.

Many smart people have provided analyses of what is commonly known as the 200 barrier. I believe that the 200 barrier is highly elastic. In other words, the barrier is really somewhere between 150 and 350, depending on a number of circumstances. Again, I believe that the key reason stated above is among the greatest inhibitors of growth.

Increasing Organizational Complexity

Moses was an unintended victim of organizational complexity. He was trying the Lone Ranger approach to the leadership of Israel. The nation would implode and he would lose his leadership authority if he kept doing what he was doing.

His father-in-law, Jethro, saw the flaws of his leadership and said:

“What you’re doing is not good . . . You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone” (Exodus 18:17-18, HCSB).

So, following Jethro’s advice and wisdom, Moses became a different kind of leader with a different kind of organization.

Here are the five major levels of organizational complexity in churches according to average worship attendance:

  1. Under 100: Family and friends
  2. 100 to 250: Basic
  3. 251 to 350: Challenging
  4. 351 to 750: Complex
  5. Above 750: Highly complex

Most churches cannot or are not willing to make the types of changes that are necessary in complex organizations. In future resources, I will share what many leaders and churches are doing to move beyond the 100, 250, and 350 ceilings. In the meantime, let me hear from you.


Note from Barry: I highly recommend Thom’s new book, “Who Moved My Pulpit: Leading Change in the Church.” It deals with these specific issues in depth. Just click on the book cover below to preview and order.

 

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on March 25, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Marriage 101 — Our March 2017 Sermon Series is Now Available for Download

Our March Sermon Series, Marriage 101, is designed to help married couples to build their relationship on a solid, biblical foundation, and to instruct those considering marriage how to start off on the right foot. This is a practical, God-honoring series that takes marriage very seriously.

03-05-2017 — God’s Dream for You
03-12-2017 — Four Keys to Intimacy
03-19-2017 — Enjoying our Differences
03-26-2017 — How to Fight Fair

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How to Make Changes in the Church Without Being Asked to Resign

By Barry L. Davis

I’m sure a lot of you can relate to the scenario taking place in the cartoon below:

Cartoon by Dennis Fletcher from ChristiantyToday.com

Almost without fail, when you candidate at a church they will tell you early on that they are specifically looking for someone who will lead them to make the necessary changes for growth. If you’ve been in the ministry for very long, you know that this is a lie 99% of the time. They don’t mean to lie, and most of them have convinced themselves that they really do want change, but once changes start to take place, the complaints begin to pile up, and most of the time, you are the fall guy.

Well guess what? I’ve discovered a solution to this problem. It won’t work in every single case, and probably shouldn’t be used in all of them, but most of the time it works just great. Are you ready for the secret? Here goes – MAKE CHANGES ON A TRIAL BASIS! I am not talking about trickery here, or manipulation, I’m talking about actually making most changes on a trial basis.

Let me give you two examples that worked very well for me:

I was at a church that was stagnant in the growth department, to put it mildly. Our worship service was completely dead and we were not reaching anyone for the Lord. I truly believed that starting a second, more contemporary worship service would help us, but the truth was, I wasn’t sure. (God doesn’t always speak to us audibly concerning these matters, does He?). I knew that if I wasn’t sure, the congregation wouldn’t be either, and as a matter of fact, I KNEW of a few people that wouldn’t like it because they didn’t like any change whatsoever. So here is how I presented it – I went to the board and told them the reasons I thought starting a second service was a good idea and what type of resources we would need to pull it off. I also told them that while I thought it was a great idea, I couldn’t be sure until we tried it, and suggested we do it on a six month trial basis. If at the end of six months we didn’t feel like this was the direction to go, we would scrap it. We presented the same idea to the congregation, and guess what? I didn’t have one single person complain about it! Not one! They knew that there was an out if it flopped.

Way back when video projectors were just being introduced in churches I really believed it would enhance our worship. We spoke to a local vendor who agreed to let us borrow one for three months, with the understanding that if we decided to buy we would purchase from him. We told the congregation about what we were doing and let them know at the end of three months we would make a decision one way or the other and we wanted their input after they had seen it in use for a while. Believe it or not, the most elderly members of our congregation came to us and said that they loved it! They could see the words better than they could in the hymnal, and they could hear the congregation better since everyone’s heads were up and facing forward.

Now lest you think that I believe every decision in the church should be made democratically with input from the whole congregation, I do not. BUT…when it comes to things that are not a matter of doctrine, or urgency, oftentimes it is best to allow changes on a trial basis as I’ve described above. You don’t have to vote on these items, but you can get a consensus on how the congregation feels about the change once it is in place. Many are pleasantly surprised to find out that they love the change they thought they would be opposed to. And the truth is, it’s nice to know if something doesn’t work that we can toss it and move on. I can’t tell you how many pastors I know who hold onto a program just because it was their idea, even though they know it is failing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below:

 

Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1997. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling. His latest book is God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles.

Should I Practice My Sermon Delivery?

By Barry L. Davis

When I first began preaching I was extremely nervous. I had no experience in public speaking and was terrified to stand in front of a crowd. My first sermon took place while I was a freshman in Bible College. A fellow student had a weekend ministry at a rural church and asked me to fill in for him one Sunday. Once I had all my notes together I had my wife sit on the bed in our room at the back of our mobile home, stacked up some books on top of a dresser to use as a makeshift pulpit, and asked her to sit and listen to me while I practiced my sermon. She said it was good, but I knew she was just being nice.

Soon afterward I was able to acquire my own weekend ministry and even lived in the parsonage next to the church. Every Saturday I would take my notes over to the church, stand behind the pulpit, and practice my sermon with the empty pews in front of me. As I preached I would make notations in my manuscript whenever I felt a change was needed. By the time Sunday came around I stood there with pages of typewritten notes with handwritten scrawls in the margins, words crossed out, and sometimes even reminders to pause – all of this was the result of my practice, and it worked well for me.

While these days I do not practice from the pulpit, or from a stack of books in the bedroom, I still go over my notes in my office, and oftentimes I will use a stand or something else at hand that will be close in height to the pulpit I’ll use on Sunday. I generally go over my notes on Saturday evening and again early Sunday morning. And just like the old days, I keep my pen handy and make changes as I go.

So, should you practice your sermon before you preach? I believe that you should. Let me share some reasons why:

  1. Your word choices will be clarified. – Some of the words that come from your mind through your keyboard do not translate well when you say them out loud. Hearing your sermon will help you know for sure whether you’ve made the right choices.
  2. Your timing will improve. – The cadence of your sermon is more important than many people realize. Practicing your sermon will help you to build a rhythm that will help your audience to track with you and what you are trying to say.
  3. You will not need to rely on your notes as much. – Your practice time will make you more familiar with your message, which means you will not need to look at your notes nearly as often.
  4. You will learn what to emphasize. – As you speak the words out loud, the concepts and truths that need the most emphasis will become clear to you. Many times they are different than what you thought they should be when you were writing down your notes.
  5. You will know what to cut. – There will be words, phrases, and entire sections of your message that you will find just don’t work. Often illustrations that seemed perfect on the written page just don’t flow with the message when spoken out loud.
  6. Your confidence will grow. – When the words start flowing and changes are made, you will become more and more assured of the message God is giving you to deliver. You have prayed, studied, initially planned your message, and now have refined it to the point that you know it will have a powerful impact on your hearers.
  7. You will gain a brand new perspective. – I’m going to add a new wrinkle here: You need to occasionally record your sermon (preferably on video) while you practice and also when you deliver it to the church. This will help you to hear and see the same thing as your audience. You will hear and see some things that you don’t like – but that is a good thing – because it will help you to know specifically what types of things you need to change.

I would love to hear your thoughts and opinions below!

 

 

Barry L. Davis spent two decades as a Senior Pastor and started the ministry of The Pastor’s Helper in 1997. The Pastor’s Helper strives to provide tools and resources to help pastors succeed in their ministry calling. His latest book is God-Driven Leadership: A Call to Seeing, Believing, and Living in Accordance with Scriptural Principles.

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