Clergy attrition: Why pastors resign their churches

     Church growth analysts say sustained church health and growth is more likely when a pastor stays long term. So, why is the average tenure for a Nazarene pastor just over 3 years? Why does the attrition rate seem so high?
     At a conference on the campus of Southern Nazarene University, H.B. London said the top 5 reasons pastors give for resigning their churches are:

  1. "I can't see any progress being made."
  2. "I'm not able to use my gifts."
        "I can't do what I do best very often."
  3. "I'm facing some difficult members."
  4. "I need affirmation that I'm not getting."
  5. "I need rest and refreshment."

     London says that pastors should resist resigning unless there is clear and unequivocal divine direction.
     When a pastor is tempted to resign, he or she should ask these questions:

  1. Are I free here to pursue the core essentials of ministry? If so, then it may be worth staying.
  2. Have I already internally left this place?
  3. Has a desire to leave been building in me for a long time?
  4. Do my gifts and philosophy of ministry match this congregation's needs? If so, then maybe I ought to stay and work through the problems.
  5. How do I normally react to tough situations? Do I normally shy away? If so, is this the time to break that pattern?
  6. With God's grace and help, can I summon the emotional and physical strength to stay?
  7. How much can my family endure?
"Love us and accept us"
     "A few years ago we had someone come and interview at our church for the position of pastor. My husband was the board secretary at the time. So we took this man and his wife out to dinner before taking them to see our congregation's facilities. Once the man walked into the church building, his mind seemed to go into a fast forward mode. He tuned out everything we were saying and just started looking underneath and behind things. His reaction to the sanctuary was to start talking about how it could be remodeled to make it better. I remember his actions made us feel like our church was not good enough.
     I have thought of that episode several times recently and reflected on how the man's actions paralleled someone going to a new culture and trying to change everything right away. This is very uncomfortable to those that have worked to make things the way they are. I understand we need to be open to change, but I want you to love and accept me just the way I am before I will trust you to suggest changes."
         -- Linda J.

Calling a new pastor: Interviewing someone?

Questions you might consider asking a pastoral candidate

  • Biographical
    1. When did you receive your call to ministry? How did that happen?
    2. Is your spouse supportive of:
      1. Your call to ministry?
      2. The Church of the Nazarene (or whatever your denominational connection is)?
    3. What are you called to do in ministry?
  • Leadership
    1. Apart from preaching and teaching, what are some things you do to pastor or shepherd the people of a congregation?
    2. Tell us about the worst conflict situation you have been involved with in a church.
    3. What is the best thing you have brought to the table in a leadership position you are currently in?
  • Theological
    1. If someone asked you to explain sanctification, what would you say to them?
    2. What is the difference between sanctification and holiness?
    3. What is your view of a fundamentalist understanding of scripture? How is the view of the Church of the Nazarene (or whatever your denomination is) different from a fundamentalist view?
  • Ethical / Character / Ecclesiastic
    1. What concerns you about the expression of Christianity in this part of the country?
    2. What is the worst thing you've seen a pastor do? If you had been a close confidant of that person, how would you have tried to help that person avoid making that mistake?
    3. What concerns you or what would you like to change in order to make the Church of the Nazarene (or whatever your denomination is) more effective in Kingdom work?
  • Functional
    • Worship
      1. What is the objective in worship?
      2. What creates effective worship experiences?
      3. What is the process you generally follow in designing/leading worship?
    • Discipleship
      1. If someone asked how they could grow in Christ, how would you guide them?
      2. What do you do to grow in Christ?

How do you deal with conflict?

NextConflicts are inevitable. The question is not what to do "if" we encounter conflict, but what to do "when" we encounter conflict.[ read more ]

SNU missions course materials and syllabi

Cultural Anthropology    Introduction to Missions    Linguistics    Missions Strategies    Modern Missionary Movement (History of Missions)    Nazarene Missions    Church Growth and Christian Missions    Theology of Missions    Traditional Religions    World Religions
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