Ministry Hopping

With a few years under my belt running a church staffing company, I can tell you that one of the more brow raising cases is how often church staff hop between churches. I wanted to take some time to do some research and provide some insight from my own personal experiences as a staff member at a church. These positions are often solely focused around building relationships with not just coworkers, but the congregation and often times when a staff change happens…it hurts!

What are the numbers?

Senior Pastors: There were some consistencies in a few of the polls that I could find, such as a survey conducted by the General Baptists which concluded that the average tenure for a pastor currently serving was around 8.82 years. This was a poll that drew from both bivocational pastors and full time pastors with full time pastors staying in their church a bit longer. For churches that are stagnant in their growth or declining, the average tenure for lead pastors tend to drop. According to Thom Rainer in his blog “8 Traits of Effective Church Leaders”, Lifeway found that the average tenure was around 3.6 years, while showing that more effective leaders averaged between 11.2 and 21.6 in a national survey they conducted.

 

Worship Pastors: From Froot Group worship staffing’s internal research, studies have shown the average tenure is 2-3 years. This is one of the more alarming stats to me. Many times worship pastors pose the question “Am I actually called to this ministry, let alone leading worship period?” David Manner of the Southern Baptist Convention wrote an article to worship pastors countering those questions. He asks the questions “If you are called into ministry, has God released you from your call at your current church?”

 

Youth Pastors: Josh Griffin, a guest writer for youthministry.com, did an interesting article on this topic. He stated that the average tenure of a youth pastor is around 18 months, which was according to Christian pollster, George Gallup . Many things contribute to this stat, though Josh suggests the “18 Month Myth” is not completely true. Take a look at his article.

 

A solution?

Lifeway wrote a great article that highlights the 5 stages of a pastor’s ministry. I do agree with the author and how it is important for all of us to understand these stats as it directly affects the local church. I believe though that there are steps to take to help raise the tenure average, and it all starts with the interview process.

  1. Transparency is key. When I am walking our Froot Group clients and candidates through our process, I explain how important it is to get “the whole story” and not just what the other party wants to hear. This is where many red flags are intentionally hidden. The Bible gives us clear direction in John 8:32 that “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free”. How incredible would it be to start in a church and immediately feel like you can be transparent and open with your pastor and coworkers? Those red flags eventually will come up and it is better to be honest right from the beginning.
  2. Don’t necessarily hire the first candidate that says yes or the first job offer you receive. Explore the different options that the Lord provides to you. You never know how patience can pay off in the end!
  3. Candidates, do not have the career ladder mentality. Your motivation for accepting or leaving a job should not be centered around your desire to “take a step up in your career”. Does this apply to every possible situation, of course not. More often than not though, the grass isn’t greener on the other side. Like David Manner wrote in the article listed above, your mentality for leaving should be solely centered around God’s will for you and the next steps He want’s you to take.
  4. PRAY. Saving the most important for last. Jeremiah 29:13 “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Allow the Lord to lead you to that next step. Don’t jump ship or let someone go just because you’re having a difficult time getting along with someone in your ministry. Ministry is tough. The church is made up of people. People aren’t perfect. Matthew 5:10 “God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” Stand fast, and allow the Lord to direct your steps through everything decision you make.

Walking through these steps before accepting a job or hiring the next staff member can help both sides strive for longevity. I believe it takes years to build up a ministry, gain the trust of people, and reproduce disciples. So don’t jump the gun and put yourself in a position that you will regret just a few months in.

 

Written by: Alex Purtell

Alex is the founder of Froot Group, a worship staffing company.

Career Advice, Children's Ministry, Pastors, Worship

2 thoughts on “Ministry Hopping

  1. Ken on

    The search team is SO critical to the process. I’ve counseled many search teams that, “It is your job to know everything about the candidate there is to know. You won’t tell everything you learn, but you are the first filter to meet the church’s needs in ministry and leadership while protecting the integrity of your church, the safety of your children, and a model for mature Christ-like behavior.” The candidate should seek the same regarding the church. But, I know too many churches that were rescued by a resignation.

  2. David Thorne on

    I think you bring up great points and it is important to make sure you’re choosing the right candidate. But, I think there are other HUGE pieces that need to be investigated. What is the average pay for a youth pastor and worship pastor? I would contend that these positions are often under-paid and under-valued in a church. This alone will increase job stress and could lead to burn out and a desire to quit.

    Another factor is the church culture. How easy/difficult are those long-tenured leader pastors to work with? I bet some of them are very difficult and everything may not be as pretty on the inside as it look on the outside. A difficult church culture and conflict in a working relationship can lead to burnout and a desire to quit.

    If two staff members leave within 2.5 years, then I believe the light needs to shine right back on other factors than the ability of the search committee to choose a great candidate. If the culture stinks, it’s low pay, and the lead pastor’s hard to work with, then you might as well keep the search committee together and the Froot Group on speed dial.

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