Keeping Pastors Long Term

In a conversation with another pastor yesterday morning at Conference, the issue of pastoral tenure came up. This pastor shared a theory one of his parishioners holds (I paraphrase): “When you want to keep a pastor a long time, you need to make sure you don’t pay too much. If you pay too much the pastor might get ambitious and want to move.” From the way many churches operate, I get the idea this is a commonly held theory. I think it is mostly mistaken, however.

I freely admit that I’m ambitious. I’m not content with the way things are. And this is a good thing for my congregation.

My ambition is not to move up to be a DS or Bishop. My ambition is not to become wealthy – although I do have a few dreams that are money related: paying for my kid’s braces, sending my kids to college, and owning my own house some day. But those things aren’t the center of my ambition (and I think they’re not that abnormal when compared to most of the people in my church).

My ambitions center around reaching people for Jesus. I want to pastor a church that is radically in love with Jesus and does everything possible to connect people with Him. Such a church will hunger after God, win people to Christ, grow them as disciples, help them discover their spiritual gifts, and then deploy them in ministry.

Doesn’t that sound like a good thing for a church?

Some churches out there are already everything they need to be. Everything goes smoothly. It’s perfect. I’ve never been in a church like that, but I figure there’s some out there. But I like the idea of creating something that doesn’t exist – of bringing health where there isn’t health, growth where there isn’t growth.

So what church leaders ought to want is an ambitious pastor whose ambitions can be fulfilled within that congregation. That will go a long way toward keeping a pastor.

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