By Ralph Reinford
As a regional pastor, a fair amount of my time is spent working with congregational search groups and looking for new pastors. These are uncertain times, and I often get asked if there are available pastors. I also get asked why anyone would want to be a pastor.
It is obvious to me that God has not given up on his church because he is still calling people to be pastors and particularly young people who have a heart to serve God and the church. It may seem irrational why anyone would want to do that.
As in life itself, there is a cycle to the rhythm of church life. When congregations are asked about their past, they often talk in terms of who their pastors were and how long they served. In fact, some have Halls of Fame with photos of their pastors lining the foyer or special rooms and glass cases showing the historical line of saints. These often give insight into the congregation along with fascinating stories.
It always interesting to reflect on the longevity of pastors and ask what the average time frame is or what is a good length of time to serve in a pastorate. The answers vary according to who you are talking to, but I believe 12 to 14 years is a good tenure. Transition is often good for both the congregation and the pastor. It realigns the mission and priorities and opens the door to new opportunities and fresh starts. It often moves congregations from being pastor-centered to greater involvement from everyone.
I could say a lot more about calling leaders: the chemistry, the importance of character, competency, bringing someone in from the outside and understanding your church’s culture. But I will simply say, do not forget to look within for your next pastor. God provides gifts in each fellowship, and it is our responsibility to call forth, develop, train, and provide opportunities for new leaders to be discovered. It’s really a part of discipleship.
Yes, it is difficult to find and discern the right pastor for the right church, but it is also very rewarding. To see search groups come together and grow into discernment groups is like watching your children grow up. With lots of prayer and meetings together it is gratifying to see how God works and the peace that comes with discovering the appropriate fit.
An important aspect of a healthy congregation is the ongoing care for the pastor and family. In times of pastoral transition, having someone in the congregation to walk alongside the pastor and their family is crucial. Many congregations have a personnel and congregational relations group which serves as a liaison between the congregation and pastor. If a pastor and family do not have this kind of support system, they end up spending too much emotional energy dealing with ordinary things like health insurance, reviews, and congregational complaints. A pastor has enough to do, and it is easy to feel isolated and that no one cares. It sometimes becomes an “us versus them” situation. There are many ways to come alongside your pastor and family to show you care and are invested in the ministry of the Kingdom.
Ralph Reinford has been a regional pastor with the Ohio Conference since 2011. He primarily works with congregations in the eastern part of the Conference.