Passing the Baton: A Theological and Practical Look at Pastoral Turnover -- By: Rob Green

Journal: Journal of Ministry and Theology
Volume: JMAT 10:1 (Spring 2006)
Article: Passing the Baton: A Theological and Practical Look at Pastoral Turnover
Author: Rob Green


Passing the Baton:
A Theological and Practical Look at Pastoral Turnover

Rob Green

Assistant Pastor
Administrator for Faith Biblical Counseling Ministries
Faith Baptist Church, Lafayette, Indiana

Introduction

According to recent statistics, there is significant turnover of clergy within evangelical circles.1 George Barna reports that clergy move every four years.2 Ten years after the Barna study, Thomas Rainer, in his book Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, concluded, “Our surveys of pastors across America indicate the average tenure of a pastor to be 3.8 years.”3 Joseph Miller argues, “Most pastorates last two to three years.”4 Regardless of the exact figures, it is clear that many churches face the possibility of looking for a new pastor, and pastors look for a new church on a fairly regular basis.5 Research suggests that the negative impact caused by pastoral turnover is devastating to all parties involved.

Carl George cautions pastors not to leave too quickly because those who do “sometimes get more than they bargained for.”6 The pastor must move to a new area, which may involve the sale of his home, a school transition for his children, the loss of close friendships, and the challenge of getting to know a different group of people. In addition, while there is often great excitement surrounding a new pastor, it rarely takes more than a few months for the excitement to dissipate. As if that were not enough, one must also recognize that pastoral moves often create additional emotional baggage. In some cases, this baggage comes from the challenge of leaving the people the pastor has learned to love. In other cases, it stems from the fact that the pastor did not accomplish his hopes and dreams.

Although transitions may be difficult for pastors, it is the churches that seem to suffer the most.7 There are at least four ways churches are affected by pastoral change. First, churches are often left with the challenge of either finding an interim pastor or scheduling weekly pulpit supply. This is such an enormous task that it is almost always accompanied by frustration. In some cases, the burdens are so heavy for the deacons and other lay leaders that they refuse future leadership opportunities.

Second, a pas...

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