“Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” - Jonathan Edwards -

Monday, August 24, 2009

Money...

So, the next question in the list of 'Why Small Church Pastors Quit' is one that involves the root of all evil: of course, I speak about money...

Now honestly, this is not a bugaboo for me, as I am not paid by our church - I have a regular 40+ hour / week job which supports me and my family. However, I have many friends who have experienced this problem.

The opinions I am about to express are just that, opinions, however, I have seen this situation enough to feel fairly comfortable with talking about it.

First and foremost -- pastors: if you are in this for the money -- get out now and save yourself some real headaches!

So, having said that I would like to bring to fore a few points:

1. - Why is it assumed almost universally within certain traditions (whom I will refrain from mentioning here) that poverty is related to godly? Many feel that, because their pastor is squeaking by on a salary that does not adequately feed his family, he is somehow becoming transcendent through that experience!

Most pastors in this situation are simply becoming disillusioned. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that poverty is next to godly, as a matter of fact the writer of Proverbs says this -- Proverbs 30:8, 9 -- give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. C'mon church! Give your pastor a break, pay him decently -- is it unreasonable that he be paid the average of what the congregation makes?

2. - Why is it that every purchase that the pastor makes is scrutinized by his flock? As if, it is still their money and they have say over what he buys! God forbid that he buy a new ANYTHING -- used is good enough for him! Yet, the congregation is happily spending their wages any way they see fit, and are happy to provide the pastor with their discards!

Now this is (maybe) a bit hyperbolic, but not much -- I have seen this in more than one situation. Pay your pastor a decent wage, and then shut up about how he spends the money -- I am not suggesting NO oversight; (for example, a quarterly trip to the Bahamas might indicate a problem), but if he buys a new car -- why do you view it as a sin?

3. - Why is there more money spent on carpeting than on upkeep of the pastors family? Is it pride in a building? What about the man who, week in and week out, provides pastoral care to you? 1st Timothy 5:17, 18 - Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain, and, The laborer deserves his wages.

Bottom line: Pay the pastor a livable wage - I fully recognize that the other extreme is alive and well, (no man is worth 1M/year), but this post is about small-church pastors and most of them make well under the average salary in America.

And again, please heed this warning -- if you are in the business of pastoring for the cash -- get out now; I don't need your help! Heed Paul's warning: 2nd Corinthians 2:17 -- For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God's word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.

All of you small-church pastors out there, I pray that you are well-loved and supported by your congregation. I have been blessed by mine!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Loss of Key Persons

One of the things that will burn a small church pastor out is the loss of key persons within the core team. We experienced this as we worked through our first few years.

What often happens, as I stated in the last post, is that a church gets planted with a lot more emotion than planning, and therefore things have not been thought through.

So, what happens? Well, the folks heading up some portion of a key ministry realize that their four children have no Children's Ministry for a while as teachers are identified, and curriculum is sought and studied. (This is simply one example).

And so, they begin looking around at bigger, established churches and seeing that these churches have a ministry ready-made for their children. Off they go to that church.

Now, let me say that I understand that to a degree -- parents want their children to have a good Children's Ministry, but the reality is that a small-church drained of key personnel, AND their children never can get their ministries off the ground.

It might be youth, it might be a choir, but any of these things can strip a church of key members. Now, I will be blunt about part of the reasoning -- people are not as committed to a church as much as they are committed to a program, or perceived needs that their family has. Part of the issue there is that you did not do adequate planning and communication during the initial plant stage. People rarely understand what it takes to plant a church - there is sacrifice, frustration, and many other emotions that will occur.

You must understand that you are battling the social conditioning that we have created around the church that intimates that we are there for YOU -- and whatever needs YOU deem important. Long ago the church ceased, by and large, of being a gathering of God's people to worship Him, and became a social event with all the bells and whistles of a secular club.

Now yes, churches still worship God -- but many times the staff is professionally paid, the lights, music, setting all TV quality and the 'event' short enough to satisfy the most ardent football fan.

And when one plants a church that has none of that, it is a true disadvantage, and one will have a difficulty in maintaining members. So, enough of the problem -- what can one do about it?

Well, first and foremost -- be crystal clear with the people working with you -- "We may not have a functioning [children's ministry/choir/worship team/youth] for a while, are you committed to helping build that up?"

Second, don't try to compete with the local mega-church -- understand the focus of your ministry and stay true to it. You may shrink, but if you try to be all things to all people by adding every ministry that the local dotcom church has you will quickly exhaust your budget and your people.

If someone wants to be on a 90 person choir, well then you may just have to tell them that you won't be forming that sized choir for a while (especially since your church is 30 in number!), and they may have to find a church that provides them with that opportunity.

The greatest danger for a small-church pastor in this area is the attempt to be something that you are not, or do not yet have the funds to be. Don't over-extend your own time or the churches resources attempting to keep one or two key families, identify others who are committed to the church and work with them to bring them along.

We have had several key families leave for some of the reasons stated above, and have maintained friendships with them -- they have been a blessing to the churches where they have gone, and everyone ended up fine. Trust that God will provide for you, and that He will bring into your church those with the necessary gifts to provide the needed ministries.

At the end of the day, stay focused on your commitment to God -- NOT to the many felt needs that are out there. This can only lead you to burn-out, or compromise in some manner.

If you stay true to God He will make clear the ministries you are to have, and the size church that you will become.

May God Bless Your Work!