We probably disagree on what makes a Great Pastor.
And I’m not talking about Great Preachers here. Pastors do considerably more than preach.
For some The Great Pastor is the one who has no life and happily works 60+ hours a week, whose priorities are church and calling over personal wellness and family responsibilities. For others it’s the Total Package Pastor who is supremely gifted in all pastoral skills (bedside manner, preaching, teaching, administration, evangelism, community organizing, fundraising, personnel management, and personality.)
In my opinion, Great Pastors . . .
- Love God and their congregations.
- Have a balanced life and good boundaries.
- Know what they excel at and what they need to work on (or who to call when they don’t want to work on it).
- Care about their community beyond the walls of the church building.
- Are lifelong learners who read books, listen to podcasts and attend classes/webinars/conferences.
- Have a team to support them (i.e. a therapist, a coach, a mentor, a spiritual director, a financial planner, chosen family).
- Have an approachable personality.
By this definition there are hundreds and thousands of Great Pastors out there.
And there is also a dearth of Great Pastors.
What I’m not saying: that our current pastors are imbalanced, weak, faithless, close-minded, unhealthy, and cranky. Those leaders are out there, but they are not in the majority.
Nevertheless, congregations need to have a realistic understanding of what a pastor is supposed to be and do and what a pastor can humanly be and do. And we pastors need to be honest about who we are and how God is calling us to serve right now – not 10 years ago.
Here are some realities/truths for these days:
- Fewer people are going to seminary.
- Fewer seminary graduates are seeking traditional parish ministry.
- Fewer churches can afford a full time called and installed pastor (and most pastors cannot afford to live on a part time salary.)
- Fewer pastors are willing to move to a different part of the country (away from family) to accept a call.
- Fewer churches can afford to move a pastor from a different part of the country to serve in their part of the country.
Note how often I use the word “fewer.” We seem to have fewer options, fewer candidates, fewer resources and yet I believe that we have all we need. God is doing a new (and disconcerting) thing and we need to shift our priorities and perspectives.
Some Pastor Search Committees tell me that they can’t find a pastor they like. This is certainly not true for all search committees.
But small town and rural congregations are having a challenging time calling a pastor willing to move to regions of the country with a depressed economy – especially if that pastor comes with a spouse who will need to find work. Our historically African American congregations and Korean and Spanish language congregations are finding their choices very limited if they are seeking leaders who look and speak as they do.
We seem to be missing that pipeline of new, energetic, visionary pastors who know how to lead in these transitional days.
Where are all The Great Pastors?
They are here and truly wanting to serve God’s people and make a difference in Christ’s name. And they may not look or seem like what you’ve always considered to be a Great Pastor.
What you are hearing out there in Church World? And where you are hopeful about the future of the Church leadership?
Image of an insulated pastor mug you can order here. (Is the pastor insulated? Or is the mug insulated?)
All good points – and all true. As in my denomination (ELCA) some are seeing a way forward by recognizing gifted ‘lay’ people who can become pastors through alternative routes. They are often older, and bring life experience and deep spirituality. As you write, the future is before us in people/places we have only begun to see. Thanks for your insights.
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