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October-November 2013


November 2013

Journey of a Lifetime


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Heard the News?


Heard the News?

by Roy Harris


The excitement was high as the moving truck backed into the driveway. The new minister and his family had arrived. The next Sunday, the preacher stepped to the platform, Bible in hand and pastoral gun loaded with an inaugural sermon. Hopes were high as he took the helm of the local ship of Zion.

Fast-forward a few years. The minister drags slowly toward the pulpit. Head down, his sad countenance and demeanor telegraph that something is wrong. He slips his hand inside his suit coat and unfolds a neatly creased paper and begins to read. As he completes his resignation, the stunned congregation sits in silence. Some begin to cry. Others cannot believe what just happened, and most are simply numb from shock. A few days later, a moving truck pulls out of the driveway, and the local ship of Zion sends out a distress call for a new minister to take the helm.

Unfortunately, this scene is repeated countless times in the lives of pastors and churches. Why do pastors not stay longer? Why do they leave the ministry at such an alarming rate? Consider a few suggestions to help churches keep good pastors and to help pastors enjoy longer tenure in churches.


How to Keep Your Pastor Longer

Many churches become accustomed to losing pastors every few years without stopping to ask, “Is there anything we can do to keep our pastors longer?” Consider ten brief suggestions:

  • Birthday: Remember to do something special for your pastor on his birthday. Schedule a celebration ahead of time, prepare a special cake, and encourage each church family to bring a card and a small gift of appreciation.

  • Appreciation Sunday: Designate a day each year to show appreciation for your pastor. Don’t be chintzy! Be creative. Do something different each year to truly surprise him and show that you appreciate him—an all-expense paid weekend for him and his wife, a new iPad™ or laptop computer. The appreciation gifts should increase in value each year.

  • Christmas bonus: A week’s salary is a good place to start. The annual Christmas program is a good time to present it to him. Many pastors live far from their families, and the extra money comes in handy when they travel home for Christmas.

  • Anniversary: Recognize milestone anniversaries in his ministry at the church. The pastor probably has worn out at least five cars serving the church if he’s been there for 20 years or more. Consider purchasing him a new car and present it to him on that special anniversary. (Keep the smelling salts handy.)

  • Seniority: Recognize cumulative years of service. If your pastor has already served many years in the ministry, don’t treat him as though he started last week. Add another line or two to your church constitution/by-laws basing the number of weeks of vacation on the years in the ministry rather than years with the church.

  • Vacation: Reach a firm understanding with your pastor that when he leaves for vacation other leaders will handle all church matters until he returns. Resist the urge to call the pastor when he and his family are away for a much-needed break.

  • Day off: Encourage your pastor to designate (and take) a day off. Reinforce it with the church family. Most church members get two days off each week. Make sure your pastor gets at least one.

  • Conferences/conventions: A Pastor needs encouragement, fresh ideas, and to recharge his personal batteries from time to time. Send your pastor to state and national conventions. Cover travel, lodging, and meals (including meals for his wife). Fellowship with other ministers, encouraging messages, and seminars/workshops will spark new ideas to help your church while he represents your church.

  • Retirement: Encourage your pastor to plan for his retirement. Set aside money in his financial package. The Free Will Baptist Board of Retirement has a great program to consider.

  • Raise: Give your pastor a small raise every year. Not giving a raise often sends the wrong signal to pastors.


Moving Day


How to Pastor Longer

Congregations might be surprised to learn that most pastors don’t want to leave church after church. It is difficult to uproot the family, sell a home, and face the challenge of learning the personality of another new church. If you are a pastor who would like to serve the same church for many years, here are a few pointers:

  • Ask the right questions before committing to the new church. Ask for a copy of the constitution and by-laws and the church budget before you agree to candidate for the church. You can find out a great deal about the church and its attitude toward the pastor by examining these documents closely.

  • Begin the relationship on the same page regarding issues that will directly impact you and your family. Be open, honest, and straightforward.

  • Take a day off each week. This is crucial. Consider another day besides Monday; you’ll enjoy the day more.

  • Exercise regularly. You will relieve stress while maintaining your health.

  • Find something you enjoy and do it. It is not a sin to enjoy life. It will provide a great diversion and let your mind rest from church problems and issues.

  • Designate one evening each week as family night. Try not to let anything interfere with it. Friday nights worked well for us. Do things the kids enjoy and want to do. Pizza, bowling, or a football game—it really doesn’t matter as long as you enjoy it together.

  • Never stop dating your wife. Call and ask her for a date. Email her a sentimental note. Pick up her favorite candy bar or flowers for no reason. Make her feel more special now than the day you married her. She’ll be happier…and you will be too.

  • Prioritize and attend your children’s special events and activities. Whether ball games, school plays, or PTA meetings, your children will not remember every event you attend, but they will remember the important ones missed.

  • Attend the national convention, state meeting, and at least one other conference or seminar each year. This will keep you refreshed and encouraged.

  • Fellowship with other pastors. Take the initiative. Find a friend in the area and meet for lunch a couple of times a month. Pastors can share subjects with another preacher that should not be shared with his wife or laymen.


Final Thoughts

Churches whose pastors have a long tenure tend to thrive. Stability brings comfort and calm to a congregation. The revolving door of pastoral change doesn’t have to be permanent. Churches generally love and appreciate their pastors. It is important to discern things that are important to pastors and be creative in letting them know they are important to the church also.

Pastors should remember that the longer they stay at a church, the more effective they become. Taking care of personal, spiritual, emotional, family, and physical needs are paramount for a pastor to endure and make an impact for the church and the Kingdom.
If pastors and churches can implement these simple suggestions, perhaps we will hear fewer moving vans backing out of parsonage driveways.


About the Writer: Roy Harris has pastored churches in North Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. He has served 16 years on the staff, faculty, and administration of Welch College, and served as executive administrator of the National Association of Free Will Baptists. Learn more about Welch College at






©2013 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists