Why the Giving in Your Church is Decreasing

By Thom Rainer

You are trying to comprehend why the giving levels in your church are down. You may know several possibilities, but you aren’t certain. As I have worked with several congregations, we have isolated the issue to one or a few causes. See if any of these causative factors may be at work in your church.

  1. Lower attendance. Okay, I may be stating the obvious here, but it is worth noting. I spoke with a pastor whose church’s giving is down 15 percent from a year ago, and the attendance is down 12 percent. There is a high correlation between attendance and giving, even if you have a strong online giving component. It is also worth noting that attendance frequency is down in many churches, if not most churches, as well. The family who attends three times a month is more likely to give more than the same family attending two times a month.
  2. Generational shifts. Builders, those born before 1946, are more likely to give to the church out of institutional loyalty. Boomers and Gen X have the highest family incomes, but their giving is not as consistent. Millennials thus far are not strong givers in our churches. In many churches, the Builders are being replaced with Millennials. In other words, more generous givers are being replaced with less generous givers.
  3. Giving to purposes rather than organizations. From the Builders to the Millennials, there has been a dramatic shift in the motivations for giving. The Builders, as noted above, are more likely to give out of institutional loyalty. Thus, church leaders could exhort this generation to “give to the church,” and they would respond positively. The Millennials, however, give to purposes rather than organizations. Church leaders must demonstrate with specificity how the funds in the church are being used for a greater purpose. And that greater purpose must be real, personal, and compelling.
  4. Little teaching on giving. The pendulum has swung too far. In an overreaction to the constant pleas for money twenty years ago, more church leaders are hesitant to even mention the spiritual discipline of giving. Frankly, many of our church members do not comprehend that giving is both a mandate and a blessing, because they have not been taught about it in their churches.
  5. Not as much discretionary income among churchgoers. Before you object to this point, I know fully our discretionary income should not be the basis for our giving. God should get the first fruits, and not the leftovers. But the stark reality is that many people who do give to churches only give their leftovers, or their discretionary income. Though the economy has improved over the past few years, most of the growth in discretionary income has been in the top 20 percent of household incomes. Yet those who attend our churches are more likely to be a part of the other 80 percent. Simply stated, most of our church members have not seen increases of any size in discretionary income.

There are obvious actions we can take toward this challenge. We can teach and preach unapologetically on biblical stewardship. We can be clearer on the purpose or the “why” behind the giving. And we can offer different mechanisms for giving to make it more like a spiritual habit rather than a negligent afterthought. My church, with under 200 in attendance, offers traditional giving, online giving, and text giving. Many churches still do quite well with envelope giving.


Originally posted on Thom Rainer’s blog. View post: https://thomrainer.com/2018/03/giving-church-decreasing/

9 Ways To Reverse A Downward Giving Trend In An Otherwise Healthy Church

By Karl Vaters

Do what you love and the money will take care of itself.

That’s been a popular phrase for as long as I can remember.

Wouldn’t it be great if it was true?

I’ve also heard this related phrase for as long as I can remember: just preach the gospel, love people, reach out to your neighbors, and the money will take care of itself.

It would be even better if that was true. But it’s not. In even the healthiest and strongest of churches and ministries, finances are never automatic.

In a previous post, 4 Assumptions Pastors Can No Longer Make About Church Giving Patterns, I wrote about how a downturn in church giving is no longer the early and accurate indicator of a problem in the church. Giving patterns have changed. Even people who love the church and are fully committed to its mission are not giving as much as they once did.

In this post, I’d like to walk you through some of the steps our church has discovered by trial-and-error in the last couple of years that have helped us slow down, then reverse a downward giving trend in our church.

1. Emphasize generosity, not just giving

Giving is like any other skill. Very few people are born with an inbred desire and ability to give. Everyone needs to be taught how and why giving matters. And that’s up to us, pastors.

Thankfully, the Bible is full of great teaching about stewardship and generosity, but we must always remember that God’s Word is not as concerned with our money as with our hearts. Which is why we need to teach more about generosity than giving.

The size of the heart matters more than the size of the gift.

It’s possible to give without being generous, but no one can be generous without giving.

The size of the heart matters more than the size of the gift. If Jesus’ teachings about generosity tell us anything, they tell us that.

2. Teach stewardship, not just giving

We must never limit our financial teaching to trying to get more money out of people’s pockets. That always ends badly. Because that’s not what generosity is about.

Actually, I’ve met very few pastors who fit the stereotype of the smooth-talking, money-grubbing preacher. Instead, most of us are so concerned with not coming across that way that we swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and don’t talk about finances enough.

As pastors, we have an obligation to God and the church to teach a balanced, biblical view of stewardship, not just giving.

In general, people want to be generous. Church members want to support the church ministries financially. What’s stopping them isn’t a lack of desire, but a lack of ability. They want to give, but they don’t know how to do it without taking an already paper-thin financial margin and breaking it totally.

Biblical stewardship gives them those tools.

3. Assume good intentions

We need to start with the assumption that the people who voluntarily show up at church week after week are wanting the church and its ministries to succeed.

When I mention our church’s financial needs, I’ll often use a phrase like “this is not about guilting anyone into giving. I’m assuming you’re here because you want to help, so I’m letting you know about one of the ways you can help, if you’re able.”

4. Teach them how the church is funded

As I mentioned in my previous post on this subject, there’s a growing group of people who are so unaware of the realities of church life that they assume the church is financed by an outside entity, and that their donations are just a supplement to that.

At minimum, we need to tell people about the realities of church finances in the membership class. But it’s also helpful to give an occasional reminder during a Sunday service that their financial donations are how the church and its ministries are funded.

6. Practice good stewardship of what is given

People are less likely to donate to a church that isn’t demonstrating good stewardship of what they give. For most churches and pastors, poor stewardship is not a matter of extravagance, but of unseen waste.

People are less likely to give to a church that isn’t demonstrating good stewardship of what they give.

Over the last few years, our church has taken a hard look at all our expenses, and we found we were wasting money without knowing it. Here are just a few of the ways we’ve saved money, along with a few ideas other churches have used.

Share a copier lease with other churches or ministries: We share a machine and its expenses with our preschool.

Talk to your power company: Southern California Edison replaced every light in our building with energy-efficient bulbs for free, and they supplemented the cost of replacing single-pane windows with energy-efficient (and much nicer-looking) double-pane windows. Many, maybe most of your power companies have similar offers.

Go low- or no-maintenance on landscaping: For us, in drought-stricken California, that meant replacing our real grass with fake grass.

Lose your desktop phones: With cell phones, we haven’t used them for anything but incoming calls for years, anyway.

Share or rent your facility, if you have one

Don’t be in a hurry to buy a facility, if you don’t have one

If you’re interested in more info about how to think about cost-saving, check out Episode 317 of the Thom Rainer podcast with Tim Cool of Cool Solutions Group. Most of his experience is in bigger churches, but there are a lot of helpful ideas in the podcast that can be transposed to smaller situations, too.

6. Hold special giving celebrations

New generations are less likely to give in a steady stream, and more likely to give in single doses. So let’s provide opportunities that match the way they are most likely to give.

New generations are less likely to give in a steady stream, and more likely to give in single doses.

In addition to asking for monthly pledges for missions, facility upgrades and so on, we’ve added two Sundays every year to take a special offering for those needs. We call them Heart for the House Sunday (a special offering for facility maintenance and upgrades) and Heart for the World Sunday (for missions and outreach).

Doing these special days has almost doubled what we receive in a given year for these projects. And when church members see a facility upgrade or hear about a ministry need that was met, they’re more excited to give the next time.

7. Give quarterly updates

I used to only talk about the church budget once a year at the annual membership meeting. But by then, the year had passed. We debated having a weekly or monthly bulletin update, but rejected that for our church for two reasons: 1) it was too often, 2) it was better coming from the pastor’s voice than reading it as a cold number on paper.

So what we do now is take a minute or two on a Sunday four times a year to bring them up to date. After sharing where we are compared to our anticipated budget, we always see a giving spike.

People want to give when their gifts can be helpful. Sharing the need before the year ends allows them to do this.

8. Break down the need into doable bites

Last year, we came in at $8,000 under our expected income. That seems like a lot of money to make up all at once – and it is.

So I broke it down for the congregation this way. At an average attendance of 150 people per Sunday, that $8,000 shortfall could have disappeared if every attender had given just $1 more each week ($150 x 52 = $7,800).

If our church averaged 75 people, it would have meant $2 more per Sunday, and so on.

Obviously, not everyone is going to give exactly $1 every week, but when the need is broken down that way, people can see that every little extra thing they do can add up to a significant impact.

9. Do the kinds of ministries people want to fund

Keeping the lights on in the building won’t get anyone excited about giving. Unless they can see a direct connection from keeping the lights on to doing ministry that matters to them, that is.

As pastors, we see that direct connection regularly. But the average church attender doesn’t. So we need to make it obvious for them.

If your church isn’t doing ministry that meets obvious needs, people won’t give – and they probably shouldn’t.

If your church isn’t doing ministry that meets obvious needs, people won’t give – and they probably shouldn’t. If you are, you need to draw the connection from the church offering to the meeting of the need as clearly as possible.

(Bonus) 10. Encourage and support giving to other causes

If the only time we teach people about the value of generosity is when we want them to give to the church, it will seem self-serving and greedy. It will seem that way, because it is that way.

If generosity really matters, our churches need to demonstrate it, not just ask for it.

We need to encourage generosity in all forms, including encouraging and celebrating when people in our churches volunteer, give and support good causes outside the church walls.

When the church is in financial need, it seems counter-intuitive to encourage people to give to causes other than the church. But when we help people, not just give more to us, but live a more generous life, everyone wins.


Copyright © 2018 by the author or Christianity Today.
Originally published on Christianity Today. View Post Here.

On Being A Millennial Pastor-Leaders Who Don’t Remember the Glory Days

By Erik Parker


“You give us hope for the future.”

The first time I heard those words, I was 23 years old and in seminary. A group of us had travelled 7 hours, from the prairies to the mountains, to attend a study conference for pastors and other church professionals. We were a group of 20 and 30 somethings, all Masters of Divinity students already having bachelor’s degrees and work experience, but compared to the average age of pastors in the mainline, we may as well have been teenagers. So we probably seemed like a group of disruptive students crashing a conference for older folks.

But instead of being grumpy with us or giving us glares (as church folk can sometimes be guilty of doing with young noise makers), we were heartily welcomed by our future colleagues. Our relative energy and enthusiasm seemed to bring them some life and excitement.

And that is when it started happening. Sometimes one or more elder colleagues would sidle up to us and say things like, “You all give me hope for the church’s future” or “You make me feel better about the future.”

“Millennials” weren’t a thing back then, but our age cohort was perhaps the first to be obviously missing from the church. We weren’t the first generation to stop attending, that was the Boomers, our parents, who led the mass exodus. But rather, we were the first to be noticeably absent. The first generation to have mostly never been there at all. And so when a bunch of Gen Xers and Millennials showed up at seminary together around the same time, it was out of the ordinary. We were a cohort of young leaders who had been the kids in our home churches who were leading youth groups, playing in worship bands, serving on church councils, attending campus ministry while at school, working as bible camp counsellors and even camp directors. Our parents had bucked the trend of the Boomer exodus, and brought us to church where we had been encouraged to lead. We had to lead because we were all there was of our age cohort.

The “You give us hope” comment became a pretty regular occurrence in seminary and after… but I always had the sinking suspicion that the church wasn’t quite ready to hand over the reigns to the next generation.

Whether it was the resistance of boomers to converting the seminary newspaper from a paper publication to an online blog format, or later on to a hesitation let young pastors serve in positions of leadership in the church, a constant comment I heard from seminary classmates in their first few years of ministry was,

“We were trained and prepared to serve in this church, but no one got this church ready for us.”

After ordination, when I began serving in my first call, I couldn’t help but notice something that seemed to be below the surface of wherever I went in the church. Not just my congregation, but the ones of neighbouring colleagues, and larger church ministries, and coming from church leadership. It took me a while to put my finger on it.

And then as I had yet another conversation with colleagues or parishioners or other church folk lamenting the absence of young people, the decline of attendance and giving, and the general sad state of the present church… it dawned on me.

These people are grieving. 

As soon as I could see it, it was like pulling back the veil and seeing the weight being carried by nearly everyone around me. Everyone of a certain age that is.

The glory days were gone. The days when pews were full, Sunday Schools bursting at the seams, programs well attended, giving was enough to pay the bills and increasing, when every family had 4.2 kids and a housewife who would devote volunteer time to the church, or keep the house in check while her husband did. Those days were over.

But it wasn’t just that those days were over, it was the intense desire to bring them back. Churches, pastors, leaders who could remember those days seemed to be universally bound and determined to somehow bring that glory back. Get the young people back, get the families back, fill the pews, resurrect the Sunday Schools, meet and exceed the budgets.

My problem, as a young pastor was, I wasn’t grieving the glory days with most people around me. I wasn’t grieving them because I don’t remember them.

Even though now I have almost a decade of experience under my belt, I am still a young pastor by mainline standards.

And it has always been tension the church that most people around me are grieving, and the one that I have always known and loved. The church that God called me to seminary and to be a pastor to serve.

The church has always been filled with grey hair in my memory. Sunday School has always been pretty sparsely attended, youth groups have never been more than a handful of kids, budgets have always been hard to meet, and there are rarely times when it is hard to find an entire pew to yourself in worship.

This is only version of the church I know… and it is the one I am called to serve.

I also suspect it is the church God is calling us to be. 

While it is has been difficult for the congregations I serve to have a leader who isn’t longing for the glory days as they are, it has also been good for me and them. It has been hard and taken time, but eventually we have started looking forward rather than looking back. We have begun to listen to where God is calling us now and where God is calling us to go.

God’s mission hasn’t changed, just the vehicle isn’t as fancy as it once was. The Gospel is is still preached, sacraments still administered, the Body of Christ is still present… even in churches whose glory days are over.

And I think that this is the cross roads that many churches and denominations find themselves at these days. Will the memory of the glory days keep us looking backwards? Will we admit that our desire to bring the young people back, might actually be us saying that we want to be young again?

The synod (read: diocese/jurisdiction/area) in which I serve is about to elect a new Bishop. For the past few months we have been asked to discern what kind of Bishop the synod needs, and to do that discernment in congregations and other synod ministries. This discernment process here has got me thinking about leadership, and about what kind of leaders the church will need going forward. What will a declining Christianity need in order to begin moving faithfully into the future?

And the answer I keep coming back to is that the church in North America will need leaders who can let go of the glory days. Maybe even leaders who don’t remember the glory days. Leaders who can see the church as it is now, rather than what it used to be.

As my generation, Gen X and Millennial pastors and clergy, steps into more and more leadership positions in the church, letting go of the glory days becomes inevitable. We simply don’t remember them.

Because we are the ones who showed up to seminary full of energy, called to serve a church in decline.

The church for us has always been full of grey haired faithful and committed people.
The church has always been small close-knit Sunday Schools and youth groups.
The church has always been struggling to meet budgets by searching for creative solutions.
And the church has always had room in the pews for more people to come.

It will not be easy to get over the grief that is lingering below the surface, and it will be easy to see the solutions to what the church is currently lacking by going back to a time when we remember abundance.

But the church cannot go backwards. And God doesn’t call us into the past, God calls us into the future.

So perhaps it is time for the church to let leaders who cannot remember the glory days, but who only know the present, guide the way into the future.

Perhaps “You give us hope for the future” needs to become:

“You give us hope now.”


Erik Parker
An iPhone Pastor for a Typewriter Church. Blogger | Liturgy Geek | High Church Lutheran | Husband | Dad. ENTJ. Musician, gamer, movie-lover, amateur techie.

Reprinted with permission 3/13/2018


Five Cultural Shifts That Should Affect the Way We Do Church

By Carol Howard Merritt

It’s probably good that most churches aren’t wrapped up on the latest fads. But there are cultural shifts congregations and church leaders need to track and respond to sensibly.

Download the full article.

What Worship Style Attracts the Millennials?

By Thom Rainer


My son, Jess Rainer, and I recently spoke in Texas on the topic of the Millennials, America’s largest generation of nearly 79 million persons. Because we co-authored a book entitledThe Millennials, we have had the opportunity to speak on the subject on many occasions.

We reminded this audience in Dallas of the birth dates of this generation, 1980 to 2000, and then proceeded to share our research. We had commissioned LifeWay Research to survey 1,200 of the older Millennials; the researchers did an outstanding job. We have thus been able to share incredible amounts of data and insights from these young adults.


As in most of our speaking settings, we allow a portion of our presentation to be a time of questions and answers. And inevitably someone will ask us about the worship style preferences of the Millennials.

Typically the context of the question emanates from a background of nearly three decades of “worship wars.” In other words, on what “side” are the Millennials? Traditional? Contemporary? Or somewhere on the nebulous spectrum of blended styles?

And though Jess and I did not originally ask those questions in our research, we have sufficient anecdotal evidence to respond. And our response is usually received with some surprise. The direct answer is “none of the above.”


You see, most Millennials don’t think in the old worship war paradigm. In that regard, “style” of worship is not their primary focus. Instead they seek worship services and music that have three major elements.

  1. They desire the music to have rich content.They desire to sing those songs that reflect deep biblical and theological truths. It is no accident that the hymnody of Keith and Kristyn Getty has taken the Millennials by storm. Their music reflects those deep and rich theological truths.
  2. The Millennials desire authenticity in a worship service. They can sense when congregants and worship leaders are going through the motions. And they will reject such perfunctory attitudes altogether.
  3. This large generation does want a quality worship service. But that quality is a reflection of the authenticity noted above, and adequate preparation of the worship leaders both spiritually and in time of preparation. In that sense, quality worship services are possible for churches of all sizes.


Millennial Christians, and a good number of seekers among their generation, are gravitating to churches where the teaching and preaching is given a high priority. They are attracted to churches whose focus is not only on the members, but on the community and the world. Inwardly focused congregations will not see many Millennials in their churches.

And you will hear Millennials speak less and less about worship style. Their focus is on theologically rich music, authenticity, and quality that reflects adequate preparation in time and prayer.

But they will walk away from congregations that are still fighting about style of music, hymnals or screen projections, or choirs or praise teams. Those are not essential issues to Millennials, and they don’t desire to waste their time hearing Christians fight about such matters.


Originally Posted on ThomRainer.com. View the original post: http://thomrainer.com/2014/04/worship-style-attracts-millennials/

Five Reasons a Christmas Eve Service Reachers the Unchurched

By Thom Rainer

It is likely the single day of the year more unchurched decide to visit a church.

It is an incredible opportunity for most congregations.

While Easter is the day most churchgoers decide to show up at the same time, Christmas Eve is indeed prime time for the unchurched. Why is that? Here are five key reasons:

  1. The Christmas seasons brings family members together from disparate locations. In many homes, there is likely to be a mix of churched and unchurched family members on Christmas Eve. The unchurched are often encouraged to go to a Christmas Eve service with their Christian family members.
  2. Most unchurched have some sentimental attachment to Christmas. They may not be overtly religious, but they have some warm memories of Christmas Eve and the entire Christmas season.
  3. Most unchurched know and like the songs of Christmas.They are confident they can go to a church service on Christmas Eve and hear those songs.
  4. The unchurched are looking for hope in the Christmas season.Many of them come on Christmas Eve expecting to hear a message of hope or to sing the songs of the hope-filled message of Christ’s birth.
  5. Christmas is one of the few times tradition is embraced by most people, especially the unchurched.Thus the unchurched fully expect to walk into a Christmas Eve service and to sense, hear, and embrace those traditions.

Our research points toward this singular day as an opportunity to reach people churches may never reach otherwise. Here are some concluding points to consider.

  • Don’t count on Christmas day to be a good day to reach the unchurched. They are busy with family opening gifts and enjoying meals.
  • Keep Christmas Eve services brief. Most are around 30 minutes, rarely more than 45 minutes.
  • Most churches do not have childcare for the service. They promote it as a family service. That’s another reason to keep it brief.
  • Any message or preaching should be brief as well, around 10 minutes.
  • Sing the well-known songs of Christ’s birth; keep it traditional and simple.
  • Many churches end the Christmas Eve service with a candlelight song, typically “Silent Night.”
  • Make certain you have a way to capture the guest information.
  • Make certain you have a plan in place to follow up, even if it’s just a brief email.

Christmas Eve is a critically important day to reach the unchurched. Share with me your thoughts and what your church does.


Originally posted on thomrainer.com. View the original post at: http://thomrainer.com/2016/12/five-reasons-christmas-eve-service-reaches-unchurched/


Six Essentials for Advertising on Facebook This Christmas

By Jonathan Howe

It’s November, so it’s time to talk about Christmas—at least that’s what my kids tell me. And with Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday, we’ll have more discussion later about what services and activities churches are planning for this year. But for now, let’s talk about Facebook, Christmas, and your church.

Facebook advertising is the most effective way of getting the word out about your church’s Christmas programming and services. Every church should be using Facebook in some way to promote their services to those in the community. Here are six essentials for doing so:

  1. Target your audience.If you’re going to spend money to reach people, you want to target a specific group as much as possible. Facebook’s ability to target boosted posts or ads to specific zip codes is the best way to reach those in your community with messages from your church.
  2. Use high quality graphics.While advertising will increase your paid reach, your organic (unpaid) reach will greatly increase when you use attractive graphics. Don’t use clip art. If you can’t afford a designer, simply use Christmas templates from Canva or a template from your Christmas cantata publisher if they provide one.
  3. Create Facebook events for your major events. By creating an event for special events during the Christmas season, you can remind those who like your page about the event. You can also share relevant details and answer any questions someone may have about the event.
  4. Encourage members to invite guests.Personal invitations are still the most effective way to get guests to come to your church. Ask your members to share with their friends the Christmas-related events or graphics you’ve already created.
  5. Change your header and avatar.This is a subtle, yet effective tactic that can lead to more engagement with your page online. People notice when an avatar changes. If possible, use your Christmas graphic. If not, maybe a Christmas-themed church logo. Be creative.
  6. Focus your advertising on one or two things.Other than focusing on your audience, focusing on your main event is the most important thing. You don’t have to put money toward promoting every activity if you can’t afford it. But pick the one major event you really want to emphasize (likely your Christmas Eve service or major Christmas program) and put your resources toward that. If you have the budget to do more, great. But if not, focus your advertising money on one thing rather than many. It is better to spend $100 boosting a post for one event than $20 on five different events.

Originally posted on thomrainer.com. View the original article at: http://thomrainer.com/2017/11/six-essentials-advertising-facebook-christmas/


Six Ways to Keep Your Church’s Momentum Going this Summer

By Jonathan Howe


Summer often means vacation time and travel for many church members. It also means lower attendance and participation numbers in many churches.

While you’ll likely experience some summer lull, you can help minimize this by utilizing one or more of these tips for engaging your church members this summer.

  1. Create a weekly prayer emphasis.Summer is a busy time for most student ministries and children’s ministries. You likely have camps, mission trips, and Vacation Bible School going throughout the summer. Highlight these events with a weekly prayer emphasis spotlight in the service and in your church newsletter.
  2. Report on the results of your summer activities. After your church has prayed for an event, be sure to celebrate how God answered those prayers. These reports can help carry ministry momentum through the summer into the fall when you kick things off again.
  3. Consider hosting special events each month and emphasize inviting others. Maybe you have a potluck at church or an ice cream social at a local park. Outside, summer-themed events can easily be used to invite friends and neighbors to church-related events.
  4. Participate in summer community events.Nearly every town in America does something for July 4 (or July 1 for our Canadian readers). It’s great that some churches have the resources to host a community celebration, but 99% can’t. If you’re in the 99%, make an attempt to be involved in the local community gathering this summer.
  5. Try something new. Use the summer as a test kitchen for something you’d like to implement on an ongoing basis. Maybe it’s a a more casual dress code or style change. Maybe it’s some new songs or stage setup. By telling your congregation that it’s only for the summer, you’ll have more acceptance of something new. I wouldn’t necessarily use the summer to change something core to the identity of the church. Start with fringe ideas and work toward bigger change down the road.
  6. Focus on social media.Because the summer is typically busier, use social media to keep the congregation updated. Next week, I’ll focus more on this item, but brainstorm a few creative uses for Instagram, Facebook Live, Twitter, and blogs for your church to try out.

Summer doesn’t have to be a dry spell in a church. In many instances, it’s the busiest part of the year. Use that to your advantage and keep the momentum going.


This article was originally posted on Thom Rainer’s webiste thomrainer.comView the original article.

The Top Ten Surprises New Pastors Have

By Thom Rainer

I love pastors. I love their hearts. I love their commitment to God and to the churches they serve.

I also love new pastors. It is fascinating to hear their thoughts after they have served as a pastor for a year or two. I have assembled some of those thoughts in the form of direct quotes from new pastors via social media, my blog, my podcast, and Church Answers.

Here, then, are the top ten surprises new pastors have. I offer them as direct quotes with brief comments.

  1. “It is amazing and challenging to see how quickly my calendar filled up.” A number of pastors lamented how little time they give to evangelism and connecting with people in the community.
  2. “I really get some weird requests.” I covered this issue in an earlier post. One of my favorites came from the pastor who was asked to euthanize an injured rabbit. But perhaps the request by a church member to euthanize his healthy mother-in-law was even weirder.
  3. “It’s a lot of work to do new sermons every week.” Yes it is.
  4. “Funerals are pretty easy. Weddings are a pain.” Most new pastors were not prepared for the opinions and emotions of weddings. Some commented how the rehearsal and wedding consumed an entire weekend.
  5. “I have been surprised at the incredibly loyal support I receive from some church members.” They were not the members the pastor expected to provide so much support.
  6. “I have been surprised at the intense criticisms I receive from some church members.” They were not the members the pastor expected to inject so much negativity.
  7. “I never expected I needed to be knowledgeable in so many areas.” Some pastors commented about their lack of knowledge in church finances and budgeting, counseling, administration, leadership, facilities, and Robert’s Rules of Order, to name a few.
  8. “There is no such thing as a vacation.” Many pastors shared how they have never had an uninterrupted vacation.
  9. “I am never prepared for the tragedies.” One pastor was confronted with a tragic automobile accident his third month in ministry. In a family of five, the mother and one of the children were killed.
  10. “The stress on my family has been so much greater than I expected.” I specifically and repeatedly heard about the surprise of strained marriages.

I can still remember well my first pastorate. I remember how surprised I was to find out a couple did not like me. One of my toughest lessons was learning that I could not please everyone. My responsibility is always first and foremost to please God.


This article was originally posted on Thom Rainer’s website: thomrainer.comView the original article.

Why it Takes Five to Seven Years to Become the Pastor of a Church

By Thom Rainer

You are the new pastor of the church. Expectations are high on your part and on the members’ part. Perhaps you celebrate with some type of installation service.

You are ready to lead and move the church forward. After all, you are the pastor. Right?


In most established churches, there is a prolonged period before the church members as a whole will truly embrace you as pastor. When that time comes, most pastors enjoy their greatest and most joyous years of ministry.

But the majority of pastors never make it to year five, much less year seven. So why does it take five to seven years to be embraced as the pastor of most established churches? Here are seven common reasons.

  1. It takes a long time to break into established relationship patterns. Many of the members have been around for decades. They have their friends, family members, and relationship groups. Pastors will not meaningfully enter into many of those relationships for several years.
  2. You are creating new ways of doing things. You may not think you are a major change agent, but your presence as the pastor changes things significantly. You lead differently. You preach differently. Your family is different. The church has to adjust to all the changes you bring before they begin to embrace you fully as pastor.
  3. Most relationships do not establish fully until they go through one or two major conflicts. The first year or two are your honeymoon years. The church thinks you are absolutely great. Then you do something, lead something, or change something that goes counter to their expectations. Conflict ensues. You are no longer the best. So you have two years of honeymoon, one to two years of conflict, and one to two years to get on the other side of conflict. Then you become the pastor in five to seven years.
  4. The church is accustomed to short-term pastorates. Many churches rarely see a pastor make it to the fifth, sixth, or seventh year. They never fully accept the pastor, because they don’t believe the leader will make it past the first major conflict.
  5. Previous pastors wounded some church members. There are many reasons for this reality, some understandable and some not. In either case, a previous pastor hurt some church members, and the members take several years to accept a new pastor and learn to trust again.
  6. Trust is cumulative, not immediate. This reality is especially true in established churches. Regardless of how the ministry unfolds, it simply takes time before church members are willing to say with conviction, “That is my pastor.”

I know. I wish we could snap our fingers and enjoy immediate trust. But, in most churches, it just is not going to happen quickly. It will take five to seven years.

Are you willing to stick around to enjoy the fruit of a long-term pastorate?



This article was originally posted on Thom Rainer’s website: thomrainer.com. View the original article.