Calling a Different Kind of Pastor

pastoring-sheepForbes Magazine shared 5 Hiring Trends to Watch last week which are especially helpful when translated to hiring trends for pastors.  As I work with congregations seeking new pastoral leadership, it often feels like we are looking for pastors who fulfill dated job descriptions and expectations.

Even – especially? – for small congregations barely able to afford a pastor, it’s essential that we pay attention to the kind of leadership needed for a growing 21st Century Church. It’s not just about preaching poignant sermons anymore. Or at all.

Here are Forbes’ trends with my translation for pastors & congregations:

1. “Job offers will include more perks and benefits.”  Lifelong learning is not just a perk/benefit; it’s essential for leadership development, especially in terms of figuring out how to lead a congregation in the throes of what Pew calls “America’s Changing Religious Landscape.”  Conferences addressing the landscape Pew describes are indispensable and it costs more than a couple hundred dollars of continuing education money per year.  Forward-thinking congregations will offer generous study leave funding and a sabbatical after 5-7 years of service.  If you want your pastor out in the community, you need to fund it.  I used to serve a congregation that expected me to spend money to have coffee out with both parishioners and community leaders, and it was part of my benefits package.

2. “Increased interest in boomerangs.” (Forbes reports that employees increasingly return – or would return – to former organizations.) Although this is rare in Church World, what is more prevalent is the church that hires within their staffs.  Directors of Christian Education become Associate Pastors.  Youth Leaders become Directors of Membership.  Former field education students become the new Pastor.

3. “Social media will be increasingly used to find candidates.”  Media savvy churches put pastor position openings on Facebook.  We use social media connections to ask for good candidates.  And it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that social media activity also weeds out candidates.

4. “More lucrative employee referral programs – and beyond.” Most pastor search committees do not use head hunters or other professional recruiters.  But they call seminary presidents, other pastors they know, and even relatives in other cities about pastors they need to recruit as candidates.

5. More offers will include flexibility. This is huge.  Gone are the days when pastors sit in their offices and wait for parishioners to drop by.  Today’s pastor is out in the community meeting with school, civic, and elected leaders discerning the needs that might be addressed through their congregation.  Today’s pastor spends an enormous time equipping other people to be leaders.  The work schedules of any pastor have always been flexible.  But what we do in those hours has changed dramatically since the 1950s.

Of course everything I’ve written here is contextual.  Huge churches have Preaching Pastors whose primary role is to prepare and deliver sermons.  Tiny churches can only pay for someone to spend a handful of hours serving them.  If they want a weekly worship service, there will be no time to be out in the community.

My point is that 21st Century pastoral leadership is very different from 20th Century pastoral leadership, and yet we tend to seek pastors with 20th Century expectations. There are many reasons why this is so – the first being that many of our church members haven’t been taught otherwise.  A wise colleague shared recently:  We cannot imagine what we cannot imagine.

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2 responses to “Calling a Different Kind of Pastor

  1. Rev. Kelly Moore

    I’m serious I could use you here to educate my people. They have been rather intense since I came back from the conference. I hope one day they will get what I learned at the Revgals event! You were an inspiration to me! And yup I’m one of those pastors who only get few hundred dollars for CE I have to pay some myself to just go to the Revgals event. I wish you lived in NC!

  2. Pingback: Calling a different kind of pastor | Baptist News Global Perspectives - Conversations that matter

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