I discovered a link leftover from yesterday’s news roundup that I decided was worthy of greater attention. It was a piece at the website Foundations – Life Coaching which in turn linked to a piece by Thom Rainer, The Twelve Biggest Challenges Pastors and Church Staff Face:
In my latest non-scientific Twitter survey, I asked the following question of pastors and church staff: What is your biggest challenge in ministry? Here are the top twelve responses with representative quotes. I’ve taken the liberty to expand most of the quotes from their abbreviated form in Twitter.
- Apathy and internal focus. “I have been in ministry for over twenty years, and I’ve never seen church members more apathetic and internally focused.”
- Staff issues. “I inherited staff from the previous pastor. It’s not a good match, but I don’t have the credibility to do anything about it.”
- Leading and keeping volunteers. “It’s a full-time job itself.”
- General time constraints. “I end every week wondering why I got so little done.”
- Getting buy-in from members. “I spend half my time developing a consensus from members about decisions from the mundane to the critical.”
- Generational challenges. “It seems like the older generation is determined to nix any new ideas or excitement from the younger generation.”
- Finances. “You can sum up our challenge in four simple words: We need more money.”
- Holding on to traditions. “I wish our members would put as much effort into reaching people for Christ as they do holding on to their traditions.”
- Criticism. “Some leaders in the church have appointed themselves to be my weekly critics.”
- Leadership development. “We miss too many opportunities in ministry because we don’t have enough leaders ready.”
- Majoring on minors. “We spent an hour in our last business conference discussing the fonts in our bulletins.”
- Lack of true friends. “One of the toughest realities for me as pastor was the awareness that I have no true friends in the church.”
What is fascinating, if not discouraging, about this survey is that virtually all of the challenges noted by these pastors and staff were internal challenges. It appears that many of our churches in America are not effective conduits of the gospel because the members spend so much energy concerned about their own needs and preferences.
So let’s look at Rainer’s list and look at our role in the life of the pastor and church staff at our local church:
- Am I as passionate about my church as I once was? As passionate as I could be?
- In striving for continuity, was our church too insistent on locking-in the existing staff positions?
- Am I doing as much volunteer work as I could? Have I quit doing something in our church’s ministry that I should have stuck with?
- Have I ever created situations or projects which are a distraction to the church staff? Or even stayed too long at a mid-week drop-by and prevented some work from getting done?
- Am I ever skeptical about new church initiatives or slow to get on board?
- Do I truly recognize the multi-generational character of the Body of Christ? Or do I tend to focus on people in my own age bracket or socioeconomic situation?
- Am I practicing systematic, intentional, regular percentage giving?
- Do I let my love of the familiar in the life of our church prevent us from trying some fresh approaches and new initiatives.
- Have I ever vocally criticized the pastor or church staff? Have I ever by my silence seemed unsupportive, even something so slight as a rolling of the eyes in a conversation?
- Is our church mentoring the next tier of lay leadership? Are we creating situations where people can step up and have more ministry responsibility?
- Do I allow myself to get mired in minutiae; caught up in non-issues?
- Have I put myself in a position where I’m willing to just be a friend to people our pastoral staff and not just have a connection that is task-related only?
It may be that these questions just scratch the surface, or perhaps don’t do the original article justice. (#2 Was a tough one to individualize because it’s beyond the scope of most parishioners, and sometimes a complete change of staff can be deadly.)
But I hope these give you something to think about as you engage in conversations at your church. I hope it serves as a type of ‘checks-and-balances’ set of questions.