One of the best gifts you can give your church is not leaving too soon.
It’s no secret that the pastoral profession is in a state of crisis. Pastors today are burned out, and many reached a breaking point in the past few years. A third have considered quitting ministry, and even those who haven’t are running on empty—not to mention one in four are planning to retire soon.
Pastors today face a multitude of burdens and demands, including the expectation to perform and succeed at a megachurch level, even at smaller churches like mine. Like many shepherds, I often feel a sense of pressure to lead our church to greener pastures, to move us onward and upward.
But other times I realize that simply staying put in the pulpit is itself a victory. Just showing up and being faithful this Sunday and the next, this month and the next, this year and the next, is what God requires of me—of us. Preach another decent sermon, officiate another wedding, bury another beloved saint, and send another dozen emails. And then do it again.
I’ve been the lead pastor of our congregation for the last ten years. In a few weeks, we reach a new milestone: We’re planting our first church. We’ll send 50 people and one associate pastor a few miles down the road with fanfare and blessings. Wonderful, right?
Yet when my beloved associate pastor leaves, it means a sadder milestone for me: Each member of our original staff will have transitioned away from the church. Over the last ten years, they’ve all left for one reason or another, while I’ve stayed. More than a few times, I’ve longed to tag along, because often “the ministry of staying put” feels more like “the ministry of being left.”
Being left, however, has forced me to …