I only lasted 3 years at the first rural church I pastored.
It wasn’t my choice, I was asked to leave – fired. Interestingly, I was let go for three reasons; all of which I had clearly stated in my initial interview when I was hired, weren’t things they should expect from me. They asked me about three items when they hired me and I said that wasn’t me. They still hired me and then three years later fired me. I forget two of the items, but one was regarding working with the youth. I had been a youth pastor and told them I would not be working with the youth as that was not the right fit for me. They had a good team working with the youth so it wasn’t an issue. When they needed youth workers they thought I was just supposed to step in.
My consolation during this time was that I had been clear about what I could provide and when they fired me because I couldn’t provide what they wanted I wasn’t overly discouraged because I had been clear about who I was and what I could provide.
Knowing who you are and what you can do may not make it possible for you to stay at the same church for a long time, but it can definitely help.
>If you are from the city and don’t like small town living, then don’t go to a rural place. You will not last very long.
>If the church is mostly seniors and you have a hard time relating to seniors, think twice about taking the position.
>If you are not gifted in music but are expected to provide music, you might want to hesitate to take the position. On the other hand, if you are very musical and that is a big part of your life, you might not want to take the position if they tell you they don’t want you doing music because they have enough musicians.
>If your heart is toward outreach and community involvement, make sure the church understands that and welcomes that. If you don’t, you may be in a place where they expect you to be in the office or visiting church people all the time. Make sure you are clear about that to begin with.
>If you are committed to home-schooling but your church has a negative attitude toward that, you might want to be clear on how your actions as a family will play into your long term ministry.
>If you have no administrative gifts and they have no plan on providing you a secretary, then be clear about that upfront. Don’t say yes to the position if it will be an ongoing frustration in this way.
You need to be clear about what your passions, gifts, and skills are. You need to do your best to assess what the community and church are like to see if the fit looks right. And don’t just trust the conversations you have with the search committee or elders board. Look broader. Ask if you can see their old minutes or records. Ask about what they spend their money on and what kind of activities they regularly plan. Find out what the previous pastor was like. And see how the previous pastor’s personality and abilities affects the discussion of what they are looking for now. Are they looking for someone exactly like that? Are they looking for someone who is opposite the previous pastor?
I have been at Bow River Alliance Church for about 5 years now. That’s not longevity yet. But one thing that has made it easier for me here is that right from the beginning there was a clear understanding that the church wanted someone who would be involved in the community and I was looking for a church that would give me opportunity to do that.
I like planning special church events that we can invite friends too. The church seems to like those as well. I like trying new and different things. The church is willing to do unorthodox things. For example – we do a Father’s Day Race Day on Fathers Day Sunday. We set up tables in the sanctuary and have the kids with their Dads – or Moms, or Grandpas – work on building a little craft car. After the service we have lunch and race the cars for a trophy!
But make sure you fit before you agree to take on a position at a new church. Things tend to go smoother that way.