I have been in church leadership most of my life. I come from a family of church leaders. I have served in volunteer positions, part-time, full-time and multi-career leadership positions in churches, denominations, and parachurch groups. I have seen and experienced the challenges and the celebrations of leadership. Throughout the last 40 plus years of service, I have noted and felt the pressures to care for the flock.
Too often members—and even the church leadership culture expectations—focus more on caring for the members through deep and wide pastoral care. Hospital, nursing home, and home visitation are essential in most churches—particularly those under 350 in attendance. Then of course, there are marriages, counseling sessions, crisis counseling, funerals, follow-up bereavement care and counseling. Not to mention membership and spiritual formation counseling. If the pastoral leaders, deacons, and elders do all the expected caring, we have little time to lead the church forward. There’s only so much time in a day and so much energy.
After decades of consulting with churches of all sizes and denominational affiliations, I am convinced that many churches stay stuck in a plateaued attendance pattern because they choose not to change their expectations for church and pastoral leaders. When clergy are expected to do most of the caregiving, the church decides to become plateaued and stuck in a maintenance posture leaving little hope for engaging the unchurched around them. Members expect pastoral care from the clergy. In fact some often remind the pastor, “We deserve to be cared for. After all, we do pay the bills around here!”
Growing Pastors lead growing churches. Healthy pastors lead healthy churches. It is all about leadership.