This may be the most important post I have ever written. The Barna Group reported in a 2009 study that senior pastors of mainline churches have an average tenure of only four years. One of the reasons cited for such a brief stay is that while 93% of all pastors claim to be leaders, only 12% claim to have the spiritual gift of leadership. You can read the full article by clicking here.
The epidemic of pastors leaving their churches, regardless of the reason, is an issue that must to be addressed. However, since I have never been a senior pastor, I wanted someone with credibility to speak into this issue.
Dr. Brian Stowe accepted the position of Senior Pastor of Maysville (Ga) Baptist Church in 1997. For the past 16 years, he has led this great church with integrity and excellence. I have visited their church on a couple of occasions and was immediately impressed with the love that exists between this pastor and his congregation.
I felt impressed to ask Brian that in the current Christian culture of short-term pastorates, what has he done that has allowed him to have such a long tenure at this church. His incredibly insightful answers are something all Christian leaders need to hear.
- Awesome Wife – I did not expect this to be his #1 answer. Brian’s wife Bonnie provides him incredible support. She keeps the balance between his work and home life. Bonnie also ensures Brian gets proper rest. Also, because he has such a balanced life, she can then release him during busy seasons of the church to be there more often.
- Support Staff – The Maysville staff, led by Business Administrator Robert Dial, are flexible and patient. Brian and I laughed when he said, “Sometimes when I want to do something, they just scratch their heads and then say, ‘Let’s get it done.’” That is a mark of a great church staff.
- Congregational Trust – This church was never a stepping stone for Brian like so many pastors view their church. In fact, Brian told me the story of when he was studying for his Doctorate of Ministry, it hit him that “these people trust me”. The realization moved him emotionally and he has never done anything to break that trust.
- Preach The Word – The congregation loves hearing biblical truth and he loves preaching it. He does not give his opinion. He simply preaches what the Bible says.
- Prayer – Brian says, “It’s easy to forget the power of prayer.” Recently, over 200 people became Christ followers at a wild game dinner at the church. Countless round-the-clock hours of prayer went into that event. Brian concluded this part of our conversation by saying, “God has to do it. Not us.”
- Keep Things Simple – Simple Church by Thom Rainer has had a strong influence on the church’s leadership. Brian pointed out that simple does not mean easy or less work. On the contrary, simple is hard work.
- Stay Through The Storms – When hard times come upon Brian as a pastor, he immediately gets Heaven’s perspective. He then collects all the facts and details about the specific issue. From there, he seeks wise counsel from people within AND outside the church. He then confronts people if necessary. And finally, Brian is always transparent with the congregation about the issue.
- Love People – Early in his pastorate, the church experienced two tragic losses. These became milestones for Brian and how ministry would be carried out. Brian says, “You must touch people during struggles.” He also makes it a priority to celebrate with the church families during good times as well.
- Key Leaders – Brian is further aided by the mentality and approach to ministry of his key leaders. His deacons state they want to serve Brian and help him. They allow him to lead. Because of this relational foundation, it enables everyone to make things right when necessary.
- Trust – This issue is so important that Brian re-visited it a second time. When important decisions are to be made, Brian communicates and shows the biblical perspective of what they want to do. Early on, he told the congregation that Maysville Baptist Church was going to grow, reach people, and do it for the long haul. To also build trust, Brian always gets leaders on board early to help multiply the church’s mission and vision. And finally, he said, “Don’t do anything stupid! Don’t compromise!”
Your Wife, Your Support Staff, Your Congregation’s Trust, The Word, Prayer, Simple Things, The Storms, People, Key Leaders, and Your Overall Trust. Senior Pastors, love, honor, and manage these things well, and your tenure will probably be much longer than the four-year average of most pastors.
I want to thank Brian for his time and willingness to invest in pastors and church leaders. He is an incredible leader and great friend. His experience and insights are a gift to the Body of Christ.
And remember “Don’t do anything stupid! Don’t compromise!”
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