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Six Considerations Before You Fire Your Pastor This Christmas

Am I the Grinch trying to steal Christmas? No way. Bah. Humbug. I simply want to uncover a dark reality of which many church members have little knowledge: many pastors are being fired this Christmas season. I know. I see it every year. I deal with it every year. To be clear, I cannot be certain pastor terminations accelerate at Christmas. Perhaps the numbers seem high since the timing is so insidious. Regardless, these considerations apply regardless of the time of year.
  1. Many pastor firings occur because one or a few malcontents are spreading rumors. Please check the sources of these rumors. Please ask people other than the malcontents and bullies.
  2. A number of pastor firings occur due to underhanded actions by other staff. I know of one situation where the executive pastor did not like the leadership of the pastor, so he worked in darkness with the personnel committee to get the pastor fired. The personnel committee never asked for the pastor’s side of the conflict.
  3. Many pastors are fired without any explanation. I am surprised how often this reality transpires. Typically, the personnel committee or similar group tells the pastors they will not get a severance if they challenge them or question them.
  4. Very few pastors get adequate severance when they are fired. It typically takes several months for a pastor to find a job. Severance often runs out before then.
  5. Your church is labeled as a “preacher-eating” church. Your church’s reputation and witness are hurt in the community. You will wonder why other pastors decline to interview for the open position. They know. They’ve heard what you did.
  6. If you had been willing to be patient and Christ-like, pastors would likely seek another job without your firing them. If you let pastors know their job is in jeopardy and give them six to nine months to find another position, many will do so. Pastors can always find another church much easier if they have a church. And the church avoids the pain, conflict, and dirtied reputation that comes with firing a pastor.
So why did I write this article in the midst of the Christmas season? The answer is simple. I am working with three pastors who have been terminated almost identically as the points I noted above. I don’t want to rain on your Christmas parade, but these three families are already hurting deeply. I wanted you to hear the other side of the story. Let me hear from you. Read the full article Six Considerations Before You Fire Your Pastor This Christmas that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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Five Reasons Some Long-term Pastorates Fail

Please hear me clearly: I am a strong proponent of longer-term pastorates. I love hearing about pastors passing tenure thresholds of five, ten, and fifteen years. All other things being equal, I would much rather see a pastor have long tenure in a given church than not. But recently a member of this community challenged me. He is a longer-term pastor himself, and he candidly and transparently shared some of his struggles of serving so many years at one church. I took his admonition to heart and reviewed several long-term pastorates that did not turn out well. I saw five common themes in their struggles:
  1. The pastor can coast. Because longer-term pastors have earned the trust of members over many years, it can be tempting for them to go through the motions of ministry and leadership. They may also be weary of the ministry and, thus, have little desire or energy to lead the church to a new level.
  2. There can be too much familiarity among the staff. It is not unusual for longer-term pastors to have longer-term staff. It is possible this staff becomes too comfortable with the pastor and the pastor’s leadership. Simply stated, they no longer look at the pastor as their leader as much as they view the pastor as their friend.
  3. The pastor can stay for the wrong reasons. In some cases, the longer-term pastor hangs on for financial security or fear of finding another place of ministry. The call to ministry thus becomes a defensive call rather than a proactive vision-laden call.
  4. Church members can get too comfortable. The longer-term pastor becomes a source of routine and tradition for the members. The pastor becomes a symbol of longevity, stability, and change aversion.
  5. The pastor can stop learning. Longer-term pastors must be highly intentional to learn about the world outside their own churches. Because they have been at one church for so long, they can see their particular experiences as normative. One pastor shared with us, “After twelve years at my church, I started learning about other churches, even visiting a new church once a quarter. I was amazed to learn how much had changed in church practices that I had missed the past several years.”
For certain, longer-term pastorates have great advantages. I have written about those advantages and spoken about them on my podcasts several times. But it is possible for a longer-term pastorate to have its own challenges. It seems that those longer-term pastors who avoided these problems were highly intentional in moving in a positive direction. I would love to hear your perspectives on pastoral tenure, and specifically on longer tenure. Let me hear from you. Read the full article Five Reasons Some Long-term Pastorates Fail that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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Six Reasons the Role of Interim Pastor Is Changing Dramatically

In the recent past, the role of the interim pastor was simple and straightforward: Find someone who can preach for six to nine months until the new pastor comes on board. Today, the role of the interim pastor is changing, becoming more complex, and carrying higher expectations. Why is this dramatic change taking place? Here are six major reasons:
  1. Churches want and need more help than preaching in an interim period. Depending on how you define revitalization, somewhere between 65% and 90% of all North American congregations need some type of revitalization efforts and strategy. More churches want and expect that of their interim pastors.
  2. Churches want to know if an interim pastor has specific qualifications for the job. Related to the first reason, this new reality is growing. More and more churches want to know if the prospective interim is truly trained and qualified for the role. That is one of the major reasons we created Interim Pastor University: to train and provide high-level certification for this unique ministry.
  3. Interim periods are growing in length. There are a number of reasons for this phenomenon we have addressed elsewhere. But we know the time between pastors is growing. Churches, therefore, want more than the traditional pastor during this period.
  4. Churches need interim pastors to make tough decisions. Many churches now look for interim pastors who can lead to major changes and clean the slate for the next pastor. This type of leadership requires both experience and specific training.
  5. The role of the interim pastor is becoming a retirement vocation for many Boomer church leaders. A number of these leaders may do 20 or more interim pastorates as a retirement ministry. Boomer church leaders will not fade gently into the sunset. This reality is a new phenomenon that is changing the way people look at interim pastors.
  6. Church life, in general, is more complex. The consequence is the need for an interim pastor who can adjust to these complexities. That interim pastor is different than those of the recent past.
As church practices change and church challenges grow, the role of the interim pastor will grow with it. If you are interested in receiving additional training and certification as an interim pastor, join as at Interim Pastor University during our open enrollment period. Keep your eye on these dynamics. The interim pastor of 2019 and beyond will look dramatically different than the interim pastor of 2015. Read the full article Six Reasons the Role of Interim Pastor Is Changing Dramatically that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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Five Ways a Congregation Can Prevent Short Term Pastoral Tenure

Five Ways a Congregation Can Prevent Short Term Pastoral Tenure
  1. Form a liaison advocacy group
  2. Start an intercessory prayer ministry for the pastor
  3. Get quarterly updates for the first three years
  4. Form an advocacy group for the pastor’s family
  5. Be transparent and truthful on the front end
More information:
  • Simply put, pastoral tenure is too short.
  • It always helps a pastor to know church members are regularly praying for the pastor.
  • Pastors’ spouses often receive undue criticism that leads pastors to want to leave a church.
  • Pastor search committees need to be transparent and truthful. “We are ready for change” is often not true.
Read the full article Five Ways a Congregation Can Prevent Short Term Pastoral Tenure that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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How to Avoid Being Fired When Leading a Growing Church

In my post last week, I looked at the reasons pastors were fired, even though their churches were growing. In this post, I offer ways some pastors have avoided this tragedy while leading a church to growth. To be clear, these actions are not foolproof. Some churches will be preacher eaters regardless of the actions of the pastor. Still, I see these right actions as helpful toward minimizing the possibility of a forced termination.
  1. Communicate exponentially. If you think you are communicating redundantly, you probably have just begun to communicate sufficiently. Keep the congregation informed. Say it. Write it. Repeat it.
  2. Remind the members of the purpose of the growth. It’s about the Great Commission. It’s about caring for and reaching the community. It’s about touching lives. It’s not about the numbers.
  3. Move potential objectors to the welcome team. They will see and greet the guests. It will give them an outward focus.
  4. Ask a long-term member to be your mentor. You will get an invaluable perspective from “the old guard.”  You will likely gain an ally as well.
  5. Share healthy resources with members. At the risk of sounding self-serving, I’ve heard from countless church members that two of my books have been paradigm-altering: I Am a Church Member and Autopsy of a Deceased Church.
  6. Celebrate the past. Sometimes we leaders need to be reminded that our church’s past has much to celebrate. We often are so eager to move to the future that we forget or neglect the lessons of the past.
  7. Remind them of faith steps in the past. Though this point has similarities to the previous point, this one is a specific focus and reminder of major faith steps the church has made in the past. It a powerful lesson that the church made changes in the past and can do it again in the present.
For sure, there are no guarantees. But we have heard from many change leaders who have found these approaches to be highly effective. Leading change is difficult. Leading change wisely is best. Read the full article How to Avoid Being Fired When Leading a Growing Church that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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Seven Reasons Pastors Get Fired When a Church Is Growing

The note to me was neither cynical nor critical. The pastor had a powerful point to make. “Thom,” he said, “as you provide leadership toward church revitalization, please communicate one thing very clearly to pastors in these churches. Sometimes a pastor gets fired because the church does grow and is revitalized. I know. I just got fired.” I could sense the pain in the pastor’s words. And he is right. Even in “successful” revitalizations, it does not always turn out well for the pastor. Why is that? My list is not exhaustive, but here are seven common reasons:
  1. Members who can’t deal with significant change. Most of them are okay with gradual decline because it can be imperceptible day by day. But revitalization can bring major change, at least in the eyes of some church members. They would rather see the church slowly die than suddenly become healthy.
  2. Threats to power brokers and power groups. Growth brings new members. New members dilute the base of the power brokers. Most power brokers don’t like that, so they create lies and innuendos to force out the pastor.
  3. Relational disruption. One of my most memorable, and saddest, moments as a pastor took place when a woman told me God had told her I should be fired as pastor. I naturally asked her why. She responded that it was hard for her to get to know all the new people joining the church, and they were changing relationships in the church. She further said all the new Christians did not understand how we did church. Translation: she wanted her holy huddle and no more.
  4. Idolatry of the past. Many church members will say they really want revitalization, but their real desire is to move the church to 1988. When growth moves the church to the future, however, it’s time to get the pastor out.
  5. Empowered bullies. Church bullies take every opportunity to encourage complaining church members to vent and complain more. Those negative people become additions to the bully’s power base to force out a pastor who is leading change and growth.
  6. Staff who feel threatened. A pastor who leads a church to revitalization and growth can threaten a staff member who feels pulled out of his or her comfort zone. I know of an executive pastor who worked with a personnel committee and a church bully behind the scenes to force out a pastor who was leading the church to growth. Such acts of cowardice are too common in too many churches.
  7. Innuendo, gossip, and lies. The first six scenarios are often exacerbated by innuendo, gossip, and lies. The personnel committee noted above accepted the rumors and gossip conveyed by the executive pastor without ever asking the pastor his side of the story. Truth was just too inconvenient.
Sadly, pastors can get fired when they lead their churches to growth and revitalization. In my post next Monday, I will share some ways other pastors have addressed these dangers successfully in their churches. Read the full article Seven Reasons Pastors Get Fired When a Church Is Growing that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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Six Mistakes Many Search Committees Are Making Today

Six Mistakes Many Search Committees Are Making Today
  1. They are taking too long
  2. They are playing candidates off one another
  3. They are not doing background checks: legal, social media, credit;
  4. They are not asking “#MeToo” questions
  5. They are not providing clarity to internal candidates
  6. They are not communicating sufficiently to the congregation
More info:
  • There is no reason why it should take as long as it normally does to fill pastoral vacancies.
  • You should always run legal, social media, and credit background checks on potential pastors before hiring them.
  • Pastors, your social media footprint will follow you throughout life. Don’t do stupid.
  • You don’t have to give all the details of a pastor search to a church, but the congregation needs ongoing updates.
Read the full article Six Mistakes Many Search Committees Are Making Today that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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Eight Areas Where Many Ministers Are Unprepared for Ministry

Eight Areas Where Many Ministers Are Unprepared for Ministry

  1. Relational intelligence.
  2. Leadership skills.
  3. Dealing with critics.
  4. Family matters.
  5. Finances.
  6. Consumer mentality.
  7. Uneven expectations.
  8. Uneven spiritual growth.

Some highlights from today’s Rainer Report:

  • You have to have a high level of relational intelligence to connect with church members of all ages.
  • You must be a continuous learner if you want to be a better leader.
  • How you deal with critics will test your leadership mettle.
  • Many ministers fail in ministry because they fail with their families.
Read the full article Eight Areas Where Many Ministers Are Unprepared for Ministry that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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Six Attitudinal Adjustments Scrappy Church Leaders Made

God’s not done yet.

That is the subtitle and theme of my new book, Scrappy Church.

It’s a book about real churches that had real turnarounds when most people said it was impossible. Most had given up. Many were ready to shut the doors.

But when we interviewed the leaders of these scrappy churches, we noticed a pattern. These leaders at one time had been discouraged and despondent. Many were ready to leave the church. Some were ready to leave vocational ministry altogether.

Then God grabbed them powerfully and persuasively. In a myriad of different ways, He told them He was done with their churches yet. They began to believe Him. They began to have hope. And they began to have major attitude adjustments.

Here are the six major adjustments they made. They were all profound and life changing,

  1. From excuses to ownership. The neighborhood is changing. The bigger churches are taking all of our members. The denomination is not helping us. Those are some of the excuses these leaders had. Then God gave them a new perspective, one of hope. He had called them to the church for a reason, and the reason was certainly not to make a litany of excuses. They took ownership of the call God had given them. Indeed, by taking ownership, they made a statement that they believed God was not done with them or their churches.
  2. From obstacles to allies. You’ve heard the well-worn joke. Leading a church would be fun if it wasn’t for the members. The reality is we’ve all had those thoughts. Scrappy church leaders, though, saw the critical and difficult members as allies instead of obstacles. God brought them to the church for a reason. They became determined to help the members find those reasons.
  3. From limitations to abundance. Scrappy church leaders got it. Their churches have enough money. Enough people. Adequate facilities. Enough people to reach. The right aged people in the church right now. They no longer complained about scarcity and limitations. They saw they were serving the God of abundance, the God who supplies all their needs according to the His riches in glory in Christ Jesus (see Philippians 4:19).
  4. From despair to joy. Marcus served a dying church. He lost his joy. Then, in a study of Philippians, familiar words hit him with fresh conviction: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4). He made a major attitude shift. He stopped focusing on the negatives. He made a commitment of joy and the church followed.
  5. From fear to courage. Roger’s wife, Peg, was God’s instrument in his adjustment. “She told me I was living in fear,” he said. “I was disobeying God because I was not trusting in Him. I was more concerned about my paycheck than obedience. My security was my job, but not my God.” That was Roger’s paradigmatic moment. That began his attitudinal adjustment.
  6. From impossible to possible. “I am able to do all things through him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). All things. Impossible things. Dying churches. Difficult church members. Every. Single. Thing. How did these scrappy church leaders do it? It began with six major attitudinal adjustments. They truly believed God is the God of all possibilities.

God’s not done yet.

That’s the story of Scrappy Church.

And I am convinced it is the story of tens of thousands of churches yet to be told.

The church revitalization revolution has begun.

The scrappy church revolution has begun.

To be continued . . .


Scrappy Church will be available exclusively in LifeWay Stores starting October 2. However, you can order your copy today at LifeWay.com.

Read the full article Six Attitudinal Adjustments Scrappy Church Leaders Made that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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Seven of the Greatest Stressors on Pastors

Seven of the Greatest Stressors on Pastors

  1. Giving their families deserved time.
  2. An unhappy spouse.
  3. The glass house.
  4. Lacking competencies in key areas.
  5. Personal financial needs.
  6. Responding to criticisms.
  7. Lack of a confidant.

Some highlights from today’s Rainer Report:

  • If a pastors has any of these seven stressors, church members and leaders can help to relieve them.
  • A pastor’s first line of ministry is their family.
  • Undue stress on a pastor’s spouse can directly impact the health of a church.
  • Most pastors are grossly underpaid, and too many church members do nothing to help that.
Read the full article Seven of the Greatest Stressors on Pastors that appeared first on ThomRainer.com. Used by permission.

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