Why Your Church Won’t Be Able to Find a Pastor

For many small to medium-sized churches, it is already difficult to find a pastor. And, unfortunately, I see the time coming when it is almost impossible for biblically solid churches to find a pastor. I already know of a handful of small churches that are looking for a pastor, want a pastor, and can even pay a pastor, but they simply can’t find a pastor. What is the problem? The church culture is completely at odds with Biblical teaching, and the social culture is at odds with the church. The smaller the church, the greater the challenge will be. This article is written with the smaller church in mind.

Why your small church won’t be able to find a pastor

The available pastors hate establishment

There is an anti-establishment spirit among younger (under 40) pastors today. These pastors grew up in established churches, had parents who were involved in the Moral Majority, and came out with a bad taste for “right wing” establishment. The view of the younger crowd, as voiced by Russell Moore, is that the forefathers viewed the gospel as a megaphone that shouted, “get off my lawn” to every wayward soul. The “Jerry Falwell wing” (as Moore called the previous generation in a recent tweet) is viewed with disdain (though, in my opinion, the influence of Falwell, the Moral Majority, and the “great right wing conspiracy” was far more powerful on society than anything at work today in the religious world).

Go hang around a seminary for a day or two, have lunch with students and hear their heart, and you will probably hear them say, “I’ll never go to an established church.” They have a disdain for their parents’ church—a disdain that is short-sighted and dangerous, in my opinion.

And, realistically, you are in one of these established churches. Your denomination (if you have one) is promoting church planting and overseas missions and either saying nothing or saying, “It’s time to change,” to the established churches. The day in which a young pastor goes to a small town church to begin his career is over. Now, these young pastors serve a few years on the staff of a large church in the city, then move directly to church planting. In my view, large church staff experience is a very poor training ground for pastoral ministry in small to mid-sized churches. I would prefer to see a young pastor serve from the pulpit of a church with 12 members than I would see him serve as the student minister to a group of 300 high school students.

The available pastors only do “thought” work

Many of the seminarians are entering the ministry to do “thought work.” I’m glad there is a move away from pragmatism and toward thinking but I also know that the work of a pastor involves a lot of ministry that isn’t very intellectual. The young pastor may not be willing to trim weeds, vacuum floors, set up chairs, and fix the stopped-up sink, but all these things need to be done in the small church, and if they are not done, the church suffers. I know that members can do these things and are very willing to do them, but I also know that members have jobs and families and other activities in the church and can’t always do the labor of the church when it needs to be done. The pastor, on the other hand, is going to be there when the sink overflows.

If a young pastor only wants to discuss theological matters and prepare for Sunday’s sermon, he’ll never make it in the small church. I began my ministry in the small church and have now come full-circle, having pastored small, medium, and large churches. In the small church, there is simply no way around the fact that the pastor is the preacher, custodian, cook, maintenance man, outreach guru, kids club leader, counselor, and community liaison. If a young man isn’t willing to do these things, he’ll fail at pastoring your small church.

The available pastors can’t teach verse-by-verse

Even though the young pastor is interested in “thought work,” he’s often a failure at verse-by-verse Bible teaching. In large part, this is due to the fact that seminaries are teaching theological thinking but not teaching the skills for Biblical exegesis. Your small church may be (should be) built around verse-by-verse Bible teaching, and your next pastor may not be able to do this. After six-weeks of telling the congregation to hear from God and catch a vision of what their lives could be if they were truly sold out to Him, the congregation is going to get weary and the preacher is going to get frustrated. Small church people are farmers, bankers, teachers, plumbers, police officers, and short-order cooks. They are neither interested in conquering the world nor in being made to feel guilty because they’ve spent their lives planting and harvesting the same 40 acres. What they do want is to be able to read and understand the Bible. They want a pastor who picks up this week where he left off last week, which may be some obscure passage in the minor prophets.

What your church should do to prepare for the future

Your church is going to need a pastor someday. When it needs a pastor, it will find that few (if any) are available, but there are a few things the church can do to prepare.

Avoid the “Big Box” seminary

I went to big box seminaries, and I’m no longer a fan. While they have lots of students, skilled professors, great facilities, and endless learning opportunities, they are doing a very poor job preparing young men to preach the Word from the pulpits of small churches. For the most part, they are completely disconnected from the local church. In fact, if you want to find an example of poor churchmanship, look to the big-box seminary. The professors and the students alike are far too often the worst of church members. Though pastors are almost forced to recognize and honor them, the pastor is quietly hoping that church members do not emulate them. The pastor recognizes that the professor may be preaching in other churches on Sunday morning, but wonders why the professor never comes to a mid-week meeting, rarely comes to a revival meeting or Bible conference and is slim to none in financial generosity. The students are often not willing to work in the nursery, sing in the choir, or volunteer in the evangelism / outreach ministry. There are notable exceptions, of course, and I’ve been blessed by them, but they are a “rare bird.”

On the other hand, there are hundreds of small (maybe even tiny) Bible colleges and institutes that are preparing young men for ministry. These colleges are often integrally connected to a local church and all the professors are active in the church (many times as a pastor of a neighboring church). All the students are required to have service in the church and perform menial tasks as well as teaching roles. In short, the small Bible college is likely to produce a better churchman, and better churchmen make better pastors.

Buy a house

If your small church doesn’t own a house for the pastor to live in, buy one. If it owns one, fix it up. I am convinced that this is essential for small churches for the future. In the past, almost every church owned a “parsonage” or “pastorium” for the pastor and his family. In more recent years, churches sold these homes in favor of the pastor being able to purchase his own home. In my ministry, I’ve lived in both church-owned and self-owned homes, and both have their advantages. However, for small churches, there is a real possibility that without church-owned housing, the church will not be able to attract or afford a pastor. Even if the pastor doesn’t live in the home, the ownership of a home may be the difference between keeping the doors of the church opened or closed.

Raise up boys to preach

In the end, it is the local church’s responsibility to call their pastor. It is equally their responsibility to raise up their future pastors. Your church ought to be looking for boys and young men who have the potential to serve. I am convinced that the call to pastor comes from the church. Your church ought to have a “pastor-in-training” program for any interested young man. In fact, even men of 50-60 years old may be great pastors in their retirement years, and a little training would enable them to carry out their ministry with strength.

(Shameless advertisement: Our annual Labor Day Bible Conference/Retreat is the perfect pastor-training conference. Perhaps your church would like to send a few of the young men of the church to get a taste of solid Biblical theology and teaching. The things they learn and the people they meet will be worth far more than the financial investment.)

Dr. Randy White
coming soon: How to start a home church

 

 

Comments

By |2017-01-18T09:55:07+00:00January 18th, 2017|Articles, Current Events|8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Matt Sherro January 19, 2017 at 3:49 pm - Reply

    There is at least one left that would go to an “estsblished” small church, me (and yes I am under 40). I notice Jesus never said what size church to go to, just go. The problem I run into is that a ton of churches today expect a Master’s degree which often results in an academic who has no real clue how to serve the church. (I that from personal experience havent preached my mothers funeral because the new pastor had a PhD but no clue about our family or church). Perhaps churches should be less concerned with your paper and more concerned with the ability to shepherd the flock.

  2. Tanya Pace January 21, 2017 at 8:45 am - Reply

    Great article, although I’m looking forward to the next one “How to start a home church.” A small group of us are starting next Sunday to watch The Bible Grapically Presented and follow along in the book. We’re extremely frustrated by the choices here. If anyone knows of a Dispensational church in the NW Arkansas area, please share!

    • Randy White January 22, 2017 at 8:26 am - Reply

      Thank you, Tanya. I’ll consider your group as I write the article.

  3. Robert February 19, 2017 at 2:20 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the article. A little unrelated to the post but your views on the future of Sunday night services? Necessary or incidental to the health of a church? Thanks so much brother.

    • Randy White February 23, 2017 at 1:49 pm - Reply

      I think we gave up more than we ever knew when we gave up Sunday night services. Having pastored under both settings, I can say that the loss has contributed greatly to the “business” instead of “family” model of the church. It has also contributed to the decline in missions and evangelism. If you’ve got one, keep it.

  4. Brooke Goranson March 8, 2017 at 9:29 pm - Reply

    Good read but how about this. My husband is a pastor of small church plants for over 20 years and now after being missionaries and possibly returning to the pulpit with years of experience and a great servants heart etc…oh and an excellent verse by verse teacher/pastor, he has found that if he does not have his M Div no one, small or large will look at him. He went to bible college but not good enough. Sadly many of those M Divs can’t teach well and won’t serve but they have that piece of paper. Anyway perhaps this is part of the reason they can’t find a pastor, because they eliminate good qualified men who don’t meet a silly qualification before even talking to them. Just saying…

  5. James Sparks May 7, 2017 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Thank you for the article.. I am a man who preaches for our denomination. I pray God will place me somewhere. I am not afraid but this shows that sound doctrine is not very popular today. I’m available and believe God will place me where he wants. To preach God is to be glorified and worshiped not a god to meet our ends but that God is our ends. So much humanism and the generation of self is eaten alive by what they believe is true only because it caters to their feelings

  6. Paul Leonard July 7, 2017 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    I generally agree; as a student of the “big box” I can preach line by line just fine. I’m in that wonderful land of looking for a first call so I see all the ads.
    What I see alot are churches that expect an experienced, successful, etc. preachers willing to take pennies for poor calls that honestly don’t deserve it! You can read the angst right on the add… After 60 years of letting your church slip NOW you care?! But you still won’t change?
    Still, we’re I disagree the most (even though I have bias) is your appraisal that us young don’t like the church. We love it! That’s were we want to serve. We want to pass on what we grew up loving.
    We are just 35 and adult now! And… expect you to act 67.We aren’t welcome in the conservative churches because everyone treats us as kids.

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