Why “Step Aside So the Church Can Find a Pastor to Grow It” Is a Bad Idea

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I don’t think there’s been a month in the last 15 years in which a first time guest hasn’t told me, “Wow, what a great church! You guys won’t be small for long.”

I’m still waiting.

And working. And praying. And training leaders. And removing obstacles that hinder growth. And— (you get the idea).

But we’re still small.

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12 thoughts on “Why “Step Aside So the Church Can Find a Pastor to Grow It” Is a Bad Idea”

  1. Another great article Karl! Thank you again. Since I found your articles recently, I have been greatly encouraged and blessed! My husband and I, as pastors, want to know everyone’s name, and we want to personally pray with them and be there for them as they go through life. We could not do that in a mega church. I am happy to know that there is a “calling” for small church pastors! Thank you, again! Blessings!

  2. Hi Karl. I really appreciate the truth in this post. I am fairly new to your site, so I haven’t had time to read everything. Do you have anything that explains the “there are good reasons for failing pastors to leave failing churches?” What are some of the reasons, or symptoms of a failing Pastor, or broken church? If not, do you have any advice as I am struggling for direction in my current assignment…

  3. I love this article, but I have a question about number 3:

    I just recently took the Lead Pastor role at a small Church in Iowa. It is one of those places that is small from some bad reasons (bad leadership in the past, no change or innovations etc.). We have about 37 people who regularly attend, we are debt free with the exception of overhead costs and we own 11 acres of land (debt free) in addition to the location that now houses our historic building that has become completely unusable to our community (its not handicapped accessible, has no air conditioning, blah blah blah).

    These people are really cool, they want to grow and are supportive of changes that will help us be the kinds of people that are growing in numbers and in health. We’ve discussed some changes and have started to collect and discuss in a respectful manner and forum some of these ideas, and have even gotten some great feedback that I think gives us the currency to spend on some of those changes.

    In light of that, and in light of number 3 I am worried that we won’t be able to keep the momentum up beyond the initial momentum we’ve created in the last 2 months sense I’ve been here. If number 3 is largely true, and I think in most cases it is, what do you suggest to keep the momentum going?

    1. Gary, it sounds like your church was not healthy when you arrived, and might not have been for a while. If the majority of your small congregation (about the same size as mine) do want to be restored to health and believe God sent you there for that purpose, you could have some momentum going in. This certainly appears to be the case. Remember, no amout of momentum goes on forever. Capture the momentum you have and continue making the changes you believe God is leading you in. Make those changes with a pastoral heart, leading rather than pullling. God bless you in your new ministry there. May he give you great success–being defined as wonderful health, and growth as he sees fit.

    2. Great question, Gary. It sounds like your church has made it past the momentum-killing parts of pastoral transition. Namely, the departure and the interim period. Also, since the church wasn’t healthy when you arrived, there was no momentum for anyone to kill. It sounds like you have a a great chance to start something new while building on the good things that remain.

      I think this post may be the only time I’ve ever referenced momentum in reference to pastoral ministry, and only now because it addressed the false expectations people have about pastoral transitions. Other than that, I think the importance of momentum, while real, is often overblown in many church growth teachings. Consistency beats momentum every time. As wjcollier3 wrote in his comment to you, no momentum goes forever. Stay consistent. That will get you through times of high momentum and valleys without it.

  4. Karl, solid post and I’m blessed to see what appears to be a network of churches that are benefitted by this blog and your writing. Although I’m not pastoring a local church now, I’m mentoring several pastors who are and appreciate this blog as a resource.

    Of course, I would have loved seeing something like this when I was pastoring a small church in the 80’s! I had to learn similar things, but you’ve done an excellent job addressing issues and providing instructive encouragement.

      1. Well, like in so many things, those of us who learn the hard way are called to make the way for others, and you are doing that brother. Next time I’m in SoCal I hope to meet up with you. One of my closest friends pastors in HB. Blessings!

  5. Karl
    two great posts. I agree totally with number 3 on the bad effect that transition has on small churches. it isn’t the reason they are small, it just takes away any forward progress. #5 is wonderful. There isn’t a pool of church growth pastors who can turn a church around. And just bringing in a new pastor doesn’t mean any changes, in fact it could be a backward movement according to #3

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