Benefits and Negatives of a Long-Term Pastorate
Editor’s note: From 1973 until 1978, Ron Pracht served Olivet Baptist Church of Wichita, Kansas in various roles: as the minister of music, as the minister of students, and sometimes as the minister of both music and students. In 1978, the church recognized him as an associate pastor. And then, from 1989 until 2015, he served as Olivet’s senior pastor.
Finally, in 2015, he helped the church find his replacement, at which point he transitioned yet again into an associate, yet part-time role.
Given such a lengthy tenure in one church—all told, over 45 years—we asked him to reflect on the pros and cons of a long-term pastorate.
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Benefits of a Long-Term Pastorate
- You get to know your people more intimately because you walk with them over a long period of time.
- There is stability in the church family. Even support staff tends to stay longer than in the average church.
- Your family has a sense of being rooted and not displaced every 3-4 years. My daughters had the same friends from kindergarten through high school graduation.
- Trust grows stronger every year you stay.
- Developing reproducing disciples becomes easier. You tend to make wiser choices about the men with whom you invest your life because you have watched them over a longer period of time.
- You get to watch generations be born, grow, marry, and invest in the kingdom. I am now seeing the grandchildren of members who grew up in my student ministry.
- You learn to stand and fight rather than give up and run when opposition comes against you. Some battles are worth having.
- You learn to be open and confessional, personally and in your preaching, because you have failed, sought forgiveness, and displayed to the people you pastor what it means to intentionally follow Jesus.
- You learn the importance of relationships and keeping them right before God. You have fought through difficulties and walked with people in success and failure—both yours and theirs.
- You earn the right to lead significant change because of the relational investments you have made.
- There is a depth of relationship with people with whom you have shared joys and sorrows, disappointments and successes.
- You truly learn to love people as you walk with them in good and bad times. You know what is “out of character” for them when they react poorly in times of stress.
- You stand in a long tradition of men who have invested their lives in one place rather than those who have chosen the “free agent” path. I love athletes who stayed in one place for their career (when it was their choice), and didn’t jump around just to find a few more dollars.
- You can make a difference on the local and state levels of your denomination because you have invested in one place and are known by other pastors as a faithful man.
- You are forced to grow in preaching and leadership instead of repeating old sermons and processes in a new setting.
- You get to see the fruit of your ministry as church members begin their service to the body of Christ, locally and internationally. Men in whom I have invested my life are now serving overseas and pastoring local churches throughout the US.
Disadvantages of a Long-Term Pastorate
- A pastor can become comfortable in his role, and passion can diminish because he knows how to do things.
- The pastor’s family does not learn to be stretched by moving to a new city, congregation, or school.
- When you are not looking, a sense of personal ownership of the church can creep in, and where you serve can become “my church” rather than the church God has blessed me to pastor.
- The pastor is not stretched by having to learn to deal with new situations and problems.
- People who fail do not get a “do-over” like those whose pastor changes every 3-4 years.
- You don’t get a “do-over” because you chose to stay instead of run from a problem.
- Your resume is much shorter! (Wait, that can be an advantage as well!)
- When a long-time friend or supporter decides to leave the church, the pain is deeper for a long-tenured pastor than it is for the man who moves frequently.