Veteran pastor Joe McKeever recently wrote an article on how to increase pastoral tenure in a congregation. In the course of his research McKeever interviewed one pastor who had served the same church for 22 years. Here is one observation he made: “Always work on new initiatives. His 22 years have not been 22 years of doing the same things over and over, but trying many different things.”
A pastor (or any leader) can become comfortable and easily get stuck in a rut. This means that he or she is not flexing ministerial muscles in preparation for the new opportunities and challenges that will rise in every context.
Although a pastor should encourage the congregation to be healthy and attempt new initiatives, there are ways that the pastor can be proactive on an individual basis with little or no approval necessary from the congregation.
In relation to the pastor’s ministerial role, she or he could do the following:
- Experiment with an innovative approach to preaching. This may be using the lectionary for a change, doing a book study, planning dialogical sermons, or preparing a series on a particular topic. Just try something different than you have not done before.
- Launch a new Bible study class that the pastor teaches. This could be for new-comers or seekers. This doesn’t have to be long-term, but it can provide personal contact with a new set of people for the pastor.
- Become a volunteer in the community. Although every pastor is busy, perhaps he or she could be a volunteer chaplain for a hospital, a police or fire department, or a community agency. Another possibility is service on the board of a community organization. This expands the pastor’s boundaries in many ways.
The pastor can also take the initiative in her or his personal development in many ways:
- Take an online course such as those offered by Coursera, EdX, Acumen, and others. These MOOC’s (massive open online courses) cost little or nothing and provide exposure to the top teachers and practitioners in leadership, psychology, communication, and other fields.
- Contract with a professional coach to work on personal, professional, and spiritual development. The coach helps the client identify new opportunities and pursue them in an intentional way.
- Participate in webinars and short-term courses that will enhance your leadership. Organizations like Pinnacle Leadership Associates provide a variety of offerings.
- Consider seeking an additional degree. This could be seminary degree such a Doctor of Ministry in Creative Leadership from Central Baptist Theological Seminary that will help you develop your skills in a particular area or a graduate degree in a field of interest from a college or university. Many of these are available online, but you might benefit more from the personal contact with other students in a classroom setting.
What has been said here for pastors applies to all clergy and to lay leaders as well. Challenging ourselves to grow, try out new experiences, and continue to learn makes us more healthy and productive, as well as keeping our ministries fresh.