You don’t have to wonder. Thom Rainer asked that question a while ago and published the top ten responses on his blog last week.
When I first read the list, I smiled. For three reasons.
First, it’s a really healthy list. Church members are expecting basic pastoral competence, honesty and leadership. That’s what they ought to expect.
And when you look at some select quotes from church members that Thom included, their expectations look even healthier and more balanced than most pastors might have expected. Good for them.
- Administrative Prowess
- Great Fundraiser
- Facility Management
- Church Growth Strategist
It’s not that pulpit search committees won’t be looking for some of those attributes. They will. Especially for bigger churches. But it makes me smile when my suspicions are confirmed that the skills many of us obsess over aren’t what matter to the average church member.
Third, I smiled because that list looks very familiar. It’s the basic job description of a Small Church pastor. It’s what most of us do every day.
Churches want their pastor to offer a basic level of care, competence and integrity. They’re not looking for perfection or greatness.
As it turns out, what church members are really looking for in a pastor … is us!
So Where’s the Disconnect?
Surprisingly, this list caused a mini firestorm among Thom’s readers, most of whom are in the ministry.
He got a lot of comments on it. Over 90% of them were positive, but 5 – 10% were shockingly negative. Here are a few excerpts.
So what’s going on here?
I think such deeply negative comments speak to the pain that these pastors are already carrying with them. They’ve been hurt. Deeply. They need our prayers.
I get that pain. I’ve felt that pain. There was a time in my ministry when this list would have triggered my pain like it triggered theirs. But I’ve come to realize that the expectations on this list aren’t the cause of that pain.
The pain that these expectations trigger is often caused by what I recently referred to as The 11th Reason Pastors Quit Too Soon – the drive to build a bigger church.
If those ten character traits were read without prior pain and without the unspoken expectation that you have to do those ten plus grow a huge church, I don’t think pastors would feel as burdened by them.
Doing those ten adequately, but not super-humanly, in my current church, at the size it is now, with no expectation that the church has to get bigger to be successful is what pastoring a healthy Small Church looks like.
What People Want
If you still doubt that this is a reasonable list, take another look at it and answer this question. Which character trait would you remove? Good work ethic? Love of congregation? Strong character? Effective preaching?
No one is great at all ten. But greatness wasn’t asked for. Or expected. But all ten are needed to lead a healthy church, even if they’re shared between two leaders in a co-pastorate.
People want their pastor to be their pastor. To lead by example. To have integrity. To help them grow in their faith. And to love them along the way.
If we stop trying to do what they’re not asking us to do, that’s not a burden. It’s a privilege. And a joy.
So what do you think? Does this list seem reasonable to you? Or is it unrealistic?
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Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources and is the author of several books. His latest is The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation.