Christianity Today (May 2012) summarized some fascinating information about forced pastor terminations. Using the combined research of the National Congregations Study and the Review of Religious Research, the magazine noted eight warning signs or predictors for forced terminations.
Keep in mind that this research does not tell the why of terminations; rather it deals with certain categories where pastors are more likely to lose their jobs.
- If the church had a recent church fight. This makes sense. A fighting church is a mad church. A mad church is more likely to take it out their anger on their pastors.
- If the church is declining in attendance. Obviously the decline is often blamed on the pastor.
- If the pastor’s sermon lasts between 11 and 20 minutes. I never thought about this one. Pastors with shorter sermons are twice as likely to lose their jobs as longer-winded pastors. I’ll yield to the readers to figure this one out.
- If your church has almost no men. Seven percent of churches report that 90 percent or more of their attendees are females. When that is the case, there is a one in five chance the pastor will be asked to leave.
- If the pastor is a woman. My denomination of 45,000 + churches globally has almost no women pastors (in North America though the desire is to change this status), so I’m certainly no expert here. But these churches are nearly twice as likely to fire their pastors.
- If the pastor is young. If the pastor is under 30 years old, the church is three and half times more likely to let the pastor go. By the way, “three and half times” is a huge statistical variance.
- If the congregation is old. If 75 to 89 percent of your church is over 60, you are three times more likely to fire the pastor. If you have virtually no adults under 35, the church is even more likely to force terminate the pastor
- If a slight majority of the congregation is poor. If 56 to 74 percent of your congregation earns less than $25,000, you could be in trouble. Half of these churches have fired pastors. But if the percentage of the poor goes to 75 percent and above, you can rest easy. Very few pastors are asked to leave the very poorest churches.
These are some stunning statistics that once again reinforce the need for Denominational Leadership and pastors to receive training in family systems theory. .The bottom-line is people do Church the same way they do family. To ignore this is to suffer some extreme pain when a minority of the Church begins to create subtle accusations of a Pastor’s failure to “feed the sheep.” The whole idea of feeding the sheep is the language that Jesus used when speaking to Peter in John chapter 21. Jesus uses this term twice and once he uses the word tending. My purpose for this blog post is not to present a language study on meaning of these particular words but instead to acknowledge that the application of these terms have been distorted. So people will go to their pastor and because they lack the courage to present the truth they will tell their pastor, “I have to go now because I am not being fed.” The real reason for leaving or firing a pastor is much more the result of systemic issues in a particular congregation. This can also be a result of projected unresolved relational issues of an individual’s own personal life that is pasted on a pastor or a Church. Often times a group of people simply do not desire to change and confuse their own sense of perceived community as fruitfulness. I agree with Pete Scazzero who wrote the book Emotionally Healthy Church, that our discipleship has not been effective because our practices have not viewed emotional maturity as being inseparable from spiritual maturity. The outcome of not defining maturity this way is building a culture that believers regardless of how many years they have known Christ and continue to have not graduated to new levels of maturity. Rather than than believers having a daily connection with Christ – (what is created) is a from of spiritual welfare system by which pastors are held responsible not only for the people’s spiritual formation but also pastors are responsible for making them happy not challenging them to be more holy. Words like “Mission,” “Transformation,” and “Service” are replaced with subjective feelings of “Comfort,” Control,” and “Pot-Lucks.”
If you are age thirty or below and are being asked to pastor a congregation with these characteristics you may want to be careful. If you have lived through this type of experience I empathize with you and desire to pray with you. We live in a day that young men and women who desire to pastor in these type of contexts must be trained well in the area of process leadership skills as well as supported by denominational resources in providing effective emotional and spiritual support.
If you have had experience with either you as a pastor being asked to leave or seeing your pastor being asked to leave please give your feedback. For me my heroes have become either the young men and women who serve our country in military uniform or the young men and women who serve in our churches as Pastors!
If you are a pastor – Thank you for your obedience to Christ!