What are the priorities of a pastor in the work of the ministry?
That’s a tricky question. I’m fascinated by leadership and management principles that find their roots in the lives of Jesus, the apostles, and other biblical characters.
But I also know that management comes second to theology and spirituality. That is, we are disciples before we are shepherds, and we are shepherds before we are managers in the modern sense of the word.
My own ministry is often filled with what I would term “paperwork.” I have a background in design and marketing and wrote a book about using social media in ministry, so naturally I spend a lot of time creating things, especially for the web.
I believe that it’s important for the church to put her best foot forward, so I am often driven by the details.
Occasionally, however, I find myself in need of a revival of right priorities for ministry. And when those moments come, I remind myself of the three “P’s” of ministry that need to remain in the right order.
First, Prayer Work
Acts six is unavoidable in any discussion about priorities in ministry. The overworked apostles, under pressure by various interest-groups within the church, needed desperately to get back to the Bible and prayer.
So they asked the church to set aside seven men to oversee the benevolence work of the church, that they might give themselves more fully to time with God.
As the average pastor grows older in America, churches say they are struggling to find young Christians who want to become future pastors, according to a new study from Barna Research.
Today, half of American pastors are older than 55. In 1992, less than a quarter of pastors in the U.S. (24 percent) were that old.
Pastors 65 and older have almost tripled in the last 25 years, from 6 percent to 17 percent.
Meanwhile, pastors 40 and younger have fallen from 33 percent in 1992 to 15 percent today.
In 1992, the median age for a Protestant pastor in America was 44. In 2017, it has climbed 10 years to 54.
The graying of the American pastorate did not start in the 1990s, however. More than half of all Protestant clergy (55 percent) were younger than 45 in 1968. This year, only 22 percent of pastors are under 45.
The church has gone from a time when a majority of leaders were in their 20s, 30s, and early 40s to a time when most are in their late 50s and beyond.
“There are now more full-time senior pastors who are over the age of 65 than under the age of 40,” said David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group.
“It is urgent that denominations, networks, and independent churches determine how to best motivate, mobilize, resource, and deploy more younger pastors.”
Barna notes several factors leading to the exponential growth of older pastors. In general, people are living longer. Since 1968, life expectancy for men has grown 10 years to 76.
At Cooke Pictures, we’ve developed a reputation for helping churches, ministries and nonprofits handle crisis communications. No matter how well intentioned you are, sooner or later, things can sometimes go terribly wrong.
As a result, we’ve coached organizations on how to survive in the wake of leaders who have fallen because of sexual, financial, drug or alcohol, and other issues.
Through it all, there’s one persistent myth some pastors have in particular about continuing ministry. While many take the time and effort to walk through proper counseling, healing and eventual restoration, far too many want a shortcut.
In many cases I’ve encountered, that shortcut comes from the idea that because they’ve morally fallen in a particular way, they’re now more sensitive and understanding to those in the congregation who have experienced something similar.
As a result, it’s not long before they start another church down the street, begin a church-consulting practice, go on radio or TV, or launch their own ministry—all without taking the far more difficult route of submission to other leaders, counseling and eventual restoration.
Over the years, I’ve talked with numerous pastors and ministry leaders who refuse counseling, accountability or any other kind of help because they believe their sin has actually made them a better pastor or leader.
If you’re looking for reasons to make time in your busy schedule to keep learning, there’s no shortage of possibilities. First and foremost, perhaps, is that you’ll be in great company. Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Oprah Winfrey all set aside dedicated time to learn new things each week. Look how far the practice has taken them.
But if you’re looking for more scientific explanations of why the end of school shouldn’t mean the end of learning, writer John Coleman is probably your man. He writes regularly for the HBR blogs on the subject of lifelong learning and its many benefits. One of his recent posts is a must read for those who suspect they should make more time in their lives to nourish their brains, but still need a bit of a kick in the pants.
Richer, happier, and more popular
In the post, Coleman runs down all the evidence for the many benefits of lifelong learning, turning up studies and reports that show continual study is the cure for many of life’s most pressing problems. The complete article is well worth a read in full, but here are a few of the most impressive effects of regularly feeding your intellect:
- You’ll be richer. It’s not hard to believe that in a fast-moving world, staying on top professionally (and thus maxing out your earning potential) requires lifelong learning, but if you’re in doubt Coleman points you to this piece from The Economist. The headline — “Lifelong learning is becoming an economic imperative” — pretty much says it all.
- You’ll be healthier. As I’ve previously reported, simply reading a small amount each week is linked with greater health. But Coleman goes a step further, pointing out that “while the causation is inconclusive, there’s a well-studied relationship between longevity and education.” In essence, the more you learn, the longer you’re likely to live.