What is an Average Pastor?

It was nearly three years ago that I started this blog on the average pastor.  Since that time this blog has been viewed over 7,000 times and has over hundred of followers.    The response to this information has been so humbling and encouraging.  The success of this concept of the Average Pastor has proved one thing:  Average Pastors are looking for resources for the average church experience. This is why we published The Average Pastor book which is being enjoyed by pastors around the US. Here are some of the testimonies from those who have read the book:

  • “I can not put it down. I hope all of my Facebook friends that Pastor a “Small Church” buy it immediately! You will not be sorry.”
  • “The book is phenomenal and I highly encourage every medium to small church pastor to read this book. You’ll laugh, perhaps occasionally tears will well up, but ultimately you will identify with Pastor Isgrigg’s words and experiences.”
  • “Some great stuff packed into a small book – if you pastor a small or midsize church grab a copy off of Amazon today and be encouraged.”

With more and more exposure to this concept of  being an “average pastor,” some people still misunderstand why we use that label.  So as a reminder, I want to share the first chapter in the book to remind people what we are talking about. You are average, not because you are mediocre, but because your experience as a pastor of a church of under 200 is the average experience of the average pastor of the average church in America.

You Are Average

No that is not an insult. It is the data. If you are a pastor of a church of under 100 you probably feel small. The recent trend of mega-churches and multi-site churches has made you feel this way. Not to mention that all the pastors conferences are focusing on these churches. But it is not true. You and I are not small church pastors. We are Average Pastors of Average Churches.

 

What is average? When it comes to describing quality, people often think of average as being the middle of the road: not exceptional but not terrible. But in statistics, average is a statement of what is typical. It is not a value statement for quality, it is a numerical statement of quantity. Average is the number that represents the most common result of a given range of data sampled. On a bell curve, the average is where most people are. This means that the most common human experience is the average experience, not the exceptional experience.

One of the first leadership books I remember hearing about was “The Enemy Called Average.”[1] Nobody wants to be labeled as “average”, especially not pastors. Everyone of us believes that we will be the exception to the rule. We want to be the one that starts a church that grows to 10,000 people or who takes over a struggling church and builds it into a mega church. Every pastor I have ever met has always started thinking they were that person. I have come to realize that my experience as a pastor of 100 people is the rule, not the exception.

Consider the data:[2]

  • 8% of churches are 100 people or less[3]
  • 2% of churches are under 250 people
  • Average church attendance is 76 people
  • Only 2.4% of churches are over 1000 people
  • 62% of pastors of less than 100 people are full time
  • Average salary is $31,000 for FT pastor[4]
  • 72% of churches under 100 have an annual income of less than $100,000[5]

The Barna group tells us, “Despite the enormous cultural impact of mega-churches and mega-church pastors like Joel Osteen and his 40,000+ Lakewood Church, the largest group of American churchgoers attends services in a more intimate context. Almost half (46%) attend a church of 100 or fewer members. More than one-third (37%) attend a midsize church of over 100, but not larger than 499. One in 11 (9%) attends a church with between 500 and 999 attenders, and slightly fewer (8%) attend a very large church of 1,000 or more attendees.”[6]

What these stats tell us is that the pastor of a church of 100 is normal. It is average. The truth is the mega-church and the large church are both very rare. They are the exception, not the norm! Yet, have you noticed everyone expects all churches to grow to a mega-church? Have you noticed that the conference speakers are always pastors of the exception, not the norm? Have you noticed all the books written by the 2% and not the 98%? Why are so few resources available for the pastor leading a volunteer staff or the church in the rural community?

Average is the normal experience for most pastors of most churches. It is not a problem to be fixed, its normal.

If you are reading this, chances are you are an Average Pastor. Average is not a sign of poor leadership, difficult people or lack of God’s blessing. Average is the normal experience for most pastors of most churches. It is not a problem to be fixed, its normal. It certainly has challenges, that when compared to the experience of larger churches seem to be huge disadvantages. But those challenges are simply normal challenges. If we continue to compare ourselves with the exception we will always feel like a failure. But if we can compare ourselves to the normal church experience, we will see we are not failures at all. We are normal churches with normal challenges to be faced with faith and courage. You are an Average Pastor with an average size church in America. And that is OK!

 

[1] John Mason, “The Enemy Called Average” (Insight Publishing, 1990).

[2] http://www.thearda.com

[3] http://www.thearda.com/conqs/qs_295.asp

[4] “The 2012-2013 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff” Christianity Today, 2011, p. 35.

[5] http://www.thearda.com/conqs/qs_314.asp

[6] https://www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016

 

The Average Pastor Book Review

I am thankful to my friend and fellow Pastor, David Lermy for his kind review of The Average Pastor Book on his blog leadinghappy.com.  David is a resource in the body of Christ for leading happy. David is uniquely gifted to bring out the best in people through thoughts on leadership, highlighting resources and making important connections with good leaders who are doing great things. His review demonstrates that he understands the average pastor and the challenges we face.  Please check his review of the book.  I also did a recent Facebook live interview with David that you can find on his blog as well.

http://leadinghappy.com/the-average-pastor-a-review/

David will be a great resource for you and your ministry.  You will want to follow David on his blog and on his social media sites.

My Easter Service Won’t Be “Special”

Here is a repost of this blogpost just in time for Easter. Pastors, save yourselves the disappointment of the Easter game. Make this Easter about Jesus, not crowds.

The Average Pastor

Easter-Sunday
One of the questions people love to ask me is “what is your church doing special for Easter?”  My response?  Nothing.  That’s right. Nothing.  Ok, that’s not totally true. We do an egg hunt like everyone else and we have some special songs picked out just for Easter. But our service on Easter will be 90% like every other Sunday.

If you keep up with the other churches around your town, you know that is a rare strategy.  Today it seems like everyone is going to have “the most amazing Easter ever!”  Churches drop eggs from helicopters, have kids “eggstraviganzas,” Easter dramas, and offer the most outrageous prizes to give away.  (One church is giving away a cruise this Easter!)   As I see what lengths people go to outdo each other or draw the biggest crowd in history on Easter, it only reinforces why I do not necessarily want…

View original post 588 more words

Thank you!

thank-you-fountain-pen-smI want to take just a minute to thank everyone for the support and kind words about the Average Pastor book that came out last month.  So many of you have shared your thoughts and congratulations. It means the world to me! I really appreciate it!

One comment in particular from a friend has blessed me so much.  They said,  “Your book inspired me to want to pastor an average church.”  I cannot express how much that means to me to hear someone say that. That one comment has made it all worth it.   This book is about restoring dignity to the Average Pastor serving in the Average Church.  It is so amazing to hear that it is inspiring the average pastor as well as those who are dreaming of being pastors.  The Average Church is a great place to be.

If you loved the book, please consider writing a review on amazon.com or maybe even buying some copies to give away to your fellow average pastors.  If you want to order a larger number, contact me and I help you with that and it will be much cheaper.  Thank you again for your support with this blog and this book.  I am so proud to be called an Average Pastor.

PS> If you got an early copy, I apologize for the errors in the text. (I can’t believe I didn’t catch those!) They have since been corrected and new copies will reflect the changes.

It’s Finally Here: The Average Pastor Book

20170113_113530It’s finally here. The Average Pastor Book is now available.  Inside are reflections from an average pastor of an average church.  Now pastors of churches of under 100 have a resource that addresses their unique set of challenges.  The book contains revised blog posts as well as new material to help the average pastor of the average church to embrace their calling. Thank you everyone who follows this blog and believes in this mission.  Your belief in what we are doing has made this book possible.

Buy now on Amazon

Read a sample chapter by clicking the link below.

average-pastor-sample-chapter

Coming Soon: The Average Pastor Book

average-pastorstatsI have been in the final stages of designing and revising my upcoming book: The Average Pastor: Reflections of an Average Pastor of an Average Church in America.  It is a collection of revised blog posts as well as some new chapters that highlight the role of the average pastor.  My goal is to be able to use this book as a resource to give to all of the average pastors that I meet.  Our stories need to be told. Our perspective needs to be heard.  By writing a book and putting it on Amazon, it will hopefully reach the average pastor who is looking for resources that address their experiences.

Hopefully things will be finished in the next week or so and the book will be available early in January.  Stay tuned!

More Followers Needed

“Follow me as I follow Christ” 1 Corinthians 11:1

Very early in my time as an average pastor, I was overwhelmed by the demands of ministry. The pressure I placed on my shoulders to be the leader of the church was killing me.  I had read all the books I could, tried as many things as I could and had wore myself out trying to develop myself as a leader.

great-leaderThen one day I had a thought.  Why am I working so hard to learn to be a better leader? After all,  I am not actually the leader of my church.  The church belongs to Jesus.  It is His body, His people and His bride.    This church I am leading has never belonged to me as the Pastor, to my board, or to my staff.  We are not leading the church.  Jesus is the leader.  That thought set me free.   From that point on I stopped trying to lead and started following.   I even started referring to myself  as the “Lead Follower” of my church.  If Jesus is the leader, then the only thing I need to do is become a better follower and invite my church to follow Jesus with me. I think that is what Paul meant when he said, “Follow me, as I follow Christ.”  Its not that I am the standard God’s people need to follow, rather I am the lead follower as we all learn to follow Jesus together.

If Jesus is the leader, then the only thing I need to do become a better follower and invite the church to follow with me.

Recognizing that Jesus is the true leader helped me in several different ways.

  1.  If Jesus is the leader, then it is His strength, His plan and His job to build His church.  I was bearing an unnecessary burden. I was looking to myself to lead.  I was trusting in my gifts, my strengths, and my ability as a leader. But Jesus never asked me to lead His church.  That took the pressure off me and put me in my place as a follower.   If I follow Jesus and let him lead, we will be a successful church because we will be an obedient church.
  2. If Jesus is the leader, it is his responsibility to provide.  I found myself stressing over things like finances, what programs to do and how to fill our leadership positions. If Jesus is the leader then I have to believe he already has a plan. I just need to seek him and understand what His plan is.  God is faithful. He has always provided when we let him lead.
  3. If Jesus is the leader, I need to become a better follower of Him instead of a better church leader.   I have been focusing my energy on learning how to follow Jesus and less time on being a good leader.  That doesn’t mean I am not learning from the leadership resources I have been given. I certainly am.  But more so, I am learning that my ability to follow Jesus in my own life allows me to lead my church in following Jesus.   My confidence as a leader has grown by learning how to hear His voice, know His heart and to lead His church based on my experience of following Him.

I believe we need today is more followers, not more leaders.  We need more people willing to follow Jesus. There is a song on the radio right now that has the words “So many leaders… you asked for followers.”  I think that’s true.  What does Jesus want from you average pastor?  He wants you to be a great follower.  Jesus call has always been “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”  Become a great follower of Jesus and you will be the leader Jesus wants you to be.

Become a great follower of Jesus and you will be the leader Jesus wants you to be.

Guest Post: Perks and Quirks of the Average Pastor

This post is a guest post of one of my fellow Average Pastors, Jason Byers.  Jason knows what it means to be an average pastor of an average church.  Two years ago, Jason left the comfort of a position in larger church to serve a in the rural church. He is one of my heroes. He is a great pastor, a great leader and a great friend.  

quirks

Perks and Quirks

by Jason Byers

                  A friend of mine was mentored by the legendary youth pastor Jeanie Mayo for a couple years. At his very first meeting with her (along with 20 others from around the nation), she took the group to her bathroom and opened the medicine cabinet. Stuffed inside were many vitamins, prescriptions and some over-the-counter meds needed to sustain proper health for her and her husband (then, a lead pastor). She spoke candidly to her guests and explained that she was a very real person who was just trying to do the best she could with what she had.

My friend got to see a side of Jeanie Mayo that I’ve never seen. To me, she is a legend with very few mistakes and many epic achievements! To those who got close enough, they saw both her PERKS and the QUIRKS.

Everyone has them.

We all have strengths to our personalities that we cater to; and weaknesses that we cover up. Yes, even pastors of congregations less than 150 have both perks and quirks!

Churches expect their pastor to have perks. It gives them something to boast about at company picnics and community softball leagues. The pressure to deliver an ideal version of God’s Anointed can be exhausting! But being perfect simply isn’t realistic; just like your favorite team can’t be the world champions every year.

Since every personality has its drawbacks, the trick is to manage the tension between arrogance and self-loathing. You were created by God to be an instrument for His glory! Don’t think more highly of yourself than you ought. And, don’t put yourself down either.

If you are an average pastor struggling to keep this balance, here are a couple tips about dealing with your own strengths and weaknesses.

 

YOU’RE NOT AS GOOD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE.

You are a leader for a reason. But some of us are tempted to think we deserve to be where God has graciously assigned us. There’s a fine line between confidence and conceit, and I’m not convinced I’ve mastered that boundary.

Paul said, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ ” (1 Cor. 13:21)

God has a way of keeping us humble. Try keeping yourself humble first! The ones who say, “I’m not quirky,” are misleading themselves.

         There is a hidden fool inside all of us.

 

YOU’RE NOT AS BAD AS YOU THINK YOU ARE, EITHER.

Do you want to know a secret? You’re pretty awesome. To think that God didn’t create you with something special to offer is an insult to His divine creativity. He didn’t make a mistake! We may be full of flaws and miscalculations – which are quirky – but there are perks in our personalities too!

Paul said, “The weaker [parts of the body] are indispensable!” (1 Cor. 13:22)

Don’t think for a moment that because you’re at a “small church” you must be a “small person.” The royal blood of Jesus Christ covers you! Realize His anointing on your life! Unleash the perks He has strategically placed in your nature.

         In Christ, we are more than conquerors!

 

I want to thank Danny for letting me write this entry as a guest. This blog (from my good friend) serves as an encouragement to the average pastor – the men and women who aren’t in the spotlight of mainstream ministries. The stigma of the “average church” is that it is inferior to the large churches, and as such will inherit an inferior leader. The temptation of the leader is to mask weaknesses as part of a lie that we’re all super awesome and getting better. This is a mistake!

Accept the truth that everyone – including us average pastors – has PERKS and QUIRKS!