Don’t Be A Boss, Be A Pastor

It is not unfair to say corporate culture has infiltrated how Pastors see the church.  In previous blogs I have talked about pastors seeing themselves as CEOs rather than shepherds. Today I want to talk about another symptom of the corporate culture.  Pastor, you are not a boss, you are a Pastor.

Recently I have had the opportunity to interact with and see pastors in their own elements. I have enjoyed watching Average Pastors operate in their own churches. I have also had the opportunity to talk to and visit pastors of larger churches.  But most importantly, I have the opportunity to talk to the staff in both contexts.  My conversations with both have revealed that in larger church contexts, staff pastors are often seen as employees. That is not surprising considering that most staff in larger context are full time and are paid to perform duties.  But this is not the case in the Average Church. Most staff are part time at best.  At my church, I was able to pay a small monthly amount to our staff.  Because I wasn’t paying them, I saw them differently. I saw them as servants, not employees.

Staff pastors are some of the unsung heroes of the Average Church.  They volunteer to serve because they love the church and want to be useful to God’s kingdom. There are little rewards with these jobs.  Since they are not full time they have to give of what is left from working their regular jobs. They don’t have time to sit around and plan ministry like full time staff.  Even if you can pay them some each week, they are still mostly operating as volunteer ministers.

So as an Average Pastor, how you lead your staff is important.  How you see them and what you expect of them matters.  If you have a full time staff, it is natural to see yourself as a boss who has employees.  In this context you have to make judgments about performance, value and production.  You have to make sure your staff justifies their salaries. But even in this context you have to admit that is a hard thing to do when it comes to ministry.  How do you judge value in ministry?  Salvations? Events? Attendance?  Its just not the same as the corporate world.

In the Average Church, that sort of evaluation is simply not appropriate.  These men and women are giving what is extra in their lives to the church. They have limited time, energy and resources to give to that ministry. If you treat them like an employee, you will lose them.  If you treat them as people who are there to do things for you, you will lose them. If you see them as problems to be fixed, you will lose them.  In short, in an Average Church, a Pastor is not a Boss.  He is a partner, a leader and a mentor. But not a boss.

I know that in the early years I fell into this trap with my staff.  I came from a church with a full time staff. I treated my staff as employees who I expected to produce.  I saw myself as a Boss who evaluated their production.  I even gave yearly performance reviews (Are you kidding me? I can’t believe I did that!).  Often saw my staff as employees who were there to do what I want. They ‘worked’ for me and I felt justified in trying to make them do what I wanted.

What a foolish mistake. These people give of themselves, not for me, but for Christ and his church. They are there to serve God, not my agenda.  Once I figured that out, I became their pastor who helped them find their calling rather than a Boss whom they worked for.  I got more joy out of seeing what they wanted to accomplish than seeing them execute what I wanted to accomplish.  That is a Pastor. A Pastor shapes people and helps them become something for God. A Boss only looks over the shoulder of those who work for them to make sure they are doing what they are told.  Don’t be a Boss, be a Pastor.

Your staff are a gift from God. Cherish them. Listen to them. Help them achieve their goals rather than using them to achieve yours.  Build them up by investing in them rather than tearing them down when they don’t measure up.  Be a Pastor, not a Boss.

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

 

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

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!

Reclaiming the Office of the Pastor: The Levite

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My first job in ministry was the janitor of the church I attended.  Every week I set up chairs, mopped floors, vacuumed and took out trash.  My pastor used to tell me, “Your job caring for the church is a holy calling.”  I never really saw it that way, especially after I cleaned the same toilets week after week. But I did enjoy the job.  Several years later, I had finished college and the same church hired me as the Children’s pastor. For the next 10 years, I served in ministry but others did the cleaning.  But because I know what it takes to clean the church, I always have been willing to pick up a broom if necessary.

When I became the lead pastor at my Average Church, I found myself right back in the role of taking care of the physical needs of the church.  In an average church, you can’t hire a janitor to clean, paint walls, organize closets, mow and spray for weeds.  I have been an Average Pastor of an Average Church for almost seven years and I still paint, clean, mow and organize this church that God called me to serve. I always thought it would be nice to grow our church to a place where I could afford to pay someone to clean, mow, paint and such.  But, eventually you have to realize that keeping the church clean, freshly painted, maintained and organized is part of the duties of the Average Pastor.  Of course, its always best to get church members involved, which I do.  I have had many people help clean, mow and help when something needs painted or repaired.  But we don’t always have those people when we need them.

If you see pastoring a leadership position where you are the CEO and you have employees who should be doing the day to day, it is easy to get discouraged when there is no one to clean or mow this week.  I have often felt that although I am willing to do these tasks, I shouldn’t HAVE to do these tasks.  It doesn’t help that I look a the church across the street who has a mowing service do their mowing while I am out there as the Pastor on our mower.  It feels like I shouldn’t have to do that.

One day as I was painting a room (and I have personally painted nearly every room in our church), I was having one of those “I shouldn’t have to do this” moments.  But as I was making this room beautiful, I thought back to the levites of the Old Testament.  Here is what God said about the Levites;

“The work of the Levites was to assist the priests, the descendants of Aaron, as they served at the house of the LORD. They also took care of the courtyards and side rooms, helped perform the ceremonies of purification, and served in many other ways in the house of God.” (1 Chronicles 23:28)

The Levites whole calling was to serve the needs of the church.  They were not allowed to own land or have jobs. The Temple was their home and they cared for it. They cleaned, ministered, and took care of the physical needs of the temple.  Pastors are the Levites of this day.  The care of the temple (church) is inherent in our calling.  So why shouldn’t we clean, paint, mow and spray weeds?  That is part of our calling.  For generations priests and monks saw themselves as caretakers of God’s house and many still do today.  The beauty of God’s house is in the levite-pastor’s care.  Sometimes we can have others who help us with that, but it never becomes ‘not our responsibility.’  A CEO can believe that they shouldn’t have to do these tasks, but a pastor who is a true levite can’t.

Could it be that God gets glory from your ministry not only in the pulpit, but in the room you paint or the carpet you vacuum? Could it be that being a pastor is more like my first job, the janitor, than being a CEO or president of a corporation? If you see these jobs as beneath you as the pastor, you may have bought into a corporate model of what it means to be a pastor.  What my pastor said is still true, “Your job caring for the church is a holy calling.”

I encourage my fellow Average Pastors not to resent your role in caring for your church.   It is a holy calling. Every toilet you clean, every table you set up and every menial task you do is a work unto the Lord.  You are in a long line of people called to care for God’s house. Caring for God’s house is very pastoral.  That IS what a pastor does.  That is what we do.

Pervious Post: Pastor as a Parish Priest  

Reclaiming the Office of the Pastor: The Parish Priest

Pastor BannerIn a day and age where being a pastor is being equated with an organizational leader, the average pastor still fills traditional roles typically associated with being a pastor.   A few weeks back I received a phone call from a family I know from a previous pastoral position. They informed me that the father had passed and the 17 year old son asked if I could do the funeral.  I was happy to be there for the family.  When I arrived at the house, they introduced me by saying, “This is our pastor.” It was an honor to be called that but it wasn’t exactly true.  See, I hadn’t been officially their pastor in nearly a decade.  Yet, when they needed someone, they called me.  This family saw me as a their pastor whether they were members of our church or not.

In the past few weeks I have done a funeral and a wedding. In both cases, members of the family commented, “It is so nice to have someone do the service that knows the people they are doing the service for.”  I have wondered about their comments.  It can only be that Pastors today are so removed from their congregations that they don’t perform those functions anymore.  A pastor in a large church may have a staff pastor who does the weddings or funerals because the pastor is too busy.  This is one of the factors that has contributed to the Pastor-as-CEO phenomenon.  Pastors just do not perform historic pastoral functions anymore and the church members know it.

I once heard a pastor say that the role of Pastor is shifting from the hurts and needs of the congregation to the hurts and needs of community.  This statement resonated with me.  I have a congregation that I pastor. But I also have a community that I pastor as well.  Over the past six years I have been asked to do weddings, funerals, counseling, and visiting dying relatives by people who never set foot in the doors of my church.  Being an average pastor has given me the space to be available to people in our community.

Grantchester-Season2-early-iconThis model of being a pastor is reminisent of the English Parish Priest. This reality is depicted well in a PBS show I watched recently called Grantchester.  In the English church, a church was the center of community and the priest felt responsible for everyone in town, whether they attended or not.  In Granchester, Sydney the Priest, often had individuals come to them for their spiritual needs.   They didn’t show up on Sundays but that didn’t mean they didn’t see the pastor of Parish as their pastor.  The Parish pastor is a traditional pastoral paradigm that came from the idea of a Pastor as a Shepherd. The Shepherd takes care of a flock.  He doesn’t run the farm or the city.  He just looks after the sheep and helps whoever is in need.

This is the a paradigm that works  for many average pastors because pastors of larger congregations cannot logistically be available. As average pastors, we are more available to perform these historical functions for people in our church and our community.  I have been in the room of people who have died. I have performed marriages for people who had no other options. I have counseled  people who would never show up in my church but who trust me enough to bear their soul to me.   There are times I feel like there are more people who I pastor outside the walls of my church than inside.  This is one part of being an average pastor I love.

So next time you wish to have the perks of being a pastor of a larger church, remember that you have a ministry that many of those pastors are no able to have.  As an average pastor, you can pastor your community in a way that many pastors cannot.   It is needed in the body of Christ.  The average pastor throughout history has filled this role. It is what Pastors do. Embrace that calling.

Reclaiming the Office of The Pastor

Pastor Banner

What does a pastor look like to you? What images come to mind?

A few weeks ago I called a local business about an event we were doing.  The lady on the phone took my information down and asked me, “so are you the youth pastor?” I replied, “No ma’am, I am the pastor.”  She was surprised that I was THE pastor because she didn’t expect THE pastor to do such menial tasks as make phone calls.  In her mind, she thought surely I must have a secretary, assistant or another pastor who would be more suited to taking care of trivial issues.  Her response is not uncommon in my experience.  Others have responded to me in similar fashion.  This is the way people see pastors today. They have the image more like that of a CEO of an organization than an approachable person in the community.   But as an average pastor, we don’t always have the luxury of having people who take care of things for us. We have to do the little things to keep our churches going.

My experience on the phone that day, and other experiences like it, have caused me to wonder about how the role of the pastor has become more equated with the CEO than the person who cares for the affairs of the household of God.  The reality is that the phenomenon of the mega church and multi-level staff organizations have turned many pastors into CEOs.  Nearly all the pastor conferences are nothing more than leadership conferences that teach organizational leadership principles. Today’s pastors have people to do pastoral care, make business decisions, manage the staff and do all sorts of jobs that used to be the pastor’s responsibility. One of the fastest growing positions in the church is the Executive Pastor who runs the day to day operations and staff of the church.

The idea of a pastor being a CEO just isn’t the reality of my pastoral experience.  I have to participate in every level of ministry and church life.  Even though I have a staff, they are part time and aren’t always available to me to help with the day to day.  I make my own phone calls, do my own media, sometimes clean the church, run the errands, manage the calendar, preach the sermons, do pastoral care and do many other tasks that people today do not think a Pastor should do.  But, this is the reality for 80% of us that pastor an average church.  That is what average pastors do.pastors-office

I don’t want to be a CEO.  I want to be a pastor.  In the next few blogs I will look at a couple images the Bible gives for the pastor that have nothing to do with being a leader of an organization.  I believe it is time we take back the corporate images of the Pastor and reclaim the biblical model for pastoral ministry found in the images of the shepherd, the levite and the elder.  These images of being a pastor are not celebrated today as they were in years past, but they are still the dominant roles for pastors of average churches like ours.  I will share about each of these images and how they empower the average pastors to embrace our identity and reject the pull toward corporate church models.

Some Observations on Father’s Day

Fathers-Day

Father’s Day is always on a Sunday.  Like many churches, this year I had to wrestle with what we were going to do for fathers on Fathers Day.  I usually try to think of something simple (and cheap) to give to the fathers just like I do on Mother’s day.  Last year I gave out “Dad’s Rootbeer.” This year I chose a small ratchet strap.  It seemed like something Dads would need.  But a day or so later I was talking with a friend.  He said to me, “What does a ratchet strap have to do with being a father?”  It was a good question.  I admitted I didn’t really know.  He went on to say “What do fathers want?  Time with their kids.  Ratchet straps are for men, not dads.”  His words have been resonating with me.  I have been thinking about them for a week now.  I have also been thinking about the pressure I  feel when I see what other churches did for men on fathers day.  Some churches go all out.  And many times I am jealous of what they do for Fathers. But my friend’s comment has me thinking.

What I am about to say is just some observations.  So please forgive me if they come across as critical. Maybe they are, but they aren’t meant to be.  Please just hear my own struggle in these observations.  Pastoring is a tough enough job without having our fellow pastors criticizing each other.  But I think a few things need to be considered when it comes to Father’s Day. These are thoughts about how we celebrate Fathers Day I am struggling with.

First, I question how Mothers day and Fathers day became Christian holidays to begin with.  Its obvious, if they land on a Sunday, everyone expects the church to do something.  Many pastors, including myself, have shied away from the whole “mothers stand up and we will honor you” thing.  I think we all realize that family situations are so much more complicated.  That applies to Dads as well.  My Dad used to alway say that he hated Fathers Day at church because on Mothers Day the Pastor would say how wonderful mothers were. On Fathers Day, the pastors would beat up on the dads for not doing enough.  I don’t think he’s alone in that sentiment.  Being a parent is really hard. And no one thinks they do a good job at it.  Because of these things, I have had to stop making the service about Dads or Moms and just keep our focus on Jesus. I figure the families can celebrate their own parents well enough without me.

Second, it seems Fathers Day has turned into a sort of “man day” or an annual celebration of men.  In the same way that not all women are mothers, not all men are fathers.  It seems to me that car shows, barbecues, tool give aways and manly events are becoming the most popular way to celebrate fathers today.  But so many of those things are stereotypical ”manly” things. But are they ‘fatherly” things?  I wonder how the female children of that father enjoy the car show?  I wonder if that 50 inch TV will encourage a father to spend more time with their kids?  What if the father doesn’t like cars or bacon or doesn’t fix anything around the house?   What if they love to read? What church gives away books?  What exactly are we celebrating about fathers by giving away WD-40 and big screen tvs?  Those seem more like man things (if that is such a thing).  Like my friend asked, “what does that have to do with being a father?”  I even have a friend who has never had kids who won a pressure washer at a Fathers Day service a couple years back.  He wasn’t sure if he should take it.  You see?  Isn’t it confusing?  I think next year I will give away something that will give fathers time with their children.  To me that would honor fathers. I am not sure what yet. But I have to think of something.

Thirdly.   I fear that the modern church has turned every holiday into a marketing scheme.  Remember when we used to have big Christmas productions so that we could invite all our friends to church?  Now we do that for every holiday: Christmas, Valentines Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Mother’s Day, Fathers Day, Grandparents Day, Memorial day…you get the point.  I know why churches do it up big on Father’s Day.  Its another opportunity to invite people to come to church.  Maybe it works.  But I am afraid its starting to feel like a gimmick to get men to go to church. We sure brand it that way with all the meat, cars and mustaches!  Plus, it really doesn’t work for the average church. Many times these are our lowest attended services.  We don’t get holiday bumps like larger churches. My father comes to my church on Father’s day, but I am the pastor!  Many of my members go to be with their fathers at their churches on Fathers Day. And most of them go to the big churches who have the big events.

On the one hand I don’t think we do enough to honor both fathers and mothers for the role they play.  I believe parents have a tough job.   Fathers who stay engaged should be celebrated.  On the other hand, I hope the way we go about celebrating fathers doesn’t distract us from the true value of fathers.  I don’t want to celebrate men, I want honor Fathers.  Fathers matter to children.  Especially to the fathers of children who are still in the homes. These are the fathers I want to go out of my way to say thank you to.  Thank you for playing with your kids when you are tired. Thank you for putting down the remote and reading to your kids. Thank you for taking a trip to the park. Thank you for putting your wife’s needs ahead of your own. Thank you for showing up at the doctor appointment.  Thank you for playing barbies and princesses with your girls.  Thank you for teaching your child when they do something wrong instead of just punishing them.  What can I give a Father who does that?  Do you know?  What can I pass out on a Father’s Day that will encourage and honor Dad’s who do that?  Because that is worth celebrating.