Friday, July 07, 2006
How long should a minister stay at one church? This is a question that I bat around as I mark 20 years at Park Street. It's said that the average tenure of a pastor in any one church is 3-5 years max. By that time, the call of the career ladder, the emergence of conflict or boredom take hold. On the one hand, a new minister brings new hope and new possibilities. We all love the promise that comes with a new relationship. However, as experience also shows, it's not long before old personality traits and habits surface. Soon we're back where we were before; looking for greener grass (and a greener minister). On the other hand, a long term pastorate forces the erosion of masking layers. Idealizations dissolve and pedestals crumble. The hard personalities of both congregation and minister that remain present real opportunities for Christian love. The minister who moves from place to place can hide his sinful side. The minister who stays has to serve with his or her sinful side exposed relying not on his or her ability, but solely on God's grace. I'll admit that there are days when leaving feels like the solution to disappointment, conflict or the lure of novelty. But in the end I've found that only through staying is my own soul hewn into more obedient shape. When a congregation and a minister can work together and for each other as one body of Christ, the outcomes are real spiritual growth, genuine Christian love and authentic Christian witness.