Another Reason to Consider a Longer Pastorate: Your Children
By Timothy Raymond –
Though the average tenure of a pastor in the same church continues to be anywhere from 2-6 years (depending on which denominations surveyed), in recent years several voices, including 9Marks, Brian Croft, Reformation21, and plenty of others have been calling for pastors to consider the benefits of longer pastorates. Not only is the longer pastorate the historical norm, a pastor remaining at the same church for the long-term provides a congregation with a more consistent theology and philosophy of ministry, greater stability in leadership, a more intentional preaching diet, gives pastors the opportunity to truly minister to their sheep through thick and thin, and allows pastors to model godliness through different seasons of life. Though sometimes it is clearly not the will of the Lord, in so many ways, longer pastorates are generally better for everybody.
In today’s post I’d like to consider one additional reason to consider staying at your post, even if it’s a difficult one, as opposed to taking that next good offer that comes across your desk: consider a longer pastorate for the sake of your children.
About a month ago I was asked to officiate at a wedding and traveled there with one of the groomsmen. I did not know this young man from Adam, but as we chatted, it became obvious that he was a devout Roman Catholic and actually pursuing training for the priesthood. As we continued to talk he casually mentioned that his father was a pastor in a particular Protestant denomination and that he had grown up in a pastor’s home. Now if you know me, you’ll know that I couldn’t let those facts lie dormant. I simply had to pry. “How did you, the son of a Protestant pastor, wind up not only a Roman Catholic but pursuing training for the priesthood?” The young man’s answer was in some ways typical of those who cross the Tiber from Nashville to Rome. He mentioned the history of the Roman church, the beauty of the liturgy, and the awe of eating Jesus’ flesh and blood in the mass. And yet these were not the primary and deepest reasons for converting to Catholicism.
To my surprise, he claimed that perhaps the major underlying reason behind his conversion to Rome was bitterness toward his father and, more specifically, toward his father’s role as pastor. Apparently his father changed churches rather frequently during his youth. To this young man, whenever his father accepted a new pastorate, that meant saying goodbye to friends, changing schools, moving into a new community, and adjusting to an entirely new situation in life. Evidentially this happened three or four times during his younger years with the result that he viewed pastoral ministry and the church as entirely detrimental to his well-being.
Now until this conversation, I had never seriously considered the emotional trauma changing pastorates might have on children. As a child, I was never forced to move to a new community and make new friends. In fact, my parents continue to live in the house in which I was raised. Yet I did have several friends who, for one reason or another, were regularly relocating (e.g., a parent in the military) and every one of them hated it. Apparently, that same phenomenon can occur when pastors with younger children change churches every 2-6 years.
Now please do not misunderstand what I’m saying. In no way do I want to suggest that it’s always wrong to change pastorates, even if you have young children. And I’m definitely not claiming that short pastorates will cause your kids to grow up and become Roman Catholics. Sometimes changing churches is manifestly wiser, or even necessary (e.g., the pastor is fired, the church dissolves, etc.). In some situations, it may actually be better for the pastor’s family or for the church.
However, as you consider staying at your current church or moving on to greener pastures, do include the emotional well-being of your children in your decision making process. Do put yourself in their shoes and consider the pain of saying goodbye to friends, trying to fit into a new school, and suddenly being plunged into a strange community. While it’s doubtful that staying where you are would make your children miserable, relocating just might.
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Tim grew up outside Syracuse, NY and previously served at Berean Baptist Church, Nicholson, PA (member and teacher during college and seminary) and Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio (seminary internship location). Tim met his wife Bethany at college, and they were married in May 2001. Tim enjoys reading, weight-lifting, wrestling with his three sons, and attempting to sleep.