Re-setting Solo Pastor Expectations

This past week, I read an eye-opening piece by Derek Thompson called, “The Great Resignation is Accelerating.” (The Atlantic)

We all knew that people were quitting their jobs. But, he brought out something further:

Their job is just one of a whole list of things that people are quitting – a sign that people are rejecting the terms of life itself as defined in America.

Thompson’s insight is a good hermeneutic for understanding why so many (particularly, solo) pastors are contemplating a break or quitting altogether.

Simply put, it seems that the world of ministry has changed, but the rules of ministry have not kept up. This has made ministry unsustainable. And, pastors are willing to reject these terms.

The Wrong Kind of Suffering

It sounds crazy. But, many pastors dream of undergoing intense suffering, in the name of Jesus Christ.

What they say is that there is no place that they would not go and no thing that they would not do because that is what God deserves. When applied to the real world, these pastors come to accept abuse now called, “servant leadership.” And, they have trouble articulating what they are experiencing as well as asserting their way out of it. Eventually, this leads to burnout.

I know this well because that’s exactly what I believed and experienced.

But, I want to point out something more important than that which I believe is that space in-between “absolutely great” and “burned out.”

This is a critical time in which there is a holy disillusionment about ministry. It is often this long arc between seminary (where all calling is affirmed) and the real world (where affirmation must be earned).

With the right guidance, this pastor can see that there is an alternative path to 1) being resigned to a career of the same thing, from one church to another, or 2) getting burned out. That path requires an awareness of the difference between one’s timeless calling from God vs. the calling of the moment.

Innovation as sustainability; sustainability as mission

Given this reality, what can a local church do?

Well, it is simple-sounding. But, basically, the pastor and the leaders of the local church have to have a heart-to-heart talk about something specific.

That is, they need to have an honest and prayerful time to consider what the actual purpose (ie. calling) of Church is in this moment and what is the role of the Pastor.

The timeless calling from God of both the local church and the pastor is (ironically) to sustain the greater community. But, to do that in this moment, it will likely take some innovation.

This is the kind of conclusion that the local church and the pastor must come to so that they can be on the same page about their expectations. Any local church that does not exist for itself has likely been wondering about similar things. Now is the time to have that consideration about a clearer present for a better future.

James from PASTORIA
Head of Platform