Churches that people look up to as model churches have one thing in common: their senior pastors have been with them for over 20 years. That’s not surprising. It takes 2 to 3 years for church members to get to know a new pastor, 5 to 7 more years to become ministry partners with him, and another 10 to 20 years for particular ministry philosophies to take root.
Stagnant churches also have something in common; their pastors have a short tenure. Southern Baptist churches are typically small and their pastors’ tenure averages 2 to 3 years, according to one study.
I don’t have official figures on the average tenure of pastors at Korean speaking congregations in the U.S, but my observation is that it averages 6 to 7 years. My two predecessors at Seoul Baptist each stayed for 7 years before they resigned and left.
Why 6 to 7 years?
In marriage, passion ebbs after around 6 to 7 years. A similar thing may happen for churches. After 6 to 7 years, congregations get bored with their pastor and start complaining, forcing their pastor to leave.
Some of our church members say that Pastor Sookwan Lee is a lot like me. They mean this not as a compliment but as a criticism.
Many people look to our church as a model for the New Testament church. I think that my personality and leadership played a part in that. People want to learn about my leadership, so I offer a class on leadership at Pastors Conferences. Many pastors from all over the world have participated in our House Church internship program and have visited our church to learn about my leadership. These pastors are puzzled when our church members consider being like me a bad thing.
I’ve concluded that our congregation is bored with me. People enjoy freshness and the pursuit of new things. I have been with Seoul Baptist for 15 years. Our members may be bored with my ministry methods and my leadership style, so much so that they view anything similar to it poorly.
I don’t know how many people feel that way. But would bringing in someone with a different leadership style make our church better? Would it help our church convert more people and make more disciples of Jesus than now? It makes me wonder.
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