I am a networker. I love to interact with other pastors, churches, and ministries. One of the aspects of this which I enjoy is helping pastors in their search for new pastoral opportunities. Sometimes it is time for them to move on in ministry, either because their current situation is unbearable or they have other obligations that necessitate their move to a particular area of the country. In some ways I am sort of a free pastoral headhunter.
In my recent searches I have noticed a trend in pastoral job descriptions. There is a lot of language about pre-COVID numbers, which tends to imply two realities. First this drift possibly indicates that the pastors of these churches may have bailed. In other words, the pressures of pastoring in light of a world-wide pandemic has taken its toll. Second the language acknowledges that churches are hurting. As a pastor of a church that was averaging the highest average in recent memory the February before the pandemic hit, I know this is true (though God in His grace is helping us see those numbers rise again). Still, there are folks that we haven’t seen in person in over a year, and I hate to admit, we may never see again. I can imagine that there are churches who have not recovered some of their folks and who may not recover from this tragedy at all.
There is another aspect of this kind of accounting for which churches need to take great care. The implication could be taken to mean, if you become our pastor we need you to fix this issue and fast! The desire of recovery is certainly a noble one, but I fear that many pastors will be hurt in the process of seeking to revitalize churches who may be impatient. I can read this sort of expectation between the lines when the list of pastoral duties is longer than any one person could actually handle (generally matched with a salary commensurate with an intern at a technology company). Churches should be patient with their new pastors and recognize that renewal from something that has affected almost everything worldwide will take time, and also will take the support of the congregation in all ways: spiritually, emotionally, and financially.
In light of the outlined truths above, church search committees should take precautions in formulating and communicating their expectations. Additionally, pastors should take care to understand the situation and expectations of the churches with which they are engaging.