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10 Habits of Pastors Who Have Healthy, Long Tenures

Imagine what might take place if pastors consistently stayed at churches for 10 or more years. Imagine that their tenure was largely healthy. Imagine what would happen in our congregations through increased stability.

Presently, the median tenure of the average pastor at a church is around four years. Simply stated, over one-half of pastors leave a church before their fourth anniversary. And our research shows that the time of greatest fruit in a pastor’s ministry does not begin until somewhere around years five to seven.

Is it possible, then, for pastors to stay longer in a healthy situation? In many cases, the answer is a resounding “yes”!

Healthy habits

I approached this issue by looking at more than 30 pastors whose tenure exceeded 10 years. From my perspective, their tenures have been healthy and loving. Here are the 10 leading traits exhibited by this group of pastors:

1. They pray daily for their church members and staff. Many of the pastors kept the church membership roll in front of them and prayed through the entire congregation and staff every year.

2. They view their family as their first line of ministry. They did not see a dichotomy between church and family. To the contrary, they saw their family as the first priority of ministry in the church. Pastors should especially be aware that Satan is doing his best to destroy their families.

3. They connect with—and love—people in their community. Pastors are more likely to stay at a church longer if they love the community in which they are located. That love must be deliberate and intentional.

4. They choose their battles carefully and wisely. Not every issue is worth a fight. Long-term pastors are not cowardly; they are just highly selective.

5. They welcome structures that make them accountable. Certainly, they don’t seek structures that hinder their leadership. But a leader who avoids accountability is headed down a path of destruction.

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thomrainer@churchleaders.com'
Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.