10 Ways the Role of a Pastor Is Changing

10 Ways the Role of a Pastor is Changing

I began pastoring a church in 1981. I was young and inexperienced, but excited. It didn’t take me long to figure out that I didn’t know all that the pastoral role entailed. I served as caregiver, preacher, counselor, teacher, driver, janitor, worship leader (only once…), cook and many other roles.

Now, some 35+ years later, I see the role of pastor changing. Recognizing that a trend does not describe every church, here are some trends I’m seeing:

  1. More team leadership – Some of this change is reflective of growing interest in elders, but even pastors who are the only staff member are seeking teams. The pastor focuses on being the leader who equips the team.
  2. Less pastoral care – It’s not that care isn’t occurring; it’s simply occurring through staff members assigned that task and through small groups who accept that responsibility.
  3. More leadership training – Pastors are increasingly viewing training the next generation of church leaders as their responsibility. Many are partnering with universities and seminaries to accomplish this task.
  4. Increased responsibility to study apologetics and world religions – Pastors who genuinely shepherd their congregations must prepare them to speak truth to a world that increasingly denies biblical truth. This need often requires more pastoral training.
  5. Shared preaching – In my day, only one pastor did the preaching. Today, more and more pastors intentionally share that responsibility with others.
  6. Less interest in the title “senior pastor” – Some leaders see no biblical warrant for the “senior pastor” title, and others shy away from it because it implies more single authority than they wish.
  7. Less counseling – Many pastors have learned that counseling can consume their time and energy, so they limit their time for this work. Others recognize their lack of training in this arena, and they partner with more trained leaders to do it.
  8. Shepherding growing congregations via multisite – This trend isn’t yet dominant, but thousands of churches of all sizes are now adopting the multisite approach. The primary pastor in these situations learns to shepherd much more from the pulpit.
  9. More community and social involvement – My generation sometimes shied away from too much “social” ministry. Pastors today, particularly younger ones, give much more attention to these tasks.
  10. Ministry staff considered “pastors” – For example, “Pastor of Students” is increasingly more common than “Student Minister.” Accordingly, anyone in a ministry role must meet the requirements of 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.

What other changes are you seeing? Let us hear from you.

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Chuck Lawless
Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.