I’ve noticed something. I’m sure you’ve noticed it too.
Associate Pastors tend not to stick around long and certainly not as long as Senior Pastors.
Whatever their title - Youth Pastor, Children’s Pastor, Community Pastor, Worship Pastor, Associate Director, Associate Camp Director – Associates don’t stick around as long in a church.
Solo Pastors don’t seem to stick in their churches very long either. So if you know a Solo Pastor you should be reading this too.
Yes, there are exceptions. It is exciting to see intentional, motivated, long-term Pastorates.
However, many Associate Pastors don’t stay much past the five year mark (if that!)
Hint – the same thing applies for key volunteers, and any leader really. Leaders are wired to strive forward. SO, how do we help good leaders stay and stay engaged at a high level?
This matters because it is a long term project to join God’s work in a community.
It is a long term project to equip a congregation to join God in their neighbourhoods.
Change and transformation in a whole community rarely happens quickly.
We need people dedicated and called to stick around for the long-haul.
So how do you hang-on to your Associates and key volunteers?
How do you not just hang-on to them but help them and their ministry thrive?
If you are a Senior Pastor, a Deacon’s board or a Leadership Team -
What can you do about this?
1. Have the sandbox discussion – I talk in detail about the sandbox on this previous blog. Talk with the person about their sandbox, their level of responsibility and where they are itching to stretch their wings a little more and have a bigger sandbox.
2. Ask for their help – This means a lot to an Associate and key volunteers, it means you trust them and are inviting them in. Receive their help, invite them into the bigger picture and listen to their ideas, even if you have to say ‘no’ to some of their ideas at this time.
3. Let them use their gifts, particularly leadership gifts – After someone has been in a role a little while anyone can get in a rut. Talk to the person about their gifts and whether they feel like they are getting to contribute their best self and best gifts to the church/organization. Especially Associates/key volunteers who have the gift of leadership or visioning need an opportunity to use these gifts.
4. Invest in their development – Show them you are not just interested in them pumping out ministry results, you care about them and their development as a person, as a leader and as a follower of Jesus. Ask them if there is an area of leadership in which they’d like to learn, read, dialogue, go to a conference, take a course, get a mentor…
5. Let them try an experiment – 5 years of the same old, same old can get tiresome even for the most loyal and passionate of people. Give them an opportunity to take on something new or try a new experiment.
6. No carrots - Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. I’ve heard of a number of volunteers or Associate Pastors who were promised something down the line if they stuck around long enough with the church/organization to no avail. The volunteer/Pastor just ended up more frustrated as they waited for the carrot to get closer but it never came and they never saw significant steps taken in that direction. Don’t promise what you cannot deliver in a timely manner.
7. Care – Allow the church to care for the person and know the person, not just know about their ministry and results. Find a way to help the person see the difference their ministry is making in lives. Thank them. Give them and their family a gift card, a weekend away or a pile of hand-written notes. Usually the only time we acknowledge a Pastor or key volunteer’s significance is when they are leaving the role!
Associates/key volunteers - YOU ARE NOT OFF THE HOOK here!
You can initiate and ask for discussion on each of these seven areas, ask humbly and with respect. You need to initiate these discussions if you are feeling the 5 year or 10 year itch – for your sake and the sake of the future ministry.
When you invite these discussions, understand that you don’t have the same perspective and the big picture that the Senior Pastor or Leadership team has. Respect their wisdom. Make it about the ministry and the needs in your context, not about you and your needs.
It may NOT be the time the church can rearrange things or give you more responsibility or shift roles. You are not the most important thing in the equation. The mission of the church, the big picture, is the most important thing. You may have to wait and be patient for the sake of what is best for the big picture and timing.
Don’t get angry. Ask questions, show respect, display teamwork, and ask the Lord what this all means. Listen.
Do not jump quickly.
God may want to teach you more right where you are.
God may want to use you more right where you are.