Staying for the long term

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I have recently been dipping in and out of Paul Beasley-Murray’s book Transform your church. The book has fifty short pieces on different areas of the church. Topics include: evangelism, pastoral care, prayer, church discipline, hospitality, celebrating special events.

The last few days I keep rereading section 6: Stay for the long term – and keep fresh. It is a great challenge. Beasley-Murray writes about when you stay for six or more years in one place you begin to see growth, and yet he believes that, on average, Baptist ministers stay at one church for six years before moving on, so they miss that key time for growth. This is an even bigger challenge in youth work where workers are often on a contract for two years and then move on.

And yet the rewards of long term ministry can be huge. For example, a key reward, is the way in which with a longer pastorate, you can develop relationships with whole families over the course of several years, which you can’t do in twelve months. Equally, there is an opportunity for the worker to gain deeper and more meaningful friendships which if you are having to regularly move every two to three years doesn’t allow.

To do this though we have to do two things: not view our work as a ‘career’ looking for promotion to a bigger or ‘better’ church; and to constantly ensure we are developing and staying creative so that we don’t become boring and stale.

Some great challenges for children’s and youth work: are churches willing to invest in long term contracts, are workers prepared to stay for the long term, to put down roots, and commit to a particular church and families in the community.


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