RESOURCES FOR PASTORS
Statistics regarding pastors are not encouraging. The Francis Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development reports that 35-40% of ministers last less than 5 years in the ministry. Many statistics show that 60-80% of those who enter the ministry will no longer be laboring in the ministry 10 years later. Whether these statistics are right or not, it is clear that there are struggles with persevering in the ministry. I would suggest that the reasons below are the greatest struggles to perseverance in the ministry:
Conflict: This is arguably one of the biggest surprises to young pastors. Conflict happens in the church; and it happens all the time. Those in ministry will often be called upon to mediate conflict, navigate the waters of a conflict, and are regularly the target of much conflict. Pastors will find that there are hateful, petty, arrogant, rude, brooding, and discontent people in their congregations. Unfortunately, and coming as a surprise to many pastors, is the fact that the unconverted don’t tend to cause the majority of conflict; it is the converted who often launch the hardest persecutions. As William Still one said, “They want their part of the Gospel or their emphasis, usually that which they wrongly think does not touch them, call upon them, or challenge them.” It is also the true that pastors are often the source of conflict themselves. Sin, errors in judgment, and mistakes in leadership can cause firestorms.
Encouragement: When pastors are engaged in conflict, they must search their own hearts to see if their passions are out of control (James 4:1-2). Has sin had a way with them? This must be their first and foremost concern. However, most pastors will find that a great deal of conflict in the church will not be a result of their own personal sin. To survive, a pastor must not carry every burden and conflict. There are times to “let go” and move on. Thick skin and a tender heart are good traits for a pastor. You must teach without fear the whole counsel of God, stand by your convictions, and be winsome; but let the chips fall no matter who may be offended.
Discouragement: What a foe this can be. It can drain zeal and the very life out of ministry. Pastors may labor for years and see very little fruit (1 Corinthians 3:2). Yet, they are called to continued labor. People under your care may continually disappoint. Where you thought progress had been made, there can be a sudden and awful turn to sin with no remorse, repentance, or seeming conviction. You can begin to doubt your own effectiveness, gifts, and even calling.
Encouragement: Look for little glimmers of God’s work and grace. We often miss the small encouragements He sends our way, because we are complaining about not seeing more. Be thankful for every blessing. And continue to allow yourself to be surprised by peoples’ actions and sins. Don’t become cynical. Read good biographies of saints, who labored long and hard for the good of the Kingdom. Find a Barnabus (“Son of Encouragement”) or two (Acts 4:36), who will talk you off the ledge and feed your soul. Lastly, don’t forget that our work is spiritual and the world’s measuring stick is not our measuring stick.
Suffering: This is real and not to be dismissed. We all know that suffering is part of the Christians life (Matthew 10:38; 16:24) and it is often the case that pastors experience this in great measure. This can come in forms as various as persecution, financial hardship, and family trials related to ministry.
Encouragement: Be aware of the persecuted Church and regularly pray for it. It will keep your mind and heart steadied when persecution comes. Expect to suffer and prepare your family for suffering. And when the suffering comes, plead with God that you might grow to see it as a privilege to suffer for the sake of Christ (Philippians 1:27-30). Continue to look to the example of others in church history and to the cross as you seek to persevere.
Burnout: This may be the number one reason pastors give for why they left the ministry. The hours can be long, the phone calls can be late, the concern for others can be unending, there are no three-day weekends, and the vacations can be few. The job can be spiritually, emotionally, and spiritually tiring. In addition, too many men complicate the situation by keeping the candle burning at both ends. The result is that they tend to be exhausted in a few years.
Encouragement: Have a Sabbath each week–keep it, safeguard it, and enjoy it. Don’t feel like you have to be at every event and minister to every person. You aren’t omnipresent or omniscient, so don’t act like it. Take vacations with your family. The men who brag about not using all their vacation days are not super-spiritual, they are super-foolish. Take breaks from email. Schedule regular private retreats where you can spend time alone with the Lord in prayer. Schedule a couple of days every quarter or twice a year. Find people that encourage, refresh, and feed you. I am always on the lookout for a Philemon (Phil. 1:7), who refreshed the souls of those around him. The benefit of these people cannot be overestimated.
Cares of the World: Business, family, money, position, prestige, and ease can be like the Sirens in Greek Mythology. Their cry can be loud and enticing. And when entertained, they can devour.
Encouragement: Consider Demas as a ready warning (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:10; Philemon 1:24). None of us are ever beyond these temptations. Recognize where you are most easily seduced, pray with your wife regularly about it, and let your fellow elders know.
Loneliness: The pastorate can be a very lonely place. Everyone in the church knows you (for some pastors, everyone in the community knows you), yet no one “knows” you. Pastors can stumble into the habit of thinking they are above or outside the body of Christ. Pastors can fall into the temptation of thinking that they no longer need others ministering to them. And when this happens, ministry becomes very lonely (and deadly).
Encouragement: Let people know your need of them (Titus 3:12). Don’t be shy about asking for their help, support, love, and friendship. Be willing to allow others to minister to you (Philippians 2:19-29). This requires showing weakness and not pretending to have all the answers all the time. Find someone to pray with regularly–another pastor, elder, lay-leader, or friend. Someone you can share struggles with. A person who will be thrilled to hear about your life, ministry, and will strongly encourage you. Trust your wife, nurture your marriage, and allow her to have a full-view into your soul.
Moral Failure: This is too often the cause for pastors leaving the ministry. Lying, slothfulness, adultery, and coveting tend to lead the list. Nothing is more devastating to the Kingdom or the local church. A pastor’s sin has the potential of touching and affecting a myriad of lives. One fall and an entire church or even an entire community can be discouraged from Christ.
Encouragement: Don’t be busy about Kingdom work and forget Kingdom life. Rise early to pray (Mark 1:35). Refuse to turn in for bed on Saturday night until you are affected with the sermon you will preach Sunday morning. Allow others the freedom to confront you! Your own personal holiness, by God’s grace and according to the work of the Spirit, must be your greatest pursuit. Know and believe what Robert Murray Mc’Cheyne said, “My people’s greatest need is my own personal holiness.” Without a holy pastor they will be like “sheep without a shepherd.” As William Still said, “It is the godly character which is the real pastor, or is the basis of him.”
Perseverance in the ministry will always be a challenge. And in many ways it should be. This itself is a blessing. However, it seems that each year we lose a lot of good men due to one of the reasons above. We should know these trials to ministry, seek to actively combat them, and discuss them with every seminarian and young pastor. Who knows, there may be a few more that persevere as a result. And what a blessing that would be for the Church.
Can You Relate To This Pastor’s Story?
“For the past two months I haven’t been able to focus on my work; I feel like I’m just going through the motions.
“If I were honest with you, I’d tell you I’m just getting by and trying to stay ahead of what seems like the next most important thing in my email or on my to do list. I’m doing this not because I want to, but because I know I have to.
“I know deep down that people are counting on me and that’s my only motivation for doing anything right now—fear of letting people down.
“For some reason I’m not enjoying any of my work. I’m asking myself why I chose this profession. I’m not sleeping well, I feel 100-miles away from my family, and I’m impatient with my spouse and children.
“Sometimes in the morning as I try to have a better day than the day before, I find myself leaning on my desk, head-in-hands, weeping and asking God what’s wrong with me. ‘Oh God, what’s wrong with me?’”
Full Strength Network and PastorWell, which is one of FSN’s ways of serving, are some resources you might want to check out for help. It is totally confidential and the Missionary Church provides occasional opportunities for pastors to be reimbursed for the membership fee. To find out if this is available for you email here.
BETHEL UNIVERSITY MASTER OF MINISTRY PROGRAM
This program is available to all licensed and ordained Missionary Church ministers who are presently serving full-time in a Missionary Church. Other Missionary Church students may apply provided funds are available.
Scholarship monies are based on $113 per credit hour taken per semester of the Bethel University Master of Ministry program. A copy of the Bethel University Student Monthly Statement should accompany each request. A copy of the previous semester’s grade report should accompany ongoing requests. Checks are payable to the student and Bethel University .
Applications should be sent to:
Missionary Church, Inc.
P. O. Box 9127
Fort Wayne IN 46899-9127
Students not completing courses for which they have received scholarship money will not receive additional scholarships until those courses are completed.
Students failing to maintain satisfactory grades (at least a C grade or above) will not be considered for scholarships.
MINISTERIAL SEMINARY SCHOLARSHIP
In order to assist Missionary Church graduate ministerial students who are continuing their preparation for ministry in the Missionary Church in seminaries or other similar institutions, a modest annual apportionment is made to provide scholarship assistance. Students may apply to the Director of U.S. Ministries and must be approved by their district executive board and the denominational directors to enter the scholarship program.
Full-time students may qualify for assistance of up to $1,000 per academic year. Recipients are eligible for three years of benefits to total no more than $3,000.
Preference is given to full-time students who are enrolled in a Master of Divinity program and whose stated intention is to serve in pastoral or church planting ministry.
Scholarship applications for the fall semester must be received by August 1st, and applications for the spring semester must be received by January 1st. The directors will approve scholarships each semester. Scholarships will be paid after the registrar of the academic institution in which the recipient is enrolled has certified course enrollment.
Applicants should complete the Missionary Church doctrinal questionnaire as part of the application process.
Applications should be sent to:
Missionary Church, Inc.
P. O. Box 9127
Fort Wayne IN 46899-9127
KENNETH E. GEIGER MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
The purpose of the Kenneth E. Geiger Memorial Scholarship Fund is to promote and assist in the training of students of Christian ministry who demonstrate exceptional ability and commitment to excellence in ministry. Applicants must be in the last year of a masters level program at an approved seminary or in at least the first year of a doctoral level program. Preference will be given to applicants at the doctoral level who are graduates of approved seminaries or who have served the Missionary Church.
Dr. Kenneth E. Geiger was committed to excellence in his life of service in the Missionary Church. Upon graduation from college, he began a pastoral ministry that, after 13 years, led his peers to select him as their district superintendent. In 1956 he was elected general superintendent of the former United Missionary Church. In 1969 Dr. Geiger was elected the first president of the Missionary Church. He served in this position until he retired from full-time ministry in 1981.
On July 20, 1984, after 46 years of committed service to Christ and His Church, Dr. Kenneth E. Geiger was killed in an automobile accident while enroute to the Nigerian Conference of the United Missionary Church of Africa.
The purpose of the Kenneth E. Geiger Memorial Scholarship Fund is to promote and assist in the training of students for Christian ministry who demonstrate exceptional ability and commitment to excellence in ministry.
The criteria for eligibility for the Kenneth E. Geiger Memorial Scholarship shall include the following:
- A member in good standing and be licensed or approved for license in the Missionary Church.
- Be in the last year of a masters level program at an approved seminary or in at least the first year of a doctoral level program. Preference will be given to applicants at the doctoral level who are graduates of approved seminaries or who have served the Missionary Church.
- Evidence of a commitment to Christian service.
- Demonstrate academic excellence.
- Possess good communication skills.
- Evidence leadership potential.
The application materials will include letters of recommendation from the applicant’s pastor, district superintendent, institution in which he/she is enrolled and a lay person from the Missionary Church. Other materials to be submitted include transcripts, statement of call and plans for ministry and a written sermon. Scholarship awards will not be conditioned on evidence of financial need.
Applications should be sent to:
Missionary Church, Inc.
P. O. Box 9127
Fort Wayne IN 46899-9127
Why is the Investment in Shared Ministries fund important?
The cost of being a denomination and of coordinating, organizing and motivating the effort of local churches in national outreach is funded through the this area of the budget.
In addition to administrative concerns of the Fort Wayne, Indiana office, funds in this account impact church planting, ethnic ministries, men’s and women’s programs, compassion and benevolent ministries, Bethel College, insurance and many other areas. Local church support materials, Growing a Healthy Church workshops, Missionary Church Today and Priority all depend on the Investment in Shared Ministries fund. In fact, excluding world missions, this account supports every aspect of denominational ministry and administration!
Why is a 2% investment necessary to fund this account?
When the Missionary Church, Inc. was formed in 1969, it had a unified budget that cared for the total denominational administrative and overseas costs. But when the missionary share support system was developed, funds generated through shares were designated only for overseas ministry. The budget was no longer unified. As more and more money was committed to “shares,” the Investment in Shared Ministries area of the budget received less and less.
In 1987, churches were encouraged to set aside 2% of their income to what had always been part of the unified budget. By 1991, only 13% of denominational churches were supporting the fund at this level and over 50% were not supporting it at all. To insure funding, it was necessary to adopt the 2% investment and participation has increased dramatically.
How is the 2% investment calculated?
The 2% is figured on total contribution income on the annual report form submitted to district and denominational offices. Each year the denominational office provides this calculation to assist each church in planning their following year’s budget.
What about inflated income?
When a church experiences inflated income due to a building program, bequests, etc. it can only utilize the 20% maximum increase (over the preceding year’s assessment) for three continuous calendar years. After the third year, the church must revert to the full 2% funding.
What if a church can’t give 2%?
Not only is the 2% giving an investment, it’s also a realistic goal for which churches should strive. Some give 2% while others are able to give as much as 10%. In isolated situations, a church may find it is impossible to invest the full 2%. If your church finds itself in this dilemma, please contact the denominational office to negotiate a lesser assessment goal.
The denomination terminated its health plan at the beginning of 2001, however, a similar regional plan was established in its place. Basically, the Central, East Central and North Central District churches and the denominational office are eligible to participate in the plan.
This regional health plan is currently serviced through Pro-Claim Plus of Fort Wayne, Indiana and includes life insurance for participants as well.
If interested in additional information or cost of coverage, please contact Pro-Claim Plus at 1-800-821-2150. For those churches outside of the region, please contact your district office for information regarding health insurance.
We pledge together as followers of Jesus Christ and fellow leaders entrusted with the responsibility to lead the Missionary Church…
- To honor, trust and respect each other
- To have direct and open communication with each other in spite of stress or disagreement. “…speaking the truth in love.” Ephesians 4:15 NIV
- To keep short accounts and take action without delay to repair relatonal issues.
- To pray regularly and faithfully for each other.
- To “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 NIV
- To protect, think the best of and give each other the benefit of the doubt when faced with a negative report.
- To encourage each other and affirm each other’s work and contribution to the team by virtue of one’s personal value and standing in Christ
- To endeavor to invest at least 1 hour daily in personal prayer-5 days per week
- To endeavor to fast and pray at least 1 day per month for the next year.
- To be alert and intentional about building personal connections and relationships for the purpose of evangelism and discipleship.
- To “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” I Peter 4:8 NIV