Five Reasons Being a Pastor Is More Difficult Than it Was 15 Years Ago

If you think serving a church as a pastor is more difficult today than in recent years, you are not imagining things. Thom and Sam look at five of the reasons this change took place.

  • Culture no longer honors the role of the pastor.
  • The expectations of pastors by church members have grown significantly.
  • Social media is more toxic than ever.
  • Church practices have changed dramatically.
  • Denominations are no longer a safety net.


Five Small Group Values That Encourage Spiritual Growth

  1. Encourage your members to show up every week to their small groups.

Just attending every other week won’t lead to transformational small group experiences. When people attend small groups consistently, they put themselves in a position to grow. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up the habit of meeting together, as some are doing. Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer” (GNT).

A habit means you consistently do something. You make it a priority. This is one of the reasons we ask participants of our spiritual growth campaigns to commit to a small group for a specific amount of time. Anyone can attend a small group for six to eight weeks. It’s much better for someone to attend a small group every week for two months than once a month for a year.

  1. Prioritize humility in your small groups. 

You don’t want your small groups to elevate the value of some participants over others. Encourage your congregation to lay aside any egos before they arrive at small groups. One person who comes into a small group with a know-it-all attitude can stifle sharing for the rest of the group. 

Paul wrote, “Be friendly with everyone. Don’t be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people” (Romans 12:16 CEV).

Nothing ruins a small group faster than one person in the group acting like they know everything. That doesn’t work. Humility means having a teachable attitude.  

  1. Ensure your small groups are respectful of people’s doubts and fears.

Sometimes we tend to judge people by how far they need to grow rather than commend them for how far they’ve already come. Respectful small groups do the opposite. According to Romans 15:2, “We must bear the ‘burden’ of being considerate of the doubts and fears of others” (TLB).

We tend to believe our fears and doubts are rational and reasonable but dismiss the fears and doubts of others. The Bible says we need to be considerate of people who have doubts and fears, no matter what those issues are. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Job 6:14: “When desperate people give up on God Almighty, their friends, at least, should stick with them” (The Message).

Small groups should be a place where we can safely share our doubts without worrying that others will judge us. 

  1. Allow people to share their faults honestly.

We can’t grow until we’re honest about our struggles. As a pastor, you likely know how hard it is for people to admit failures. When someone attends your small groups regularly, they’ll hopefully become more comfortable with talking about their problems. 

The Bible says, “If we live in the light, as God is in the light, we can share fellowship with each other. Then the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, cleanses us from every sin. If we say we have no sin, we are fooling ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:7-8 NCV).

You can model this in your own life and in your own small group. I regularly talk about how our small group has walked through tough times—from financial hardships, to illnesses, to loss of loved ones—together. These difficult times have drawn us together, and sharing about them has helped us grow. 

  1. Let your groups become champions of accountability.

Small groups help people grow by encouraging them through accountability. In small groups, we encourage and pray for each other as we set goals for our spiritual growth. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (NIV). 

Every person in your church needs someone in their lives who will spur them on toward personal and spiritual growth. They need someone who will ask them tough questions about whether they’re being consistent in their daily quiet time with Jesus. They need people who can ask them about how their marriage is doing. Small groups can provide this kind of accountability support. 

Pastor, small groups that demonstrate these five characteristics will become powerful agents of transformation in your church. 


The Connection Between Trust and Empowerment in Ministry

Empowering others to take ownership of an area or take on a task takes a certain amount of trust on your part as an effective leader. The problem is, that trust can be hard to find in yourself when the task at hand is one that, if not done correctly, will have repercussions. In these situations, it is crucial to understand that one of the keys to success as a leader is the ability to effectively empower others. The fact is, if nobody had ever empowered you, you would not be in a position to empower others!

leadership can be difficult at times. Managing all of your responsibilities during the week, making sure that everything runs smoothly on the weekends, and keeping your family close in the midst of your busy schedule can be overwhelming. This is one of the main reasons that empowerment is so important. If you never empower anyone else to take a position of leadership, ownership, or simply complete an important task, you are going to overload yourself to an unhealthy point.

This idea is represented in the Bible in Exodus, Chapter 18, where Jethro tells Moses that his work is too much for him to handle.

As you are mulling over your options as to who you could empower and how much responsibility you should give them, make sure that you are choosing people who have a heart to be a servant. Tasks can be taught, but you cannot teach someone how to have the right heart or mindset as to why they are serving.

With all of the responsibilities that you have as a leader, there is a strong temptation to hand the mindless grunt work to others, without resourcing them properly, and disguise it as empowerment. It is important to realize that this is not what empowerment is supposed to accomplish. The goal of empowering other leaders is to give the resources that they need to complete responsibilities so that they can grow in their leadership while relieving you of some of your load. There is nothing wrong with delegating your tasks such as stacking chairs, cleaning the floors, or taking out the trash, in fact it is encouraged, but you have to make sure that you are providing the resources and instruction that is necessary for whoever you are empowering to succeed and grow in their leadership.

Giving permission to someone is not the same thing as empowering them to do something. When you empower a leader, you are trusting them with resources that are necessary for their success and preparing them before they start. This differs from permissions because permission does not require that you instruct someone at all.

Effective empowerment is not just vital to the growth of the person you are empowering, it is crucial for the success of your leadership. The impact you can make on yourself and your organization is endless when you empower other leaders. Understanding how to effectively empower people will improve your leadership ability and assist you in fulfilling your vision.

Have you ever empowered someone to do something and it did not go as you had expected it would go? This can happen to even the best leaders. This is because there are several practical and logical things that you have to understand before you can empower a someone. These tactics are crucial to the success of the leader that you choose to empower.

Defining your vision while giving clear direction to others is one key to empowerment. If you empower someone who does not understand the why behind what you are asking them to accomplish, you have not given them anything to be passionate or driven towards. In the same way, if you do not set clear boundaries for them, your instruction will not be enough to ensure success.

It is also important that you provide others with the necessary resources needed to accomplish what you want them to accomplish. A lack of practical necessities will kill a leader’s ability to succeed in any area you put them in.

When you let people take on responsibility by empowering them, it is important that other people understand that you have given them this empowerment so that there is no conflict produced by unclear direction.

Trust is the basis for your empowerment as a leader. You have to be able to trust who you are empowering, and they have to be able to trust you as their mentor or leader. As you seek to empower people with a level of confidence that claims success, trusting the right people is key.

One component of trust is trust-worthiness. Trust worthiness determines who you should trust when it comes to empowerment. If the people you are empowering are not trust-worthy, they are not going to be successful. When you are looking for trust-worthy people, there are several things to consider.

The other side to trust is your trust-willingness. Are you willing to give your trust away? The ability to trust people is not always dependent on the level of trust that they deserve. Sometimes we refuse to trust people because of a negative experience we have had in the past in which someone has hurt us. Maybe there is something you need to let go of in order for you to trust the people that will help you fulfill the vision.

The people that you trust must also be able to trust you. It is important to ask yourself the same questions that you set as qualifiers for others. Are you a trust-worthy person? Are you a trust-willing person? Assess the answers to these questions carefully.

Acing the Handoff Exit Strategy Maury Davis Rob Mcmanus Sam Chand Transition

Note: Over the next 10 years in the United States alone, there are expected to be 480,000 pastoral transitions with an astounding 90% of them (roughly 430,000) occurring in churches with no succession plan in place. These numbers are staggering by themselves, but also consider that a large church (defined as 1,000-plus in attendance) takes 12 to 24 months to replace a pastor, resulting in numeric attrition, financial shortfalls and leadership departures.

Transition is a topic that we frequently cover in AVAIL Journal—often surrounding the challenges of weighing the risks and rewards of new opportunities, identifying when your current assignment is drawing to a close and preparing a successor. But what happens when you’ve taken the leap into a new role? What are the pitfalls you must avoid and the priorities you must pursue as you take the baton from someone else? This article is a special preview of an upcoming book by Sam Chand, Maury Davis and Ron McManus, releasing this fall, titled Transition Tsunami, which offers practical insight to outgoing and incoming leaders on the best practices of leadership succession and transition planning.


If you’re succeeding an outgoing leader, you may already know that the bookshelves lack specific guidance for your situation. Highlighted here are some ideas and thoughts for your consideration.


Don’t expect things to be the same for you as they were for your predecessor. If people seem resistant, try not to take it personally. Realize that it’s a loyalty issue and that some folks just need more time to adjust to change. You can’t expect the same response from people that your predecessor led.

Try thinking of your tenure as a bank account. Any bank account requires deposits. In this case, your stakeholders must make the deposits based on their level of trust in you. Getting that account built up takes time. Your predecessor’s years of deposits into the account enabled them to get the desired responses. Unfortunately, that account was closed when you became the incumbent; you must now establish your own account. In time, your faithful work will yield similar results.

Don’t be quick to make changes for which you lack the necessary relational equity. If you start disassembling everything that preceded you or initiating too many completely new endeavors, it’s going to put everyone into a state of shock. People who are in shock aren’t going to be too keen on making the necessary deposits into your account.

Sometimes, incoming successors make promises, or attempt to cast an organizational vision that’s totally unrealistic, in an effort to get people behind them. Without a relevant track record with their people, they’re going to have a very difficult time.

Incoming leaders must realize that all change is a critique of the past. Even something as seemingly insignificant as painting a wall can be misperceived. In some cases, new leaders begin taking too many drastic actions. Their people find themselves wondering what was wrong with the way things were and why it was necessary to make so many changes.

It’s always better to start small. Since change that’s imposed is change that’s opposed, focus on building relationships at first. It’s vital relationships that will provide you with the equity you’ll need for successful future efforts. You can make incremental changes, but be sure to balance those endeavors with getting the necessary relational support. Until you do, you may find yourself writing checks that you cannot cash.

Don’t think that people are going to view you like they viewed you before you came. Hard as it may be to believe, there are people who may have wanted a different leadership candidate in your spot. Sure, they were courteous and pleasant when they met with you during the selection process, but they may have had other preferences. Don’t rush them; give them time to adjust. Sometimes, they may not have been involved in the entire decision-making process; they may have just received an announcement. You have likely had more time to adjust than they have.

Don’t try to be your predecessor. Certainly, you should be respectful toward your predecessor, honoring their accomplishments and their character. If you’re following a tremendous leader, one who casts a large shadow, it can cause you to feel compelled to live up to their accomplishments or their reputation. Resist the pressure to become their carbon copy. Your organization doesn’t need another person like your predecessor; they need you.


Honor and celebrate your predecessor. In many cases, the predecessor who left you an organization to lead is loved and revered. Since people are in the process of shifting their loyalties from that leader to you, it serves you well to honor and celebrate him whenever there is opportunity. As you celebrate your predecessor, you make it easier for people to make their transitions.

Exercise patience. Following a founder, a successful entrepreneur or a much-loved senior pastor is no easy task. It requires self-knowledge and patience, diligence and patience, as well as patience and more patience.

It’s important to remember that acceptance can take time. How quickly a successor is accepted varies with the organization. In many cases, acceptance isn’t synonymous with arrival. It may help if you can acknowledge the grief and loss associated with the change. Be a realist by acknowledging what people are feeling. Offering them understanding can only help you.

Build relationships with people who have the wisdom to give you advice from the organization’s past. Create a counsel of trusted advisors, which is sometimes called a “kitchen cabinet.” Realize that you need counsel to help you to make good decisions. Then, connect with the right people. Build good relationships with those who have the experience, the wisdom and the power and influence.

Take time to understand the shifts within the organization. You may think you know the organization inside and out, perhaps because you were there while you were being developed for your new role. But even though you were in the boardroom before, you were in another chair. Now that you’ve moved into the first chair, everyone else is relating to you in a different way. When you moved, they changed too. Because of this power shift, you have to adjust your understanding of the organization.

Be flexible and not overly sensitive. Some people will insist on being your critics. We encourage you to carefully inspect each criticism for some truth that can help you to grow. There is a shred of truth in everything. If you approach criticism from this standpoint, every critic can actually help you to grow into a better pastor, a better leader, or a better CEO.

GROW continually. The letters in the word GROW can provide an easy way to remember many of the important transitions that you’ll have to navigate.

            Grasp the organizational culture, as every organization is different.

            Respect and honor your predecessor, as well as the local traditions and customs.

            Organize your strategic thinking and planning while you learn about the organization.

            Work at willingness. Be open to criticism, value and seek out the opinions of others.

Remember, you are not an owner, but a steward. Your role is temporary, and some day you will pass the baton to someone else. Your responsibility is to be faithful with the time and resources you’ve been given and leave the results to God.