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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

10 Things You Don't Know About Pastors

Leadership Network recently conducted a survey of 232 pastors of churches with an average weekend worship attendance of at least 2,000. The following ten statements are taken from a full-length report which can be downloaded HERE.

1. They think of themselves more as teachers and directional leaders than as pastors.

Sure, their business cards may say pastor and their congregants may call them Pastor Smith -- but when these leaders are asked which phrase best describes how they see themselves and their role, the phrase "pastor, shepherd or spiritual guide" ranks a distant fourth.

Which words do today's senior leaders resonate with? When presented with nine options, more than 80% select "preacher/teacher." Half choose the term "directional leader," and slightly more than a third select the word "visionary."

2. Preaching tops the list of things they do best.

Jesus spent a lot of time healing people, but only 1% of senior pastors surveyed say visiting members, the sick and shut in is something they personally do best. Only 7% say they're great at converting others to the faith, and only 10% identify pastoral counseling and spiritual direction as an area of significant strength. These results may seem problematic, but with a high value on lay involvement and an average reported staff of 55, it's likely that others at the church excel in these areas.

So where do senior pastors believe their strengths lie? Seventy nine percent say they're best at "preaching" followed by "thinking about and promoting a vision and goals for the future."

3. They haven't always worked in churches.

Although most attended church regularly at the age of 16, 42% of them spent five or more years working in another field before entering the pastorate. The most popular prior career choice? Business. Meanwhile, a third of senior pastors' spouses work both outside the home and outside the church.

4. Being an extrovert isn't mandatory.

Yes, their role demands that they be comfortable standing on a platform and speaking in front of large crowds. But nearly half of them say they're somewhat or very introverted.

5. Family stays at the top of mind when it comes to prayers.

In a 53-hour work week, megachurch senior pastors spend a full 19 hours in and preparing for preaching, teaching and worship, 9 hours in meetings--and 5 hours in intentional prayer and meditation.

When they pray, who do they pray for? Their family (94%) and themselves (84%) primarily, followed by church staff (76%) and other individuals at church (64%). Almost two-thirds say they seldom pray for political leaders and roughly 20% say they never do. Similarly, only 19% regularly pray for their neighbors.

6. They usually like the people they work with.

Megachurch pastors report low levels of conflict in their churches, and high levels of satisfaction with the individuals they work with. Only 5% of pastors report being "somewhat dissatisfied" with the church board; the remaining 95% of pastors gave satisfactory ratings. Worship directors got the lowest rating of "very dissatisfied" but only among a mere 2% of the pastors surveyed.

7. They believe their top gift is leadership.

According to our survey, the spiritual gifts most often possessed by large-church senior pastors are leadership (77%) and teaching (67%), distantly followed by exhortation (21%).

8. They are actively involved in sports.

When asked "in which of these areas outside your church community would you describe yourself as ‘currently active'," the most common answer was not a school-related activity, a social service or hobby group; it was a parachurch group (37%), followed by a sports league (34%) and denominational activities (32%). As was found to be the case in Leadership Network's recent executive pastor survey, the top non-church involvement for senior pastors in large churches is sports leagues. In fact "sports" is also the most frequently mentioned way megachurch pastors say they maintain their sanity during crazy or stressful moments of ministry.

9. They find worship at their church helpful for personal spiritual growth.

One might think that working at a church could hinder full engagement in the worship experience, however 41% of pastors surveyed said that worship services were extremely helpful for them. On the flip-side, only 27% of senior pastors report finding small groups extremely helpful to their spiritual growth, and 11% went on record to say they're not very helpful at all. Personal time with God still tops the list with 79% saying that reading the Bible, prayer or solitude is "extremely helpful" to spiritual growth. This finding also parallels the responses of executive pastors.

10. They're not thinking about quitting.

In today's world, people tend to switch careers a lot. But what about pastors? Just under half of large church senior pastors surveyed admit they've thought about leaving their church to enter a different occupation in the last five years, although on the upside, most say it's only "once in a while." Furthermore, when asked about their plans to retire, on average senior pastors expect to be in their position for 17 more years (until age 68) – on top of the 15 they've already put into their role.