3 Benefits of Staying Long Term
This spring will mark 9 years at my current church. Man, that time has flown by. I never expected to be here this long, honestly; but, as the time here keeps piling up I’m seeing more and more the benefits that come from long term ministry. Really, it can all be summarized into one word: trust.
If you put in the time to build trust there are 3 key areas that improve dramatically in your ministry: Relationships, Freedom, and Influence.
There’s a depth to relationships that can only come with time. Sure, there will always be a few people in your ministry that you’ll connect with quickly, but most will take longer. I’ve had students in my ministry that I thought I knew well but it was only after 3 or 4 years that they began to open up to me. There are parents who have had kids in my ministry as long as I’ve been here who are just now beginning to seek me out for help and support. There’s just no way to fast forward it. Relationships take trust and trust takes time.
The more time I spend here the more I see the cumulative effect of all the trips taken, sermons preached, meals eaten, and memories shared. They have each served to deepen relationships, and the deeper those relationships go the more opportunities I get to point students and their families toward Jesus.
I’ve talked with many fellow youth pastors who are frustrated by the lack of freedom they have in their roles. They feel like every decision they try to make is scrutinized, second guessed, or that they’re simply not allowed to make the changes they believe are needed in their ministries. It’s frustrating and I’ve been there. However, contrary to what we might want to be true, people shouldn’t trust us simply because we’re the pastor. Nope. Not part of the deal. A mentor of mine always says it like this: “you’ve got to put coins in the bank”. You put coins in the bank with small victories and successes at first (like year 1 and 2) and slowly build on those. When you’ve deposited enough coins then you can start making withdrawals - that is, making bigger, riskier moves that will require people to trust you.
When you put a lot of time in at a church you should have a lot of coins deposited and therefore a lot more freedom.
Most of us want a say in things that happen in the church beyond our ministry. We want influence. If you want influence, you’ve gotta build trust - and here’s 3 ideas for how to do that.
First - keep quiet for a while. Odds are the problems that seem simple to you are bigger and more complicated than you know, and the solutions that seem obvious may have already been tried. Seek to understand before seeking to be understood. Said another way: Shut up, listen, and learn.
Second - Run your own ministry with excellence. If the areas you’re being asked to lead aren’t in good shape, nobody will want your input on anything else. Demonstrate your competence in your ministry over an extended period and you will be sought out.
Third - offer to help outside your job description. Help your pastor pull off the next church wide event, fill a gap in the kids ministry one Sunday, mop up the floor when someone spills coffee in the gym, whatever. Just be a good team player. Do those things long enough and you’ll gain the trust of your Sr pastor, leadership, and congregation. And with that trust will come influence.
Your first 2-3 years at a church can be extremely challenging. Many don’t last past that point. But, I’m convinced that if you can push through the initial challenges and build trust over a long period of time you will see exponential benefits in your relationships, freedom, influence, and beyond.