Perseverance Pays

By Ken Hinkley

Perseverance – the art of pressing on in spite of obstacles, challenges, or setbacks. A commitment to a task that is strong enough to see it through. Perseverance is a necessity in the pastoral ministry. In this world of movement and activity where people jump to and from job after job, where there is little stability in most people’s homes, and where longevity is rare, pastors need to be in no hurry to change churches or ministries.

I was shocked to discover that the average length of stay in one church here in America is less than six years. says three to six, tells me less than three and other websites all say six years or less. That’s hardly enough time to get settled! I suppose there are some legitimate reasons for this startling statistic, but it can’t be good for any local church to change leadership so often.

I would like to suggest four things that would help any pastor in a local setting to make a lasting impression on his given community. These are thoughts that, if fully implemented, will raise the average stay and help grow a more healthy church, both locally and globally. With legitimate reasons aside, like illegal activity, immoral behavior, or authoritarian rule, I know these four thoughts will be a big help. I have seen it at work in my own ministry as well as in others. Consider them carefully.


All of us (well, most of anyway) believe that assuming the role of Pastor in a congregation is a call from God. As such, we feel obligated to take on the task of leading a group of sinners into a life of spiritual growth. No one can do that in a short time. Just as there are stages in personal relationships, there are similar ones in the Pastor-church relationship. When people need to be transformed by the teachings of Scripture, it may take a long time to see the growth for which we pray. Some individuals need to be nursed along until they begin to learn to depend on God for their strength, hope, and security.

I have been the Pastor of three congregations in my time. In every case, during interviews, I would tell the committee that if I came to minister among them, I would commit to being in that position for life unless the Lord clearly tells me different. They know upfront that I will not bail on them when we hit a rough patch or face challenges. So far, it has worked well. Only once have I been called away from a ministry to take on a new challenge with a new congregation. In case you’re counting, I currently serve two small (tiny?) churches at the same time. My wife and I moved from our first church after serving ten years. After settling in where we are now, the Lord impressed on us to “assist” another church for a while, therefore only one geographical move, but two new opportunities to serve the people and the Lord. This situation will remain until the Lord God forces us or makes clear to us that a change is necessary.

Pastors who apply for a position in a new congregation should keep the long-term goals in mind, even though it is understood that there will be a honeymoon period. He should look past that to the daily life that will occur beyond the feel-good stage. It might not be a bad idea even to take a pledge similar to wedding vows that say, “I am with you in this for the long haul. I will not give up on you if you will not give up on me.”

This is important for several reasons, not the least of which you will be known as the Pastor of that church for a long time. It gives the members a sense of ownership, the community a person to look to, and unbelievers an opportunity to have their questions answered by someone who will be there for them.

Don’t take the call to ministry lightly. The call to a task requires commitment and dedication. It may also require you to forego other opportunities as you set aside the greener pastures syndrome that will come. Perseverance is a virtue.


When I was in high school, I ran cross country races. One of the key elements that our coach drilled into us who had to run five miles or more over sometimes rough terrain was to set a pace and stick to it until we were close to the end. I find that to be a good analogy. Even the Apostle Paul used it to encourage his readers.[1]

Inevitably, some who were either new to racing or anxious to prove themselves superior would sprint off at a fast speed and lose steam even before reaching the first mile. In the excitement of the race, they lost because they were thinking short-term, not long. If the statistics I discovered are anywhere near accurate, it seems that many pastors run too fast and lose their vision of the goal way too early.

A young man fresh out of college or seminary should be excited about assuming the leadership of one of God’s flocks. It is a joy to be chosen to be the one to teach, guide, and minister to these dear people. The problem is that we too often expect great things to happen in a short time. We see the potential, the need, and the blessing that would come if only the people joined with us in ministering to each other and the community around us. Surely, the Lord will do a wonderful work in this community. And maybe He will. Just not as quickly as you hope and dream.

So, I would advise that you set parameters on your time. You don’t need to lock yourself into a rigid routine in which you do certain things at certain times or on certain days or in specific ways, but to build into your schedule blocks of time for such things as study, recreation, family, rest, and whatever else you know are necessary for you at this time in your life. Learn to be flexible but still get done what needs to be done in any given week.

Pastors, young ones or those new to the pulpit, are often guilty of taking on too much and find that there is never enough time to get done all that appears to be done. Take a step back and look at those projects. Are they truly so important that you would sacrifice your health or your relationships to accomplish them? Come on. Is it really necessary to sweep, mop, or vacuum the floors at midnight on Saturday every week? Can’t you let it go just once? Does the worship of our Creator hinge on how clean the floors are? Would it make a lot of difference if some minor repairs are put off until later? Pace yourself, Pastor, or you will collapse by the side of the trail.

Perhaps it is not the building that begs your attention, but the several programs or ministries that your church offers. Be careful. Taking on too much is a dangerous thing. I can only speak for myself, but I knew right off that I could not be involved in the leadership of more than three arms of the church. Any others would have to be directed by someone else, or we would let that project die. Of course, no one wants to go backward, as some see it, but it is either let it die or do an inadequate job and poorly serve the people and at the same time set yourself up for burn out. No one wants to see that, especially not you. Pace yourself. The race is a long one.


Wayne Cordeiro has written a great book on this subject[2], so I won’t elaborate much except to say it has saved me a lot of worry and headache. Building a team slowly and intentionally is important because you can take your time as a church to discover the men and women who are the most gifted in different areas of ministry and plug them in where they fit best. As I stated above, there is no hurry to reach the goal line, so let the Holy Spirit and others in the church help you discern who would work best and who would not be a good fit. As you place confidence in those chosen to lead, they will appreciate you more. No one likes to be given a responsibility and then be micromanaged. Resentment builds quickly, and wounds hurt slowly, if at all.

Don’t try to do it all. Let others take on a part of the burden.[3]


There are two schools of thought on this point. Some advocate for and some against. I’m in favor of it for the simple reason that those who become close to you will be more open to hearing what you have to say. The barrier of not knowing the speaker is broken down. How many times have you gone to a meeting and listened to what was being said but did not really place a lot of confidence in the speaker because you did not know anything about him or her? It really makes a difference if it is someone you know to be knowledgeable and trustworthy.

Making friends among your parishioners also gives you more opportunities to share your heart in practical matters with them. Sharing your thoughts or giving gentle instruction is more natural and comfortable over a back yard BBQ than from the pulpit. If a couple becomes close to you relationally, they will open up to you in ways they would never do in a counseling room.

You may also be the recipient of their gratitude in unexpected ways. Spontaneous gifts, invitations to outings or events, tickets to a game, or similar gestures may come your way if you show yourself friendly and vulnerable. Your people (some of them at least) will see you as another sinner struggling with life’s challenges. They may also be less likely to send you away if they have developed close ties.

Since you have committed yourself to a long-term relationship, make the most of it. Do the things you would do to cement the bond, to develop a sense of intimacy, and make yourself a real part of the family.

I believe if you practice these four things, your ministry will be blessed, your people appreciative, and your personal life better off. Persevere, Pastor; it may be a long way to the end of your race. Don’t give up quickly.


[1] 1 Corinthians 9:24

[2] Doing Church as a Team, Regal Books, 2004

[3] Galatians 6:2