Signs You May Not Last Long

The average tenure of a pastor isn’t anything to brag about. It’s a little scary, actually. So I have put together some warning signs that you may want to watch for if you have have recently been hired at a church. If any of these are true of you, don’t throw your boxes away just yet. You may need them again real soon..

1. They give you the keys to the buildings…and the lawnmower. I’ve mowed a lot of grass for the church. Nothing wrong with that. But if a church expects the pastor to do such jobs it could make for a tough ride.

2. You find out the new & exciting church the previous pastor was “called to” is the one you just left. Everything looks good when your present circumstances are horrible. Trials have a way of blurring our vision. My advice is, if possible, never make a major decision in the midst of a trial. And in most instances it is a MUST to speak with the previous pastor about the church.

3. The pianist has a spittoon. This can’t be a good sign. I didn’t make this one up either. It is a reality. Leadership must understand they will have to make adjustments to keep from casting stumbling blocks before others. If they are not willing to do this, it will be tough to lead.

4. There are two deacons meetings each month. You are invited to one. There is no place in ministry for a dictatorship. But the pastor must be involved in the leadership of the church. Regularly scheduled meetings of the leadership that do not include the pastor are a sign of a spiritually sick church.

5. You recognize all of your deacons have the same last name. Never a good idea. Especially in a smaller church. Allegiance is too often with family rather than with Scripture.

6. The church has had five pastors in seven years, but the same worship leader for ten. Watch out for staff that seem to always go unscathed while other staff are given the boot. Not the case always, but sometimes they are the source of the problem.

7. You look out the window & the deacons are marching around the pastorium carrying shofars. I envy churches that are elder led. But the fact is in my denomination most are deacon led. If the deacons are against you, it’s tough.

8. Your leadership meetings always end with “Let’s ask the deacons first.” If approval for everything is contingent upon the deacons you could be in trouble. If you have good and godly deacons that may not be the case. But too often deacons are where they are because they are “good” and not necessarily “godly”.

9. You get a list of “expectations” and preaching isn’t one of them. Churches normally come up with their own expectations for a pastor. And sadly, those expectations often do not originate with the Word of God. As a pastor you will recognize that your most important job is preaching/teaching the Word. If the church does not see that, it  could cause serious tension.

Remember “It’s better to want what you don’t have than have what you don’t want!” Don’t be so quick to go to a new church. Check it out first. Take your time. Ask tough questions. You will never experience the fruitfulness that longevity brings bouncing from church to church.


  1. says

    We have had an uptick in this type of post this month. I feel led to share something in response to all of them, not just this one.

    I am not a vocational minister but I will share something that I noticed from my vocation (application software development). Some of us grizzled veterans who had fought and won previous battles in our realm and successfully deployed software tools to the amazement and wonder of colleagues at other companies in our industry, came to use cynicism and complaining as a coping mechanism during our most recent wildly aggressive project. Because a core of us veterans have done this together before and have developed skills for navigating around, through or unseen by corporate bureaucracy in ways that the Harvard Business school would consider heresy, we managed to get things done even though it seemed like upper management (see board of Deacons) was trying to kick the chair out from under us at every opportunity….metaphorically speaking of course. The problem was we were expressing that cynical jocularity in front of newer, younger members of our team who didn’t have the same history of successful deployments to help them set context and thus filter or appreciate the cynicism for what it was.

    The result was we were unintentionally training our new hires to be cynical well beyond their years. My colleagues and I recognized what was happening and we dialed it all waaaaay back. In fact some of us spent some time explaining why our project and our people were going to succeed in spite of some things that drove us crazy and we let them in on the things that we were doing on their behalf to make sure they were being recogni$ed for doing great deeds well above their pay grade.

    My point is that while cynical joking may have therapeutic value to you grizzled veterans of many years in pastoral offices it might not be as therapeutic for the younger pastors coming up. After getting all these whiney posts out of your systems you might then consider taking those less experienced preachers to lunch and explaining why it’s going to work out and what you are doing to help them be successful. You guys are on the same team right? Learn from my mistakes.

    • Greg Harvey says

      Excellent, excellent point. Some of us who grew up around the ministry–my dad served in churches in Texas, California, and now Washington state, served with the FMB, and has worked with the BSSB/Lifeway, the Hawaii/Pacific, and Northwest regional conventions–have grown up around a lot of expressed frustrations and don’t always (often as a matter of modesty on the part of pastors and missionaries) hear nearly as many of the stories of lives changed.

      We need to remember that we are not only Royal Ambassadors to the world, but to each other. We are a daily reminder to each other of who the King is and how much he loves each of us and from that love should follow our own love for each other expressed through wisdom and not just through frustration. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a lot of wisdom in this post. But it lacks the OTHER stories from our dear friend Unappreciated.

      Perhaps he would find the time to tell some of THOSE stories, too, in a way that helps people see why it makes it all worthwhile to serve the King in spite of THESE stories. Not asking for a serving of saccharin. Just a little heartwarming nugget or two of how God overcomes: because I believe he ALWAYS does.

    • JPH says

      Ed B –
      I am a bit confused…are you writing in response to the Blog entry or the comments section about the Blog entry?

      Thanks for sharing.

      • says

        I commented primarily in response to recent articles like this one. I tried to state that in my first paragraph but I may have failed at being clear.

    • says

      I think you have a very valid point. On the one hand, pastors need a humorous outlet to cope with the very real challenges of their calling. On the other hand, if left unchecked it can become the pastor’s equivalent of a group of men or women getting together to trash-talk their spouses.

    • K Gray says

      Thank you for this. Cynical joking can become a church culture, emanating from the top.

  2. Jerry Smith says

    I once was invited to a church that seemed to be led by one deacon, it seemed he was the ruler. After Sunday school services at 11:00 AM they had two songs, he was the song leader, them the offering. Them they had special singing, a quartet made up of this deacon & 3 more. Finally at 20 minutes to twelve the quartet stopped singing, they them had one more song inviting to to take over after this song. As i stepped behind the pulpit this deacon, song leader, the leader of this church, set on the 2nd pew in the center right in front of me held up his left arm, pulled his shirt sleeve back, looking at his wristwatch, at this time it was 15 minutes till twelve noon.

    After this about every two minutes he did the very same actions. To me it seemed that e was being sure that I saw him look at his wristwatch, & when he looked at it, he would them look strait at me, them back at his wristwatch one more time before putting him arm back down.

    He seemed to be saying to me hurry up & shut up, preaching is foolishness, singing is very important.

    The evening services when about in the same manner, with him doing the same things.

    I knew of this church, & I had heard that their singing was more important to them than preaching. But I thought that was just some gossip going about by some who had preached at this church.

    I once met a pastor that was just called to pastor a church whose pastor had resigned, & the church loved that pastor that had left them. I like the man, he seemed like a great pastor, but I knew it was not going to be good for him. It wasn’t’. They welcomed him with open arms, them ran him off in just a few short weeks. Them instantly called their previous pastor who had accepted the call of a smaller church, & he came back.

    And in just a few short weeks he was gone again & they were looking for another pastor.

    The truth is new pastors & even experiences pastors can wind up in some very bad situations.

    The Unappreciated Pastor is 100% correct. Be careful new pastors. Be sure & check the church out, & ask questions, & pray about it very much.

      • says

        Perhaps I have just been blessed n a special way. God has given me some wonderful deacons down through the years. More than once in my younger years godly deacons kept me from making big mistakes and help me to see when I did in fact succeed in making mistakes.

        An important fact to remember. Deacons were there before the pastor, when there was no pastor, and after the pastor. He loves his church every bit as much as the pastor.

  3. Greg Harvey says

    Jesus is alive…that is all. Isn’t it amazing how much the Father gets done through us human beings? 😉

  4. John Fariss says

    Having served several dysfunctional churches–deliberately mind you–in many of those the deacon body (or board if that) function as permission-denying bodies. They see their purpose to preserved the status quo and the church’s traditions no matter what else may change–demographics, technology, attitudes, whatever. But some things can force change. At the church I served which was the most extreme of those, the chairman of deacons and deacon-for-life (the others rotated on and off with great precision), was the chief nay-sayer. For years before I came, a sizable group in the church had begged, pleaded, and agitated for pew cushions; this deacon always squashed it. Then he came down with testicular cancer, and guess what? They got pew cushions!

    Unfortunately, little else changed. But my point is that in such churches, when things become personal to these “power people,” change can occur. But it takes time and energy, and sometimes difficulties, for it to become personal.


  5. Sam Downey says

    Most of the situations that have been mentioned in the article and the comments, I have not only heard about, but experienced. Some deacons I have known and worked with were mean-spirited and had no care for anything but their own way, but most were kind, loving, and really interested in the welfare of the Church. The first small Church I pastored, down in Texas in 1966, was the ONLY Church I pastored which did not display some of the problems mentioned here. The small Church I now pastor, has the beloved former pastor installed as one of the two deacons. He is still, after five years, referred to as Pastor Bud. In between these two, I have pastored numerous small SBC Churches, which have included all of the above. Never was I able to say to the Lord Who called me to shepherd a particular flock, “I won’t go, because they have too many problems – they don’t pay enough – etc.” God may use me to alleviate the situation – or not. I have learned so much, through the years, because I was willing to go where God directed, even if I personally didn’t really want to face the challenge, or feel capable. That’s how I wound up in the frozen north.

  6. Jess says

    Unappreciated pastor, I have never laughed so hard, Your post also has a very sad part, “it’s true”. I once had a church member ask me where are the demons? I thought I was going to choke, I thought I was going to laugh myself to death.

  7. dr. james willingham says

    Permit me to add one item not on your last. One sure sign that you will not last long is, “When they have you stand up, while they sing,’Happy Birthday,’ to you, and then send you and your wife outside.” In fact, they will inform you on your way back in, “We couldn’t find anything wrong with you, but we fired you anyway.” Then you will find out that the powers that be can not only keep you from getting another church; they can even keep you from getting a secular job. A reality that is hard to bear, if you don’t understand that there is a conspiracy that runs things, regardless of who is in power.