In both churches and other positions, success is often seen in acquiring positions that involve greater resources, greater numbers, and greater opportunities. It is upward mobility. If one is really doing a good work at one location, wouldn’t the natural move be to do the same work in a new and better place? The plight of ministers is often to be on the search for the next great opportunity. This seems to be the only way to increase in church size, opportunity, and pay. The statistics of a minister’s tenure bear this reality: either we are looking to move up or we are looking to move out (perhaps another blog).
As a sophomore in college, FBC Junction City approached me about serving as their part-time Student Minister. Though I did not understand my call to ministry at this point in my life, it seemed a great way to serve Christ in the church. My first Bible study had three of us: me and two other boys. And in fact, for the next couple of years, that is typically all that came. However, I did not see this as any failure. I did not know what success or failure really was at that point. As these two young men (and me too) began to grow in Christ, the Lord began to bring more and more students to this smaller country church. As graduation from college neared in my future; I could not consider leaving what God was doing in this church. I had only been there three years. I made a choice to continue my education at a location that would allow me to continue to serve at this church. It was an incredible blessing to see God grow a group of young people (who were just a few years younger than me); one that I would have completely missed without making the decision to stay put for a while.
As I near completion of my tenth year in Student Ministry at Parkway, God has taught me some incredible lessons about the value of remaining in one church for a longer period of time. My prayer is that these would serve as an encouragement for pastors to value the call and church that God has placed you rather than seeing the current situation as a stepping stone to the next church.
Aside from the struggles of changing homes, schools, and neighbors, the blessing of my immediate family embracing and connecting long term with their church family has been tremendous. Parkway is their church. There is no sense in our home that we will leave one day (though we must be obedient if God does move us). We are in with both feet. There are no reservations or guarded walls in fear of future separation.
Growth in Ministry
Let’s face it, we all have experienced ministry such as sermons, Bible studies, events, and training that have worked well. Some might call this our “bag of tricks.” What do we do when these things run out? Do we look for a new venue or do we continue to be learners so that we can faithfully shepherd people? Serving in one place for a long time requires a transparency and authenticity about our own growth and obedience to the Lord.
I am grateful that there are many other leaders in our Student Ministry that are as capable as I am to lead, teach, counsel, and disciple. However, this is never the case on arrival at a church. This is the fruit of sharing long term ministry together. For those of us that would describe ourselves as “task-oriented,” this is must become our priority. Yes, it is often easier to do it ourselves than train someone else. However, it is not about what is easy; discipleship is a process that involves sharing our lives and ministry with key people.
Felicia and I have been blessed to experience wonderful friends in every church that we have served. However, as God as allowed us to raise our children, work alongside, serve in ministry and missions, attend ball games and community events, and simply share meals with the families of Parkway for so many years it has allowed a depth of friendship and relationships that many other ministry friends of mine do not have.
And finally (and the best) blessing of staying put is seeing authentic growth in people that God has entrusted to your care. To see the journey of a shy seventh grader enter your ministry and now watch them serve across the globe is a blessing that only comes with long term tenure. Our faithful preaching, teaching, and discipling plants and waters the seed; though it is God that does the growing. However, it is a great blessing to see His work over an extended period of time.
This article was originally posted on 10/7/14, by the Nelson Baptist Association. To see the original posting, please click here: http://nelsonbaptistassociation.com/2014/10/07/the-value-of-staying-put/