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The first ten years in a congregation

The first ten years in a congregation

Lots of folks could benefit from an Alban Institute tract by Israel Galindo from 2004 that’s been electronically promoted. It’s called “Staying Put: A Look at the First 10 Years of Ministry.”

Galindo looks at the arc of ten years within the same parish and at how the dynamic constantly shifts as does the inner narrative of the clergy serving it.

During my years in parish ministry I offered spiritual direction for clergy in the area. In the span of two years, four pastors came to me with what seemed to be the same symptoms. Each felt a sense of restlessness, malaise, and vague anxiety about the future of his or her current congregational ministry. Puzzled that their struggles seemed so similar, I looked for a common factor in these pastors’ lives and their widely differing church contexts.

The only common element all four shared was the length of time they had served their current parishes. Each was in either the seventh or eighth year with one congregation. Moreover, none of these pastors had previously stayed with one parish for more than five years. Could this common thread of short pastoral tenure be the source of their restlessness?

After informal surveys, as well as conversations with pastors and denominational staff, I’m convinced that important dynamics are at work in a pastor’s tenure at one church. In my view, a particular pattern marks the pastor’s first 10 years in one parish. The pattern is shaped by several elements. First, the dynamics of the corporate relationship inform how a pastor is called or appointed to a church, begins his or her ministry there, and moves into the role of pastoral leadership. Second, the pastor’s unique relationship with a congregation manifests itself in a predictable ministerial life cycle. The existence of such a cycle suggests that a pastor’s experience in the parish can be anticipated and managed.


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