Urban Ministry Must Be Characterized by Longevity
According to The Barna Group, the average pastor only stays five years in a church, even though the greatest ministry impact in a pastorate is in years five through fourteen.1 I believe this short period of time is one of the reasons for little growth in evangelical churches. In urban ministry, longevity is even more critical. Many city dwellers have experienced an unstable life. Many may not know their father, their mother may have a temporary boyfriend, and for numerous reasons they may move from one apartment to the next. Their entire experience is unstable; therefore, they desperately need consistency and stability. The church needs to be a picture of stability, and the pastor and other church staff need to be a part of this stable picture.
Many who God has touched are non-believers or may have received Christ but, because of Satan’s influence, have drifted away. As God continues to draw them to salvation, or as believers under God’s corrective and chastening hand, they may eventually come back looking for the person who God used to impact their life. What if the person who has ministered to them completes his brief stint and moves on? Who will continue the process? The lack of longevity is an element of credibility in the eyes of those we are seeking to reach. People in ministry need to weather the storms, persevering in the same location. If we serve for an extended period of time in the same ministry, the blessings and the fruit that come from service will be far greater than for the worker or pastor who has many short-term ministries. It takes time to reach people and even longer to disciple them. You will begin to see fruit only after an extended period, usually years.
Most pastors never have the joy of seeing the children who are saved under their ministry grow up and become missionaries or serve as leaders in the church. What a joy to stay and see the fruit of your labors. No wonder church staff members are looked on as outsiders. They leave just as they are beginning to become known and accepted. How can a pastor truly become “incarnational” with such a short tenure? When the church members have seen pastors come and go, no wonder they often don’t support the changes and programs “the new guy” brings in. We need to learn how to weather the storm, work through issues, dig in, and stay.
At the end of his life Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:7). Reaching people in the city requires a fight on our part. It requires determination to finish what we started, and it requires consistent labor through the power of the Holy Spirit if we are to see significant results.
1. Barna, George, Pastor Paid Better but Attendance Unchanged. The Barna Group, 2001. Online: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/39-pastor-paid-better-but-attendance-unchanged.
(This article comes from Chapter 4, Urban Impact)