Few things stay the same over time, including pastoral ministry. I know my conclusions here are anecdotal, but the pastorate has changed in the 36 years I’ve been in full-time ministry. Here are some of those ways:
- Preaching is more expository. We preached the Bible years ago, but seldom in the systematic expository way that is common today.
- Pastoral care is more centered in small groups. My job expectation as a young pastor was to make every pastoral visit. Now, many churches are more open to pastors shepherding from the pulpit while small groups do the face-to-face ministry.
- Pastoral leadership is more team-based. A renewed emphasis on a plurality of elders has fostered this change. Less common, albeit still out there, is the pastor who runs the show alone.
- Pastoral failures are much more widely known. The internet has created this reality. Seldom can a pastor or church hide a failure any more.
- Bivocational pastorates are more accepted. Years ago, pastors were bivocational only because a church was not yet capable of paying a full-time salary. Now, more pastors see the bivocational role as an intentional missional calling.
- Pastors are giving more attention to intentional leadership skills. We talked about this issue years ago, but I’m hearing more pastors talk now about things like team-building, vision-casting, and staff discipling.
- More pastors are raised up within the same church. In my early days of ministry, I can think of no church who hired a pastor from within that church; instead, churches found their leaders externally. That’s changing, especially as congregations seek successors for long-term, retiring pastors.
- Parsonages are less common. Immediately available housing on the church property was a “selling point” back then. Not so now, particularly as pastors think about home equity and the future.
- More future pastors are getting their theological training in a local church. Because of the availability of distance education, more leaders-to-be are remaining in a local church setting while getting their seminary education. A physical relocation to a seminary is no longer assumed.
- More seminary students are struggling under a call to pastoral ministry. Years ago, we young preachers waited quite impatiently to begin pastoring. Now, more students are less open to stepping immediately into a pastoral role. They often view themselves as unprepared for a senior pastoral role, and they would much prefer an internship or associate role at first.
What are your thoughts about my list? What changes have you seen?