Over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of pastors in difficult churches to lead. They’re not impossible—because nothing’s impossible for God (Matt. 19:26)—but they’re still tough to pastor:
- A church led by an entrenched family. They’re on every committee. Their philosophy is simple: “This is our church. We were here before you got here, and we’ll be here when you’re gone.”
- A church most recently pastored by a long-term beloved pastor. It’s just hard to walk in the footsteps of a hero. In many cases, the pastor following a hero becomes a de facto interim pastor.
- A church unwilling to change as its community changes around them. They ignore their immediate mission field—sometimes even fearing it. Their building becomes a place to retreat from the change rather than a place of renewal to reach the changing world around them.
- A church that has been reduced to only a few remaining senior adults. They’re usually loving, godly, sacrificial church members who deeply love their church. It’s tough, though, to bring in needed young families when the church lacks any in the first place.
- A church with a history of running off pastors. In some cases, it seems almost tradition to see how long the “new guy” will make it. The church gains a reputation in the community, and they usually live up to it.
- A church that never got over its big “split.” Frankly, I’m amazed by how long some church people can hold a grudge. Hit the right nerve in them, and it’s as if they’re right in the middle of the controversy again.
- A church with seemingly more committees than attenders. By the time the church approves a decision on something, the question is often no longer relevant. Sometimes, church bureaucracy can get in the way of the spread of the gospel.
So, do we give up on these churches? I don’t think so, for God really can restore them to health. If you’re leading one of these churches, though, don’t walk your road alone. You need the prayerful support of others as you pastor in a hard place.
Are there other types of churches you would add to this list?