How to Avoid Losing Your Pastor After a Church Building Project
Church building projects can sometimes create a sustained season of stress for pastors and ministry leaders. Though there’s positive excitement as walls go up and spaces take shape, the change associated with building or renovating a church can leave senior leaders vulnerable to getting stuck and possibly leaving the church once the dust from the construction project has settled.
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Why Pastors Leave
Though pastors leave their post for many reasons, Thom Rainer, researcher, author, pastor, and consultant, asked pastors why they left ministry following a major success. Here are four main reasons why pastors said they left after a major success:
1. Pastors were burned out.
2. Pastors families’ suffered.
3. Pastors lost their zeal for normal ministry.
3. Pastors lost their connection with the majority of the congregation.
I would echo Rainer’s first finding: burnout is the chief reason why we’ve seen senior pastors move on following a church building project.
Apart from a building project, most pastors find themselves working 48-55 hours a week doing the necessary work of counseling, visitation, preaching, sermon preparation, and other administrative duties. These activities alone can be emotionally and physically stressful over time. When you add the responsibility of getting a new facility built and managing the change associated, you are cooking up a recipe for burnout.
All too often, pastors and other ministry leaders are tasked with managing a building project at a micro-level rather than a macro-level. At Aspen Group, we believe a pastor should play a significant role in casting vision for the project and outlining the overarching “why.” They should be part of making decisions that affect the ministry impact of the project. These are all macro-level decisions.
The pastor should not, however, be burdened with micro-level decisions, like determining construction subcontractors, managing all of the trade partner relationships, or the details of a construction timeline. The pastor should remain focused on the ministry that is happening and preparing the church for the new ministry opportunities that will be available after the newly built or remodeled space is complete.
We certainly think pastors should stay abreast of their church’s building project, but they should not be strapped with responsibilities that hinder them from effectively leading the congregation. Our design-build process allows us to do the heavy-lifting on a church building project so that your team can stay focused on ministry.
How to Avoid Pastor Burnout
Having regular, candid conversations with your pastoral staff about their stress level and how much of a distraction their involvement in the project is having on their ability to lead ministry is one of the best ways to curtail burnout during a church building project.
Church leadership teams and building committees may even want to have a standing agenda item that asks each person, including the senior pastor, “On a scale of 0-10, how much stress is the facility project causing you?” And, “On scale of 0-10, how much of a distraction is your involvement in the project creating for you?” This will help you address any issues long before your team begins to experience burnout.
Our mission is to create space for ministry impact, and our approach to building for ministry is designed to leverage the gifts of your church’s building team while protecting your leaders from the burdens of the building project. When choosing a church building partner, it is critical that you have good chemistry with that partner and that you can trust them to manage the details in a way that best serves your ministry. If you’d like to learn more about how to select a building partner for your next church project, check out “Choosing a Church Building Partner.”
About Josh Gregoire
Josh Gregoire serves as Associate Director of Development at Aspen Group. Since he joined Aspen in 2004 he has had roles in design, construction, IT, marketing, project development, and currently, business development. He is often the first point of contact for churches who are considering a church facility renovation or new building project. His experiences at Aspen and in pastoral ministry have prepared him to come alongside church leaders and help them navigate the earliest conversations and stages of a facility project. Josh also serves as the Discipleship Pastor in his home church, providing vision and leadership for ministries such as Small Groups, First Impressions (hospitality), and Next Steps. He has also served as his denomination’s District Sunday School and Discipleship Ministry Chair, and he continues to provide coaching and training to leaders and volunteers in these areas as needed. He and his wife Missy are raising two kids.