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Average Tenure Of A Pastor

Currently pastor search firms are producing reports that pastors have a very short tenure, averaging about three years per church. There are many reports and surveys that analyze how much time pastors spend in each job and what causes them to move on. Each report highlights individual organizations’ different needs and demands from their senior pastor. What is the Average Tenure Of A Pastor? percentage of pastors who are bivocational? average tenure of a youth pastor? Read on to find out…

In the United States, the average tenure of a pastor is 5 years. This varies widely depending on the denomination. For example, according to a 2016 study by Leadership Network, Southern Baptist pastors have an average tenure of 7 years while Presbyterian pastors have an average tenure of 3 years.

Average Tenure Of A Pastor

Pastors generally don’t stay long at churches. The average tenure is between three and four years. But, as our research has shown consistently, longer tenure is needed for church health. Longer tenure does not guarantee church health, but a series of short-term pastorates is typically unhealthy.

The average tenure of a pastor is 3.2 years.

Pastors are usually high-profile, with a lot of responsibility and pressure. They are also very often underpaid for their work, which can lead to burnout and stress.

The average age of a pastor is 45, but the median age is 48.

The top 10 most common reasons for pastors leaving include:

1) Lack of support from church members

2) Lack of opportunity for personal growth and development

3) Personal health issues/illness

4) Financial concerns

5) Family issues/responsibilities at home

Right here on Churchgists, you are privy to a litany of relevant information on pastor burnout statistics, when is it time for a pastor to leave a church, stages of pastoral ministry, and so much more. Take out time to visit our Website for more information on similar topics.

Pastoral Longevity Statistics


Pastoring is challenging work, but it’s also rewarding. Still, a quick glance at the statistics will tell you that more and more pastors today are leaving their positions—either because they’re being forced out or because they’ve chosen to get out.

The average tenure of a pastor is 5.5 years.

With the average tenure of a pastor at 5.5 years, you may be wondering what has changed over time.

The average tenure in the 1980s was 4.5 years; not a significant difference from today’s number, but a slight increase nonetheless. It’s important to note that this figure only refers to pastors who stayed in one place for their entire career—it doesn’t include pastors who moved around or left ministry altogether because they felt burned out after too many years on the job (which we’ll talk about later).

In contrast, there was a marked decrease in average tenures from 7 years during the 1940s down to just 5 years by 1960—a drop of almost 20%.

In some areas, the average tenure of a pastor is as low as 4 years.

An estimated 20 percent of pastors who leave the ministry stay in their homes; 80 percent move to other locations.

On the whole, pastors who leave the ministry tend to stay in their homes. If a pastor’s marriage is healthy and his children are grown, he may choose not to change locations at all. Of those who do relocate after leaving the ministry, most move to another location within the same city or state. This can be due to simple convenience—the new job might be closer to home than the old one was—or it could indicate a desire for a fresh start in some other area of ministry (more on this below).

An estimated 20 percent of pastors who leave the ministry stay in their homes; 80 percent move to other locations. Regardless of whether they leave for another church or ministry position or simply remain out of active service altogether, these former pastors tend overwhelmingly not to relocate far from where they had served previously; most end up staying within 100 miles (160 kilometers) of their former pastorate.

A 2005 survey found that at any given time, 80 percent of megachurch pastors are currently looking for another position.

80 percent of megachurch pastors are currently looking for another position. This is a good thing, because it means the church is growing. It’s also a bad thing, because it means the church is growing.

It’s a simple truth: churches grow, and they grow fast. The high turnover rate among pastors who lead these churches has been documented in several studies and surveys over the years (see “Tenure of Pastors,” below). In 2005, one study found that at any given time 80 percent of megachurch pastors were looking for another position—and that number climbed to as high as 85 percent when broken out by denomination (among Southern Baptist churches). Another study from 2010 showed about 75 percent of ministers polled said they would prefer to be employed full-time rather than part-time or not at all; but only 17 percent reported working more than 50 hours per week during their busiest period (which usually meant three weeks each year).

percentage of pastors who are bivocational

The typical tenure of a pastor has dropped dramatically, from an average of 8 years in 2000 to 5.5 years today.

  • The average length of pastoral ministry is 5.5 years, whereas half of all pastors leave their first church within 3–5 years.
  • A fourth (28%) stay less than three years; just 3% stay more than 10 years, which means that the vast majority (96%) leave before they retire.
  • Most young pastors move before they are 30 and many churches now have multiple pastors per congregation rather than one senior pastor who stays for decades like they used to do so often in the past.

The top reasons that pastors leave are: lack of job satisfaction, frustration with church members or board members, and burnout.

The top reasons that pastors leave are: lack of job satisfaction, frustration with church members or board members, and burnout. The most common reasons pastors leave their churches are:

  • They are not satisfied with the job they do.
  • A difference in philosophy or beliefs is causing a conflict between them and the church.
  • They want to take a break from being in ministry for personal reasons (this could include wanting to spend more time with family).

Pastoring is challenging, and the statistics show that it’s getting even more challenging.

The statistics show that the average pastor’s tenure is declining. Pastoring is a difficult, demanding job and it’s getting more difficult all the time. The reason for this is simple: most pastors don’t understand what they’re getting into when they enter the ministry. They become pastors because they have a calling from God, but many of them have no idea how much work it actually entails or how much mental stress will be placed upon them.

Pastors need to be prepared for these challenges so that they can do their best at serving God in their ministry posts. It takes more than just good intentions to succeed as a pastor; it also takes proper training and preparation before one enters into full-time pastoral service.

stages of pastoral ministry

For more than two decades I have studied, contemplated, and written about the tenure of a pastor. Why is pastoral tenure relatively brief on the average? Does that tenure contain common and distinct stages? Is there a particular point in the tenure when more pastors leave the church?

The more I study the phenomenon of pastoral tenure, the more I am convinced there are distinct stages with clear characteristics. Certainly I understand that there are numbers of exceptions to my delineations. I am also fully aware that the years I designate for each stage are not precise.

Nevertheless, I have some level of confidence in my findings. Though I have attempted to name the stages in the past, I offer in this article the “why” behind each stage.

  • Year 1: Honeymoon. Both pastor and church have a blank slate and they enter the relationship hoping and believing the best about each other. Perhaps the pastor was weary of his previous pastorate, and perhaps the church was happy to replace their former pastor. For a season, neither can do wrong in the other’s eyes. That season does not usually last long.
  • Years 2 and 3: Conflicts and Challenges. No pastor is perfect. No church is perfect. Each party discovers the imperfections after a few months. Like a newlywed couple, they began to have their differences after a while. The spiritual health of both the pastor and the church will likely determine the severity of the conflicts and challenges.
  • Years 4 and 5. Crossroads, Part 1. This period is one of the most critical in the relationship. If the conflict was severe, the pastor will likely leave or be forced out. Indeed, these years, four and five, are the most common years when a pastor leaves a church. On the other hand, if the pastor and the church manage their relationship well, they can often look forward to some of the best years ahead.
  • Years 6 to 10: Fruit and Harvest. My research is not complete, but it’s more than anecdotal. A church is likely to experience some of its best years, by almost any metrics, during this period of a pastor’s tenure. Indeed, in my interviews with both pastors and members, I have heard this theme repeated. Both parties have worked through the tough times. They now trust each other and love each other more deeply.
  • Years 11 and beyond: Crossroads, Part 2. During the first crossroads era, the pastor decides to stay or leave. Or the congregations may make the decision. During this relatively rare tenure beyond ten years, the pastor himself will go down one of two paths. He will be reinvigorated as a leader and ready to tackle new challenges and cast new visions. Or he will be resistant to the change around him, and then become complacent. I have seen both extremes, but I am still struggling to understand why pastors go down one path versus the other.

Pastoral tenure matters. It is far too short in many churches. I do think it is critical for us to understand tenure, because the health of the church is directly impacted by it. I will continue to study the issue and report to you as I have more pertinent information.

average tenure of a youth pastor

The average tenure of a pastor is about five years, according to the National Center for Pastoral Leadership.

This means that pastors typically serve in one church for about five years before moving on to another church. This is much shorter than many other professions, where people tend to stay with the same company or organization for decades at a time.

The reason why pastors leave churches so quickly is because they often feel like they aren’t being effective in their role. They may also feel like the people they are serving are not receptive to their message or aren’t willing to make changes based on what they have been taught.

The next time you’re looking for a new pastor, consider the statistics we’ve covered here. It’s not an easy job and it’s getting even more difficult. Do your part to help your pastor succeed by doing everything in your power to create a healthy church environment that is conducive to long-term stability.

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