I am a big fan of long-term pastorates. By this I mean 10 to 15 years. However, after 15 years, there are some predictable issues that occur and because of these, congregations tend to make bad decisions in calling a new Rector. Often new Rectors become unintentional interims. So, what should congregations leaders and clergy know about the congregational dynamics following the long-term Pastorate? Over the years, I've used the following info help congregations face the transition to a new Rector.
I. The congregation is normally in decline and is most likely to continue this pattern.
A. There will be a predictable drop in membership especially during the second year of the new Rector.
B. A large number of “marginal members” will use the leaving of the old Rector as a time to change church attachment.
C. A number of “historically rooted” members will feel disconnected by the old Rector’s departure.
II. The departure of the former Rector will create a void which cannot be filled by a new person.
A. The older the age of the former Rector, the more that person functioned as a “Patriarch or Matriarch” and less as a leader.
B. The earned esteem, respect and emotional attachment, which the years provided, have little carry over to the new Rector.
C. The former Rector has almost always been seen as a person of religious authority “older and more mature than us”.
III. Congregations tend to make poor decisions due to the emotional attachment to the former Rector.
A. Most write job descriptions based on “the skills not found in our former Rector.” This only accentuates the differences a new Rector brings.
B. The longer the pastorate, the more novelty seems like a good idea. This could include such areas as age, theological orientation, personal characteristics and skills. ( i.e. An INFP followed by an ESTJ)
C. The grieving process for a congregation – even when people believe the former Rector has stayed too long – is three to five years. (Some long time members may never successfully work through their grief!)
D. 50% of all clergy who follow a tenure of longer than 15 years are forcefully removed before 5 years!