Here are the final positives
5. There is more likelihood that a minister will show self-control and discretion
Royer points out that if a man intends to stick around for some time to come
he will be very cautious as he mingles with the people in any of the very many possible relations, he will guard his tongue, watch his acts, even his facial expressions, lest he leave a deleterious impression upon the hearts of the people whom he has been commissioned to bless.
Motives are also sanctified to some extent. Anyone can be impressed by a new minister, it is the man who stays year after year whose inner life is exposed and really begins to make an impact.
Royer again, “A man of doubtful character and questionable motives may manage to remain in almost any pastorate for a few years, but if he is wrong at heart the fact will make itself manifest. He must ring true if he hopes to prolong his labours through the years in one place.”
6. The impact of personal disappointment is diminished
This is a point that a writer called Richard Dreselhaus makes. Let me simply quote him
It is virtually impossible for me to recall a time in 45 years of pastoral ministry when I was not battling disappointment, a sense of falling short, of letting people down, of failing to reach goals or achieve objectives.
When pastors stop the clock at any of these moments, the disappointment seems crippling. But when pastors focus instead on months, years, and decades, the hurts of the moments are swept away by the passing of time.
Let me personalize it a bit. Repeatedly I have reviewed the stats for a given Sunday and felt the cause was hopeless; but, when I saw that single Sunday against the backdrop of decades of ministry, the picture began to change.
When evaluating goal achievement at the end of the year, it is tempting to ignore the progress of the decade and focus only on the shortcomings of a given year. The long pull matters. It is winning the war that eclipses the isolated battles that may be lost or won along the way.
One benefit of hindsight is that the valleys are lifted and crooked places are made straight. The criteria used for measuring ministerial effectiveness become increasingly more accurate and reliable. The perplexities of a given moment are diminished and minimized by the trustworthy verdict of passing time. … I argue for the long-term pastorate. I grieve when I see the premature resignation of a gifted minister. I want to shout: “Hold on. Hang in there. What is a day or two, a month or two, or even a year or two in light of a 40- to 50-year lifetime call to ministry?”
I also am a realist. Sometimes the Lord’s assignment is short. Sometimes a pastor has no control over things that happen. There is a right time to conclude an assignment. ... Leaving can be as much a step of obedience as staying. The fact remains, many pastors leave their assignment prematurely and by doing so miss the incredible opportunities longevity can bring.
7. Long range goals are possible
Royer observes that it is foolish to take a one size fits all approach to a pastorate. Successful methods in one place are rarely equally useful in another. “Vicinities and congregations differ of necessity, and the elements which differentiate one congregation from another may require years to master and control. It is also true that the same community and pastorate change vastly.”
He also says that it is only the long term pastor who “can secure unity of purpose in a congregation”. Many churches suffer from the arrival of a series of young men all with their own ideas. In Childs Hill the pattern from the fifties to the seventies was (to caricature) – a fundamentalist, followed by a Lloyd-Jones man, followed by an activist, followed by a Charismatic. Because these men only stayed between four and seven years they had an impact but no really lasting impact. Meanwhile the church got pulled in this direction and that to no great purpose.
8. You have the opportunity to see a generation rise
This may not apply quite where a congregation finds it hard to keep its young people but it is still a joy, for example, to know that someone I dedicated as a child is now on the mission field herself in France, a mother of three. Beasley-Murray says
It is a wonderful privilege, for instance, to be involved with families over a period of time and to see those children brought for a service of dedication later confess their own faith in baptism; and then at a later stage to be involved in their marriage and even in the dedication of their children.
9. You have an opportunity to see the teaching take root
Royer says of the minister “unless his ministry extends over a number of years, he will leave them much as he found them in their way of thinking, believing, and doing.”
Dreselhaus and others say that if you look at the work of the Barna Group, you will find that the median number of years pastors have served in their present assignment is four. (According to Jerry Scruggs, with forced terminations on the increase, the median tenure for Southern Baptist pastors is barely three years; 'The Flexible Leader', Search Winter 1991, 30). Other stats suggest maximum effectiveness does not occur until around the seventh year. (Others note that growth often occurs between five and ten years in). “The point is irresistibly clear:” Dreselhaus says “most pastors leave before they achieve their maximum impact in ministry.”
10. You have the opportunity to see the impact of a full ministry
It is not good for a church to keep changing its minister. Every time a change comes too soon the full impact of a ministry is not seen.