Beyond Survival: 6 Strategies for Flourishing as a Pastor


Don't quit until you do this. The role of a pastor is perhaps the most challenging role you can have. Even more reason to implement these 6 strategies to go beyond just surviving.

If You Lead a Church, I’ve Been Thinking About You

We all know that leadership is hard. I mean, if it were easy, everybody would do it.

This is particularly true of pastoral leadership.

No wonder so many pastors are walking away.

Here’s the reality:
  • More than 4 in 10 clergy surveyed in fall 2023 had seriously considered leaving their congregations at least once since 2020. 
  • 50% of pastors are considering leaving the ministry in totality. 
  • 90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.
  • 84% of pastors feel they are on call 24/7.
  • 65% of pastors feel their family lives in a “glass house” and fear they are not good enough to meet expectations.
  • Only 38% of pastors say they are very satisfied with their current church.

There’s more, but you get the point. If you’re a pastor, you’re living the point. 

Pastoral leadership pits your calling against everyone’s expectations. The job attacks your spiritual life as your work and relationship with God seemingly become one. The role requires organizational leadership and a shepherding heart.

Good luck with all of that!

This Morning Reminded Me That Your Job is CHALLENGING

It’s Sunday evening when I am writing this post. I’m in Naples, Florida, working with a church and its staff. I preached this morning, and we have a meeting scheduled tomorrow to discuss discipleship pathways and growth opportunities.

But this evening, I’m reflecting on what I experienced this morning. The church is going through a revitalization. Long story short, the new pastor recently took over following a nearly one-year leadership vacuum. In his first few weeks, he led them to move locations (they are portable and needed to move) and made other significant changes to the church. And he’s far from finished changing things in need of change. It’s a revitalization, after all.

When I arrived this morning, the pastor and a setup crew were 3 hours into their morning setup routine. An elementary school was now a church, ready for adults and children to arrive. They were rehearsing for the worship set, and the lead pastor was running the lyrics. He wasn’t supposed to, but a few callouts forced him into the position.

Here’s a quick breakdown of his morning:
  • 6:30 am: Arrival to begin setup. Unload all the trailers and get the maze of pipes and drapes up.
  • 6:31 am: Call the school administration to inform them the AC didn’t appear to be working. This church is in Florida; this really matters.
  • 6:41 am: Call about the AC again. It’s definitely not working.
  • 8:00 am: Begin worship service rehearsal. This was when the pastor realized he’d be running lyrics for the service. Support the band and jump back and forth to the stage to host the service and lead the vision moment. And check again on the AC. Again. The floor was getting slippery from the humidity. 
  • 8:20 – 9:20 am: Participate in the rehearsal while calling the school about the AC and checking on volunteer staffing and running worship slides and checking his mic. 
  • 9:30 am: Lead the volunteer teams through a huddle, encouraging and inspiring them with a short devotion and prayer.
  • 9:30 am: Changed shirts after sweating through his during setup.
  • 9:40 am: Begin greeting attendees and conversing with the crowd in his somewhat fresh shirt. Meet a new guest family and answer some questions. Apologize for the lack of AC.
  • 10:00 am: Service begins. The pastor welcomes everyone from the stage and while they stand up to worship, he sprints back to the sound console to run lyrics for worship.
  • 10:18 am: He then sneaks back up to the stage to close the worship set and cast vision for giving to the church. Then he transitions to me. Normally, he’s preaching, too.
  • 11:01 am: When I prayed after the message, he joined me on stage to close the service.
  • 11:06 am: As most people left, the pastor joined a few others to begin tearing down the entire church for Monday morning school. By 12:30, he was able to grab some lunch with me.

FYI, the AC never came on.

I write this not to gain him sympathy but to recognize the challenges pastors face.

If you’re not in ministry, send your pastor a note of encouragement soon.

If you are in ministry… 

If you’re in ministry, you’re doing a mighty work that can feel overwhelming and often disappointing. You rarely see the fruit of your labor, but there is fruit. Your labor is worth it. God is using your time and investment to change lives and generations.

Yet I don’t want you to become another statistic. Many people leave pastoral ministry for a positive reason (that’s what I did). But most leave for survival.

When I thought about my friend and pastor who I’m with this weekend, some thoughts came to mind:

1. Don’t Believe For a Moment That You’re Responsible for the Results

It’s your job to work hard and pray harder, but the results are on God. He’s the one with the power to change lives. It’s your job to help set the scene for Him to do what only he can do.

2. Work for One

I came across this passage again recently:

“No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.”
Romans‬ ‭2‬:‭29‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Who are you working for, really? Yourself? Your opportunities or next steps? Your board or congregation? All of those answers lead to frustration.

You’re working for an audience of One. Keep that in mind the next time you’re tempted to seek anyone else’s approval.

3. Set The Right Priorities

You’ve heard this a thousand times, so I’ll keep it short: Your family is your first ministry. Never let them suffer at the hands of your church work. It’s the fastest way to drive your family away from the church and, potentially, faith.

Additionally, prioritize yourself. Not selfishly, but you must remember that your health is a priority that will require some time. Go for a 30-minute walk every day. Join a local gym and work out a few days per week. Commit to reading a book every month or so. All of this is possible, but it will take some intentional planning on your part.

4. Set Some Personal Boundaries

The moment you realize that you can’t do it all is the moment you begin to set better boundaries. You may need to work more than 40 hours, but at some point, no number of hours is enough to do all that you want to do.

Ministry is a marathon, not a sprint. Work hard and be efficient with your time, but you can’t allow the church to become your life. If you do, your spiritual, emotional, and physical life will pay a heavy price.

5. Ask for Help

It’s called the “Body of Christ” for a reason. When you refuse to ask for help or delegate to those around you, you’re robbing them of an opportunity to be used by God. People in your church are willing and able to contribute to their church if you ask and allow them to engage.

I’ve often found people rise to opportunities more than obligations. The church is the best opportunity we can offer to people. Ask people to participate in meaningful ways.

6. Remain Grateful

Pastors are human. We have a way of becoming disappointed with people and circumstances. Remember that God has placed you in this place. You’ve been called to this situation for a season. It’s important to remain grateful for what God has done rather than become envious of what others have.

Gratitude is best expressed through responsibility. Stop looking over your shoulder and, instead, look at who you have in front of you. These are the people God has entrusted to your care. They are the flock you have to shepherd.

If you’ve accepted a call to ministry, you’ve accepted a call to one of the most challenging roles possible. You’re not capable or qualified, which is good, as it reminds us to rely on Jesus. Do that daily. God is paying attention. He knows your name and your heart. Keep relying on him to do what you’re trying to do on your own.