The 4 Biggest Challenges Of Being A Pastor-Less Church


Every church will face a day when their Lead Pastor will have to transition out of their role as the primary communicator and visioncaster. It is absolutely inevitable.

Smart churches will realize this ahead of time and plan for this situation. Unfortunately though, because we live in a broken world, there are often times where a church is not expecting this date to arrive so soon.

Here are the four main challenges that every church will encounter at some level when see this day arrive in their community.

1. Loss Of Momentum Or Vision

In nearly every unplanned transition, church vision and momentum come to a screeching halt. Without a Senior Pastor at the helm, there is a very high likelihood that the overall voice of vision will be absent during the transition period. It may not happen in every case, but more often than not this can set the stage for potential struggles between search committee members as they all try to formulate their individual preferences of what they feel the next Lead Pastor should be like.

Pastor-less churches will begin to see a loss of momentum in the church body and the church staff. They will see a waning emphasis on living out the Great Commission to serve those that don’t walk with Christ. All of the initiatives and ministries that had been established under the previous leadership are at risk of major decline without clear vision and leadership at the top.

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2. Staff Turnover

Without a visionary leader, church staff will be lost.Tweet: Without a visionary leader, church staff will be lost. via @VanderbloemenSG

A church staff member has to have congruency with their Senior Pastor in order to truly solidify a strong long-term calling. Without a leader, staff will potentially lack loyalty to where the church may be headed. Of course, there are many cases where remaining church staff will step up during a transitional season and help lead through a transition. If, however, the vacancy at the top remains unresolved for too long, a church runs the risk of losing most of their church staff.

There is a shelf life on how long a high-capacity leader will sit in a “holding pattern” while a search committee spins its wheels trying to find a new leader.

Successful churches will have a clear search process with a timeline tied to a calendar.Tweet: Successful churches will have a clear search process with a timeline tied to a calendar. via @VanderbloemenSG

Successful churches will be as transparent as possible and communicate any committee action items or steps to both the church staff and the congregation. This is so that all involved can rest assured that their service is valued and that there will one day be an end to this challenging time.

3. Attendance Decline

It is only natural that all of the previously mentioned challenges have the potential to compound and eventually lead to attendance decline. It is harder and harder to keep people around when there is no clear leadership at the top. When communication and vision are lacking, people will leave. They will begin to network with friends from other churches and try to identify other church communities where real life change and Kingdom progress is happening. As mentioned previously, clear communication and process transparency of the search process will help guard against people abandoning ship in the time of a storm.

4. Lack Of Giving

Many church-goers don’t realize that even in the times without clear leadership, tithes are just as important - if not more so - for the long-term stability and daily operation of the church. Without a leader at the helm, both attendance and giving decline.

Smart churches with high capacity staff leaders, elder boards, or search committees will continue to communicate the financial needs even when leadership is vacant. The congregation needs to know that through their consistent prayer and financial stewardship, they can are charged with one of the most crucial roles in sustaining the long term health of the organization.

How can your church avoid these challenges during a transition?

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