Pastoral Advice – Rainer on Leadership #059

Podcast Episode #059

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From time to time, we wind up with a backlog of questions to cover on the podcast. This week, we chose some that relate to general pastoral advice.


Dr. Rainer, I have enjoyed the podcast and many of your books about the church. I pastor a church in a rural community and I am curious about the different attendance barriers. I have seen things on the 200 barrier but what about some of the other barriers. The church I am in seems to hit about 90 and go back down to 65-70. What kind of barriers are there around the 100 range?


Our church is an older congregation and we are a church of 100 or so. I am always struggling as pastor to find places of ministry for people who want to serve, younger as well as older people. Do you have any thoughts or suggestions of ministry ideas? I sometimes suggest tasks and sometimes it makes others who are already serving in those areas like they are not needed. I try to let them know it is a team effort. Thank you for any help you and your team could be.


How do you know when to vacate the pulpit? How do the church leaders do that? How are other staff members involved in that process, if at all? Love the blog & podcast, thanks for all the hard work. Sincerely, a simple church youth guy at a 150 year old traditional church, stuck in the biggest rut ever!


I am beginning my 2nd year as pastor of a small rural church that includes the former pastor of 20 years. I am now the 4th man to pastor this church since he retired. This pastor is a good man, is emotionally supportive, and gives lip service to my leadership. How do I, as the new guy, lead a church to make some very necessary changes while the patriarch looks over my shoulder?


It looks like we are headed for a deceased church, with the majority of members over 70 years old and less than ten children still coming. Is there any hope for the church or are we putting too much effort and money into a dying church?


How does one separate being a church staff member from being an active Church Ministry member?


My church constitution and by-laws read that new members may be admitted to our church by transfer of letter from a church “of like faith and order.”  Many churches I am sure have the same language.  And in years past, that was easy to decipher:  Southern Baptist churches move letters to other Southern Baptist churches.  But in this day of a lack of denominational allegiance, many people are members of many denominations and/or “non-denominational” churches, that line has become blurred.  What do you perceive to be the essential issues that would be “of like faith and order?”


How do you know when a pastor is getting overpaid? What If he is getting paid a lot but church is not having people come to Christ or being baptized?


Our church does pretty well with Sunday worship and small group discipleship.  How important is one-on-one discipleship for church health and how would I develop it?

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If you have a question you would like answered on the show, fill out the form on the podcast page here at ThomRainer.com. If we use your question, you’ll receive a free copy of Autopsy of a Deceased Church.



  1. says

    One of my favorite ways to fairly establish a pastor’s salary is by pegging it to local schools. When the church was less than 200, it seems fair to peg the salary to a teaching salary in the area with similar years of experience. When larger, pegging it to the local school principle is great. In even larger churches(1000+) it can also make sense to peg to the local superintendent. When a church establishes a non-negotiable standard to keep the salaries at you greatly mitigate the potential of complaints(from the pastor or the members).

    If someone does complain you can say, “Do you think your pastor’s role is less important than you daughters math teacher/principal??”

    My father is the pastor of a church that, over 30 years, grew from 100 to 2000. The salary issue used to be a real problem because of how some people can be highly critical/suspicious of pastors advocating for more pay. It was a great blessing when one of the elders(who was an executive at a large company) spoke up one day and basically said, “this yearly argument is absurd, lets forever peg it to our local schools and be done with it!”

  2. jonathon says

    a) What is the mean, mode, and median age of the congregation;
    b) What is the mean,mode, and median age of th census tract block the church meets at;
    c) Repeat b for the political boundaries you church is in, up to the entire state, and maybe even region, if it a small state.
    c) What is the diference between these demographics;

    Whilst the mode age should be below the median age, and the mean age, being above does not necessarily mean that the congregation as a whole is dying. Rather, it simply means that individual members will die sooner, rather than later.

    Also look at whether or not you are looking at the after-effects of a ministry to seniors. Sometimes this type of ministry simply happens, without anybody being aware of it. Years ago, I read about church that acquired the moniker “The burying church”, because of the number of funerals they held. This was a side-effect ofthe pastor simply being there for people who were dying. This comunity reputation attracted people who were dying. This was an unintentional, accidental ministry that the church was almost oblivious to.

    The important thing is to be aware of who your congregation attracts, and not treat upside demographics as a death toll. Doing that will kill a healthy congregation.

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