Lyle Schaller is one of the most widely read commentators on congregational life in the last four decades. He is adamant that the key reason most churches do not grow or reach the unchurched is because of a failure of leadership. And while I do not fully agree with the way Schaller categorizes pastors, I nevertheless find his basic premises fascinating.
Schaller says pastors can be put into one of four categories. The first category includes those “who fail to pay the rent on time or are not able to pay the rent on time or are not able to pay it in full every month.” Simply stated, these pastors, due to poor health, family problems, uncertainty of call, or poor work habits, do not carry out basic pastoral duties. These pastors have too much on their plate. They fail to delegate responsibility and, in the end, burn out and become disgruntled with ministry. As a result, the churches they lead rarely grow over 100.
The second category is the “paying-the-rent” pastor. The “rent” includes preaching and worship, teaching and pastoral care, organization and administration. Schaller emphasizes that paying the rent is not a full-time job. These pastors use their discretionary time for activities that do not establish goals or a vision for the church. In short, they see ministry as a checklist and “success” as maintaining the status quo, and their churches grow no larger than a few hundred.
Schaller’s third category of pastors is called “goal-driven pastors.” These leaders not only pay the rent, but they help carry out projects and programs initiated by them or others in the congregation. If the goal is to reach younger families with children at home, the goal-driven pastor may seek to build a new preschool wing or to start the latest “hot” program for young families. Goal-driven pastors enlist allies to accomplish tasks necessary to reach their goals. These leaders operate in a constant flurry of activity, but their churches often move from emphasis to emphasis with no sustained plan for growth past 700.
Most pastors and churches fit into these three categories. There are only a small number of pastors in Schaller’s fourth group which he labels “vision-driven.” These vision-driven pastors see “paying the rent” as important, but involve others in tasks. Instead of activity and busyness, they expect others to be involved. They also cast such a compelling vision that enough leaders cannot help but be drawn to it. For the vision-driven pastor, the goal is not an end, but a building block to something greater and more exciting. They see few limitations and truly believe anything is possible through Christ. Only about four percent of pastors can be described as vision-driven.
What do you think of these categories? In what category do you see most pastors?