To begin, I am a bit biased on this review as Daniel has been a friend for a great many years. Nevertheless, his book stands alone as a solid and needed resource in the area of those who pastor churches under 150 people. While the huge publishing companies focus on publishing the plethora of books pouring out from megachurch pastors (only representing around 2% of all pastors in America), Isgrigg’s book stands out as one writing to the other 98% while being in the same bracket as those he writes.
The Average Pastor is written from a faithful practitioner of a church running under 150. Although Isgrigg stepped down as a full-time pastor to focus more on his PhD, his invaluable experience shines true in this short, but powerful tomb. Probably the best way to describe the book is like setting at your favorite coffee spot and chatting with a good friend who knows exactly how you feel. It’s more about encouragement and knowing your place than a ten step guide to doing ministry better (since we have enough of those books already).
Typically, people refer to church running under 150 as small churches, dut Daniel Isgrigg challenges that notion. Yes, he gets the idea of small, but is that the right modifier? Is not the better modifier average, as in the fact most church are in this number range. This is not to say that those pastoring larger churches have nothing to say. Indeed, they have great leadership qualities we can all learn from and apply to our life and leadership. What needs to be said though, is the need for more materials written by average pastors for average pastors while they are in this season of their ministry (whether for the long-haul or for a time).
So what is an average pastor? The Average Pastor will typically pastor about 76 people, is 38% more likely to be bi-vocational, earn around $31,000 if full time, have no full time staff, and the church income will be under $100,000 annually. In other words, the average pastor is not in this for the pay, the glory, or the prestige. They are in this vocation because of their calling and deep love for Jesus’ bride – the local church.
For those pastoring an Average Church, thus being an Average Pastor, here is some good news on the blessings of having average church financing according to Isgrigg:
- I am forced to be creative.
- I am forced to use people.
- I appreciate what giving means.
- One family can change everything.
In certain ways, success allows us to throw money at issues, but when their is no money, you are often at your creative best. I once heard Craig Groeschel talk about the early days of Life.Church before it was the phenom we see today. He said, “Lack of Resources + Increasing Passion = Exponential Innovation.” Life.Church didn’t create the video venue style church because they had lots of money, but the lack of it. They needed a way to fill in the pulpit when Craig was out for family reasons and they did not have the money to bring in a speaker and thus, video venue was born, as they played an older sermon of his they recorded.
In section two, Isgrigg focuses on reclaiming the role and office of pastor. The pastor is supposed to be a shepherd to his or her people. As a church grows larger, it is much harder to keep the pastor’s role as one of the shepherd as now they are seen more as a corporate office, as in a CEO. Further, the pastor is supposed to operate in the ideals of the parish priest. A pastor has the clearest knowledge of what the church represents. In the same room one preaches on Sunday, in the past week – a funeral, a wedding, and an event could have all happened. The parish has a rich history in and of itself. Further, you become a more community pastor as your church can be open to the public more, you have time to get out more and pastor your city. These are forgotten perks of the average church pastor.
Another set of valuable advice Isgrigg provides is often the average pastor is the only one in charge of planning. So he learned to do so in large blocks of time. His advice:
- Month long sermon planning
- Month long worship planning
- One creative Sunday a month
This type of planning allowed him to do more with less and to still be creative and a bit less stressed when the minutes after the Sunday service, you as the sole pastor, realize that Sunday is coming yet again! Planning is what offers hope to the average pastor do do fun and creative things with less pressure than trying to do so week after week of guess work.
On a more personal level, I know that one of the major reasons Daniel wrote this book was to encourage other pastors in a way that only he was called to do. Pastor can be lonely and Daniel knew that if he wanted to have friends, he was going to have to go and make them. It was not going to happen automatically. Our best efforts should be put to what gives us the best return. Friendship returns more to us than we could ever fathom.
Plus, Daniel didn’t want other average pastors to feel as he did so he was going to make himself available. He personally tried to keep up with other pastors in the area. Although no one had done that for him, he decided he would do it nonetheless. Finally, he knew he had certain gifts to be a blessing and invest in other average pastors. Being an author already, Daniel knew he could extend his reach to invest in other pastors by writing this book. He also knew he could invest in local pastors and help enrich their lives even though it would mean a bit more work on his part. It wasn’t like he had a lot of spare time to do all this. He just knew it was right. This is why I am writing this review, so i can get more people to be interested in my friends unique and solid resource.
I highly recommend pastors, leaders, board members, and pastor’s spouses to read this resource. If more teams read this together they may understand more of what their average pastor is going through and dealing with on a daily basis. The only way to combat rampant ignorance is through the knowledge, which comes through targeted resources such as these.
Do yourself a favor, buy a copy of this book for yourself. Buy a copy as a gift for your average pastor. Buy a copy for your volunteer team to read together. It will be well worth the investment.
Oh, and remember, we often think of average as a negative team, when average means the most common. We like to celebrate what we have in common. So let’s not forget to celebrate the average church and her average pastor!
You can get a copy here: The Average Pastor on Amazon
Daniel Isgrigg also blogs at www.averagepastor.com