I have been saddened over the years each time I learn of a pastor who due to poor leadership decisions, has lost not only his church but his ministry. Sometimes never to return to vocational ministry, other times not to return for several years. It is true some men enter ministry without the call of God on their lives. For these, it is destined to not stay the course. Others leave the ministry feeling beat down, depressed, and run over, often by members of their own churches.
The pastoral role in churches across the United States has become more of a manager than a leader. I’ve never met anyone who entered the ministry to manage. No one enters the ministry to manage people, programs, or facilities. Yet, this is the role relegated to many pastors and staff. Pastors lose their churches for many reasons. Some of these are due to concepts not taught in our schools and seminaries as people skills and healthy leadership practices.
While many in leadership positions in the corporate world and the church consider themselves to be good leaders, a better question is to ask, where is my leadership most fruitful? Unfortunately, what many consider fruitful ministry is only to escape one of the scenarios above – not losing our job.
Let me quickly address three areas of leadership that will always improve fruitfulness. Next week we’ll look at three more.
Consistency: Once a pastor has been at his church for three to four years the church will begin to take on some of his behavior patterns. Not all, but some of his patterns. Example: If a pastor has a passion for the homeless, you will see the church take on behavior patterns of caring for the homeless. Behavior patterns are the regular and repetitive ways in which we react to life’s situations. The consistency of these repetitions develops patterns in your behavior. If you are not satisfied with the behavior patterns in your church, look first in the behavior mirror.
Vulnerability: It is not a weakness to show your vulnerability. It can indeed be a major building component for your church. People need to hear of your victories and they also need to hear of your trials and shortcomings, even your failures. You have survived your failures and prayerfully moved on. What better way to encourage others than sharing how you got up, dusted yourself off, and took off again? Share your experiences, the good, the bad, even the ugly.
Make it Personal: Share your stories. I know some pastors and leaders who refuse to use the stories of their personal lives. This is tragic and a missed opportunity. Don’t borrow other people’s stories, use yours. One corporate trainer lost credibility with a group he was in front of for two days. He lost credibility with his first story because he told it as his. Then after the punchline, he admitted it was made up. From that point on credibility in everything he had to say was in question. Personal stories of your experiences motivate and encourage others to stretch themselves.
There are many more attributes of a fruitful leader. We’ll address more in future articles. Which of these three can you apply this week to improve the fruitfulness of your leadership?