Thursday, September 20, 2012

Becoming the leader

As I point out in a couple of my books and in my workshops, a pastor does not become the leader of the church simply because he or she has been called to serve there as pastor.  Perhaps in a mega-church where the church is looking for a CEO the pastor can assume leadership almost immediately, but certainly in the smaller, family church that will not happen.  It takes time, sometimes years, before the pastor earns the confidence of the family church that will allow him or her to provide leadership.  In my experience I have found that the smaller the church and the more frequent pastoral turnover has been the longer it will take.  To shorten that process requires intentionality on the part of the pastor.  Paul Borden, in his book Make or Break Your Church in 365 Days: A Daily Guide to Leading Effective Change, explains four ways the pastor can begin to establish his or her leadership in the church.
  1. Provide leadership training for the board or council.
  2. Demonstrate competency in fulfilling the role of pastor.
  3. Develop personal relationships with those in leadership roles.
  4. Act like a leader when you are around members of your congregation.
In my role as a judicatory minister I have seen pastors ignore these steps and create major problems for themselves.  I cannot list the number of times a pastor, who has served a church for several years, has called asking if I could provide training for his deacons.  In most cases, the pastor's complaint is that they have never been taught the role of the deacon, and I always wonder what he or she has been doing that was more important than training the leadership.

I know of a church whose leaders complained that the pastor often referred to a document he wanted to read as part of his sermon but had left it in his office.  As one person said, "Why tell us that?  If he forgot it, go on.  When we hear that week after week we begin to wonder about his competency as a pastor."

Many pastors have got into trouble due to their failure to develop relationships with persons in the congregation and especially with those in leadership positions.  As I often say, in the smaller church everything is built around relationships.  If you cannot build relationships with people you cannot serve a smaller church.  It's that simple, and without those relationships you will never be able to lead that congregation.

The pastor, the leadership team, and I sat around the tables in a large room to discuss the pastor's lack of leadership.  The leadership team liked one suggestion I made and asked the pastor how it could be implemented.  He sat there for a moment and then shrugged his shoulders.  One of the leaders looked at me with a "See what we're talking about" look in his eyes.  This pastor was soon asked to submit his resignation.  This was a good church with strong lay leaders, and the pastor could not lead this church because he didn't act like a leader and no one had confidence in him.

Borden explains each of these in more detail in his book which I recommend every pastor who wants to lead his or her church should read.  Our churches will never turn around and become the effective places of ministry God intended without strong pastoral leadership.  Borden will help you evaluate your own leadership and give you some direction how to become a more effective leader.

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