This Quick Lesson in Pastoral Leadership Will Save You Heartache

pastor in a tense pastoral leadership meeting

In pastoral leadership, you’ve got God’s grace to sustain you. He’ll help you through the rough times . . . but wouldn’t it be nice if there were fewer of them?

In this excerpt adapted from Pastoral Leadership: For the Care of Souls, longtime pastor Lucas Woodford shares common church leadership issues and their sometimes incredibly simple cures.


Your role as pastor

In today’s church climate, a pastor is expected to be a jack-of-all-trades while at the same time endeavoring to master the art of the care of souls. Modern job descriptions for pastors often have a laundry list of things he is responsible to do, which extend far beyond the central aspect of administering word and sacrament.

This is where it becomes helpful for a pastor to understand what an organizational leader is and how to lead a congregation given his specific ministry setting and the expectations (spoken and unspoken) of his congregation.

Depending on the specific setting, location, size, structure, and staffing of a congregation, a pastor can have any number of additional roles placed upon him by the congregation.

Committee meetings, preparing agendas, organizing volunteers, equipping lay leaders, understanding church governance systems and church budgets, working with fellow clergy and nonclergy staff, setting goals for the year, administering congregational operations, handling stress, encouraging the staff around you, and the list goes on and on. Those may not be central to the pastoral care of souls, but you can be sure that if you neglect to do what the congregation expects you to do (at least in some reasonable and competent manner), they will inevitably hinder your care of souls.

Thus, it will be essential and helpful for you to know and understand your congregation’s governance structure and constitution.

Some constitutions may be more ideal than others, but you nonetheless have to work within the current parameters and policies of your church. You can certainly propose changes later if something is deficient or unhelpful, but for the time being, you have to act in good faith to the congregation and the constitution that established its organizational governance.

If you do think changes are warranted, be sure to use the appropriate channels and protocols of the congregation and denominational polity to bring about change.

Many structures are board-based; others are policy-based structures. Often, how well such structures work really depends on the elected or appointed lay people in positions of power and how well they work with the staff and pastors of a congregation, as well as how well a pastor understands, utilizes, and works within the organizational structure of his congregation.

Preparing to lead your church: understanding self-insight

Depending on your specific setting, congregation, and governance structure, you may be asked to do more or less than another pastor in a different setting. For some pastors that’s not a big deal and they embrace such a task naturally. Some pastors simply have natural leadership instincts.

Others may have experience in leadership roles from other settings of life. But the lack of either of those aptitudes or experiences does not eliminate someone from being a leader.

Leadership ability can be aided by the personality and emotional intelligence of a pastor. But it can also be thwarted by those things just the same. Introverts can serve as leaders just as well as extroverts. Yet plenty of self-styled leaders lacking in self-awareness and insight can destroy a church (or any organization) in no time at all.

One’s natural disposition does not automatically remove leadership potential from someone, nor does it automatically make them a competent leader.

Rather, whatever one’s personality and disposition, it requires an individual to have good emotional intelligence for self-insight. And once some emotional self-awareness is obtained, you can intentionally work at those elements of your personality that may not naturally meld with what may be required of you as a leader.

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Expectations & emotional intelligence

When you understand your own emotional intelligence, you can see the expectations your congregation has of you in a clearer light. It allows you to better comprehend those expectations given your inclinations and disposition of character. It allows you to better grasp what the congregation expects, given your character and talents, and what you expect from them. Clearly communicating both sets of expectations helps with planning and time management.

Bottom line: ignore expectations at your own peril.

Part of my problem was the misbeliefs that I created about my own leadership for the congregation, as well as those expectations I had of myself and my time allotment.

They did not arise out of reality, but from an unrealistic ideal and a few hypercritical individuals in the congregation. A few negative individuals can really weigh you down, can’t they?


Pastoral Leadership: For the Care of Souls is just one of Lexham Press’s Ministry Guides packing in decades’ worth of pastoral leadership wisdom, hands-on lessons, and carefully curated resource recommendations so that pastors can continue gathering as much value in as little time as possible.

See the Ministry Guides available now!

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Lexham Press

Lexham Press is an innovative Christian publishing house creating thoughtful Bible study materials, scholarly works, and pastoral resources.

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