A Senior Pastor's Priorities, Part 2

In the last edition of The Pastor's Coach, I outlined the top five leadership priorities of a Senior Pastor. We have acknowledged that it is a lengthy process to achieve this focused leadership, but if you stick with it, the results will be a blessing. You will not be able to drop all the things you do overnight, but the list of five priorities sets the right target to try to hit.

business-1042709 640I recently spoke with a senior pastor who described the center of his target as "making people happy, putting out fires, and cramming for a sermon every Sunday." While I applaud his honesty, he really needs to change targets.

This article is dedicated to helping you make it through the transition from doing nineteen different things to focusing on the top five priorities. The following is a long-term strategy that will shorten your list of responsibilities and increase your effectiveness if you stick with it.

1. Think long-term.

Do you remember the game show Name that Tune? Contestants would blurt out something like, "I can name that tune in three notes!" Speed was the name of the game. In our scenario, the name of the game is strategic patience. Strategic patience means that you are driving the church forward with diligence and passion, but realize that the business of life transformation cannot be rushed.

Reshaping the design of what you do and don't do will take time. How long? It's different for every church. Some young church plants make the shift almost immediately because they don't carry any baggage of "this is how we've always done it." Other churches may take years to make the shift. If the latter applies to you, stay encouraged. Look for progress. Long walks are completed by taking one step at a time.

2. Invest yourself and your church fully into evangelism.

So we begin with evangelism. In the last edition of The Pastor's Coach, I tried to get you to focus on personal evangelism. Let's take the corporate view this time: Your ability to establish a culture of evangelism is crucial. Willow Creek's material on Contagious Christianity will serve you well if you need some help here. I also like the simplicity with which Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA emphasizes evangelism. He sums it all up in two words: invest and invite. Invest your life into the lives of those who don't know Christ and invite them to church. The faith building environment of the church takes over and many soon come to Christ. Invest and invite. He says it over and over again and it works.

Evangelism is the core of the Great Commission and also the chief agent for growth in your church. Growth is a vital factor that helps you reduce the list of things you do - heading to the top five. Remember, the smaller the church, the longer the list of things you do. The larger your church gets, the shorter the list, but the greater the weight of each of those items.

3. Make a lifelong commitment to develop leaders.

You can't do it yourself. The greatest sports teams have strong benches. You need a deep leadership bench, too. It's not enough to have faithful workers--you need leaders. You can't afford not to develop leaders if you want to reach the potential God has for you. I don't know how large God plans for your church to be, but I do know that you can't get there without good leaders.

As I mentioned in Part 1, John Maxwell (INJOY) has tremendous material that will help you develop leaders. Don't try to figure it out yourself; stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before you with success as leaders.

4. Cultivate a strong movement toward lay ministry.

I'd like to recommend a tremendous book to you by Sue Mallory titled The Equipping Church. I could write several pages and never do justice to what this new book will do for you. The connection of lay ministry to this transition strategy is that leaders will naturally delegate and hand off the work of the ministry to faithful lay ministers. If this is not a strong part of your culture, it will be difficult to make the transition to a focused list of leadership responsibilities. The strength of your church can truly be measured by the number of people serving in ministry.

Some churches still carry the attitude of "we pay you to do the work." That is sad, and very unbiblical. If that describes your church, I'm sorry. But take heart and don't give up. The next point on education will help you.

5. Teach the congregation the biblical basis of your real responsibilities.

Take them to Acts 6:1-7 and Ephesians 4:11-12 and teach them over and over until they embrace the truth of these passages. Your job is not to do the ministry, but rather to equip others to do the work of ministry. (The larger your church gets, the more you focus on developing leaders who, in turn, equip others to do ministry.)

6. Take people with you when you visit.

A very practical part of the process is to show others how to do the things in which you cannot invest large amounts of time. Home visitation would be at the top of the list. Personally, I don't recommend it at all-it's extremely unproductive-but I realize that visits may be a deeply ingrained part of your culture. To stop cold turkey wouldn't work. So the first step is to train others to visit and eventually begin a small group ministry that will take care of a large percentage of what has long been mislabeled as the pastoral requirements of the church. If labeled at all, they should be called personal, human or spiritual needs; anything but pastoral needs.

7. Hire well and use your staff wisely.

Whether you are just about to hire your first staff member or if you have 25 pastors on staff, hiring well is integral to the process of focusing your leadership responsibilities. Hiring the right people and putting them in the right place is an art, and a difficult art at that, but it is one that you must throw yourself into with wholehearted commitment. If you choose poorly or use them incorrectly, your list of responsibilities actually gets longer, and you pay for it on top of it all!

"Hiring well is integral to the process of focusing your leadership responsibilities."

Use your staff wisely. Let me offer just one example. If your church is under eight hundred in attendance, I would not have any full-time staff member doing only one thing. For instance, let's say you hired a youth minister. Perhaps you have five hundred in attendance, of which only sixty are teens. Why would you have a full-time staff member whose only responsibility was to lead sixty teens? I know all the arguments, but here's my point: If you have seventeen major things you need to do and you hire someone to do one thing, you still have sixteen things left that require attention. It doesn't make sense. I'm not recommending that you dump the junk on staff members (if it's truly junk, stop doing it altogether), but that you share the workload in a more equitable way.

I had a staff member who once said to me, "I don't do hospital visits." My response was, "Oh, really? Listen friend, you're going to the hospital one way or another-either as clergy or as a patient. What's your choice?"

In these last three items to come, I'm going to get a little more personal and hit a little closer to home. Ready?

8. Learn to say no.

Fight the temptation to please people. It's a losing proposition. The more you do it, the worse it gets. Your job isn't to make people happy, but to lead them to maturity in Christ. Of course you want to enjoy the journey. I do too. But that isn't the goal. Here's my hunch-you are doing at least a few things that you know you don't need to do. You're facing either perceived or real political pressure or internal pressures. Learn to say no. Be tough; not mean, but tough. If you keep giving in to either external or internal pressures to do that which is not important, you will never narrow your leadership responsibilities to right things.

9. Learn to let go.

I'm writing as a recovering control freak. Yup, that's me. I've learned and matured in the last many years, but it wasn't too long ago that God had to remind me that I wasn't the general manager of the universe. Hey, I have just enough ego to think I know what I'm doing! It's amazing how all those churches out there grow without me. Be honest now, can you relate?

You must learn to delegate and empower your staff and key leaders. Trust is the core issue. It's simple logic. If you don't let go, you can't shorten the list of things you have to do! Furthermore, if you don't let go, your staff and leaders will know you don't believe in them and they will not take initiative or perform at their best with what you do give them.

10. Die to self.

Now I'm really gonna meddle. You may be one of the thousands of pastors who do what you do because you like the affirmation. Thousands of pastors "preach and visit" not because their congregation expects that alone, but because the praise is like a legal drug. Every Sunday morning, people line up and tell you how wonderful your sermon was - so much so that you believe it. And each time you run to the hospital in your Super Pastor outfit, you again feel like the hero who saved the day. It strokes your ego, but doesn't grow the church. The actual issues may be different for you, but you get the idea.

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34-35 (NIV)

This article is used by permission from Dr. Dan Reiland's free monthly e-newsletter 'The Pastor's Coach' available at www.injoy.com. I hope this is helpful to you, the next edition of The Pastor's Coach will cover the topic of ministry values.