A man rushed up to a woman standing beside a road and asked, “Did a large group of people just pass by here?” 
She replied, “Yes, they went that way,” as she pointed over her shoulder.

“Good. I’m their leader.”

We have heard some variation of this story many times. One thing it teaches us is that people will often move ahead even if a leader is not involved. Whether they are moving in the right direction is another matter.

My experience tells me that staff teams – in churches, denominations and nonprofits – really do want leaders. 

They expect the leader to identify a direction, set the pace and provide the resources and encouragement needed to move forward. If the leader fails to do these things, then the situation can become very chaotic.

This is especially true of pastoral leaders or the person we identify as the “lead pastor” in a congregation.

Although the people that he or she works with may be more talented and experienced in their respective ministries, they instinctively know that they need a leader, a “first among equals” who will help them to do their best work for the church.

How does a pastor become this kind of leader? 

  1. He or she must be secure in his or her own sense of calling to ministry. This comes from identifying the circumstances and embracing the spiritual journey that has led the person into a pastoral role.
  2. The pastoral leader must know herself or himself. What gifts have been manifest in one’s life or ministry? What are the basic values and core beliefs that provide a foundation for one’s life? What are the pastor’s strengths?
  3. The pastoral leader needs the wisdom to know what he or she does well and the humility to ask for help in areas of weakness. If a person knows his or her strengths, then he or she will know the kind of people they need around them to compensate for their deficiencies.
  4. A pastor must know his or her conflict management style. Are you one who addresses conflict directly or one who avoids it? Do you seek “win-lose” or “win-win” situations? We often tend to think of pastors dealing with conflict situations primarily in relation to church members, but a pastor who does not know how to address conflict within a staff will be a poor leader, failing the staff team and the church.
  5. A lead pastor must be able to recognize when he or she is stressed. This is different for each of us. It may mean we eat too much or too little. A stressed person may sleep too much or not be able to sleep at all. Know your body well enough to recognize stress and find ways to address it before it becomes debilitating.
  6. A pastor must find the help he or she needs to be an effective pastoral leader. Such help is available through peer groups, continuing education programs and coaching relationships. Anyone can be a better leader, and the resources are available to make that happen.

Are you ready to lead?

Ircel Harrison is coaching coordinator for Pinnacle Leadership Associates and is associate professor of ministry praxis at Central Baptist Theological Seminary. He blogs at BarnabasFile.blogspot.com. His Twitter feed is @ircel.

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