Our last blog post made the bold claim that the #1 contributing factor for church growth is the growth of the Lead Pastor. I will assume that the introduction to the last post fully convinced you of this truth so I won’t waste a lot of time going over it again. But I will say this, don’t underestimate the amount of influence the capacity of the Lead Pastor has on the growth and health of the church. It is not the only factor, we have 5 more that we’ll talk about in this series, but it’s the most important one.
Think of the church like a body. We know that Jesus is the head of the Body, the Bible says so. We’ll call the Holy Spirit the heart just to be above reproach. The Lead Pastor is a vital organ, the lungs perhaps. In fact, the lungs are a great way to visualize this. When you are working out, it is often your lungs that are the inhibitor of your performance. Your lungs will often fail you long before your muscles do. They will burn as you huff and puff your way through burpees or wind sprints. Your lung capacity is the cap on your physical performance and your Lead Pastor’s growth is the cap on your church’s performance.
The first blog in this series looked at the necessity for a Lead Pastor to grow as a preacher. This one will look at the need for Lead Pastors to grow as Leaders. Here are three ways that a Lead Pastor can grow as a Leader today:
Expand beyond your tribe
Echo chambers are everywhere. It is really easy to hear the same people tell us the same things, over and over again. The internet and social media give us unfettered access to all the voices all the time. This can be crippling to our development if we only ever listen to the same people.
But the internet is also a portal to other worlds. That sounds dramatic, but it is at least a really easy way for you to learn from people outside of your normal tribe. For some of you, especially the more theologically-minded among us, may be hesitant to go outside of your tribe for fear that other people’s ideas are founded on theological ideas you don’t agree with. That is probably true, and don’t let that stop you.
Learning from people who think differently is a great way to challenge your own thinking. Maybe you have come to conclusions that make sense to you only because they haven’t been challenged. Force yourself to be challenged and it will help you to refine your leadership.
Think like a leader
Not all Lead Pastors get into ministry because they have a vision for leadership. Many feel called to preach and teach or shepherd and disciple people. These are all fantastic reasons to be a Lead Pastor, but it’s not the totality of the job. In fact, I would argue that if all you feel called to do is preach or shepherd, Lead Pastor may not be the job for you.
A Lead Pastor has to think first and foremost about what is best for the church at large and not just what they feel called to do. The LP is responsible to make sure that the church is doing everything it is called to do, not necessarily to do all of those things themselves. In other words, the church has to preach, teach, shepherd and disciple and it’s the LP’s job to make sure that is happening, it’s not his job to do all of those things himself.
That’s what it means to think like a leader. Your brain has to be on the whole, not the parts; the forest, not the trees. It has to be thinking about the future, and about opportunities and obstacles it may bring. Every morning, someone needs to wake up asking, “what’s next?” for your church and it should be the Lead Pastor.
Ask and Answer the 2 Big Questions
The 2 Big Questions that every Lead Pastor should be asking (and answering!) all the time is “Where are we going?” and “When are we going to get there?” This is the work of creating vision and a strategy.
Think about it like a road trip. Before setting out on a trip the two things you have to answer these same two questions. Unless you are just planning to roam the country like Thelma and Louise, you need a destination. Where are you going and why? What is life going to be like in that new place and why is it worth the time and energy required to get there? This is the work of vision casting. Where is your church going? What is your preferred future? Why is it worth the work, the money, the volunteer hours that it will require to get there? The LP has to answer these questions for the church, so they know where they are going.
The question of when is the strategic part of leadership. A leader needs to have an accurate understanding of what it will take to lead the church into its desired future. This means resources, staff, and most importantly, time. Every good goal is structured as X to Y by When. An example of this would be: “We want to grow from 100 people to 150 people in two years.” This shows a clear understanding of where you currently are, where you hope to be, and how long it will take you to get there.
If you can answer these two questions, you will be well on your way to leading your church into the future God has prepared for you!