The #1 contributing factor to the growth and effectiveness of a church is the capacity of the Lead Pastor. Sound bold? It’s true. Every organization rises and falls on the capacity of its leaders and the church is no different. The Lead Pastor is typically the primary communicator, catalytic leader, vision caster, leadership developer, and problem solver. These are all the most critical functions in a church, so it should be no surprise that the Lead Pastor has such a huge influence on the growth of the church.
Now, are there exceptions to these rules? Of course, but you are likely not one of them. Sometimes the Lead Pastor is not the primary communicator or not primarily responsible for vision, but it’s rare. The point is that whoever is responsible for these activities is the greatest influence on the church’s capacity to grow.
So how do Lead Pastors need to grow in order that their church can grow with them? We think there are five ways. Lead Pastors need to grow as Preachers, Leaders, Visionaries, Leadership Developers, and Problem Solvers. To the degree that Lead Pastors grow in these areas, their churches will grow with them.
We’ll tackle each of these in order, starting with Preaching.
There are no more powerful means of communication in the world than preaching. It is a great privilege to preach God’s Word and be used by the Holy Spirit to draw women and men to Christ. The need for Lead Pastors to grow in this area is not a question of giftedness or ability, but one of commitment. No matter how many years you’ve spent in the pulpit or how gifted you are at it, you need to keep getting better. Here are three practical ways to grow as a preacher.
1. Make it your top priority.
Preaching is your top priority and your schedule should reflect that reality. Have you given yourself enough time each week for sermon prep? Have you chosen the days and times where you have the most energy and mental acuity? Do you have the resources you need to understand the text and interpret it? Do you give it the emotional energy that it deserves? Do you have a process or system that you follow each week to ensure consistent quality?
Each of these questions should be answered with a resounding yes! If not, you have identified an area of potential improvement. When you make your schedule each week, sermon prep time should be the first thing you put in. It should get and keep your best attention so that you can maintain a consistently high standard in the pulpit.
2. Watch yourself and be honest about what you see.
I’ll warn you, this is going to be painful. No matter how good you are, no one likes watching themselves preach. You will cringe at your cheesy jokes and look away from your outlandish hand motions. But keep watching, it’s a great way to improve. You will be able to see yourself as you actually are and not how you picture yourself. More importantly, you will see yourself as your people see you and hear yourself the way they hear you.
Takes notes, pay attention to what does and doesn’t work. Notice when your attention wanes or you get distracted. Ask yourself what someone without the notes in front of them would think is the main point of your message. Try to listen for confusing or unnecessarily offensive words or phrases. Try to see yourself through the eyes of a newcomer or nonChristian.
3. Grow in your area of weakness.
Once you have watched yourself, take some time to identify areas of strength. Praise God for those strengths and think about ways that you could even better leverage them in future sermons. Maybe something you said or did was surprisingly effective to you, try to integrate them again next week or the week after.
More importantly, identify your weaknesses. What didn’t work? What seemed forced or awkward? Did your attention wane or were you distracted by the same thing in multiple sermons? Are your hands and body out of sync with your words and emotions? Fixing your weaknesses is more important than strengthening your strengths because they become distractions and for a public speaker, distractions are death. Once someone’s attention is diverted, it’s doubly hard to get it back. So, fix your weaknesses before you strengthen your strengths.
Bonus: Get feedback and coaching.
Lastly, get some help. Self-assessment is valuable but it’s limited. Find a preaching coach or another preacher who is willing and able to help you out. Getting outside eyes is a super helpful way to make yourself grow.
We want our churches to grow because we believe that what we are doing genuinely helps people and is the primary way that God has chosen to save people. So don’t be afraid to want your church to grow and don’t be afraid to start growing yourself. In our next blog post, we’ll tackle how a Lead Pastor can grow as a Leader, stay tuned!