When I became a pastor, I incorrectly assumed my job was to make sure all the weekly “church work” was accomplished. After all, I was getting paid to be at the church while everyone else in the congregation had to go to their secular jobs. (That was my first incorrect assumption… I was being paid to be at the church.) Work needed to be done, and since I was at the church, who better to get the job done than me, right?
My intentions were noble, I wanted to be helpful and provide the most value to my church, but my mistake was believing that my value was determined by my productivity. I confidently believed the more tasks I checked off my “get done” list, the more the church would grow and the more people we would reach. I was wrong.
I know it’s hard to comprehend if you find yourself with a long list of ministry tasks that need to be completed and a shortage of help to get the job done. “If I don’t do it, who will?” you’re thinking. It’s a valid question.
- Who will clean the church building?
- Who will put the song lyrics in the computer?
- Who will print and fold the bulletin?
- Who will design the sermon series graphic, or make the chord charts?
- Who will lead the small group or community outreach event?
As contrary as it is to everything we believe about senior pastor leadership, the more you “do” as the senior leader of your church the more you hurt the long-term health and potential of your church. It’s ironic, isn’t it? We work so hard to help our church but instead of helping we hurt our church because we accidentally create an organization that is dependent on us.
This idea is not original with me; it’s from the Bible.
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.”
According to the Apostle Paul, Christ gave you as a gift to your church. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it’s true. Christ gifted you to your church so that you can equip God’s people to do his work.
That sounds like a different job description than most pastors I know. Yes, according to Ephesians pastors have a responsibility, but it’s not to “do” the work of the church, it’s to equip people to do the work of the church. Here’s the best part, when you do your job, and they do their job, the church of Jesus Christ is built up. You build the church when you build people.
If I was to interrupt your tireless work one day and ask you, “why are you doing all those tasks?” You would probably say, “I’m trying to build a church.” I get it, I want to build a great church too, but great churches aren’t built by a talented senior pastor, great churches are built by an empowering senior pastor. Talent doesn’t hurt, but it’s not the main criteria or responsibility of the pastor. The main responsibility is to equip people. And before you think the senior pastor is getting out of work, it’s way harder to empower someone else to do a job than to do it yourself. Way. Harder. (I wrote more about how your talent hurts your church in this post.)
[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: Great churches aren’t built by talented pastors, great churches are built by empowering pastors” quote=”PASTOR: Great churches aren’t built by talented pastors, great churches are built by empowering pastors”]
A Pastor’s Job Description
So if you’re job isn’t to complete tasks, what is your job? There are many different ways to answer that question, and the answer can vary depending on the various spiritual gifts of the leader, but at its core, I believe every senior pastor (or team leader) has one job more important than any other. Your job is to be the CCO, the chief communicating officer.
When I say communication, don’t just think of preaching, or talking from the stage, what I’m talking about is WAY more important than that. Empowering leaders are always communicating: vision, expectations, encouragement, and correction.
One of the reasons it’s easier to get the job done yourself is because it doesn’t require communication; you know what you want, and you know how to get it done, or at least you can figure out how to get it done. To equip and empower someone else requires instruction, patience, and probably settling for a finished product of less quality than you could have done, and that’s hard. But when you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.
[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: When you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.” quote=”PASTOR: When you help someone do something you could have done yourself you are doing what God called you to do: you are building the church.”]
How Do I Do That?
One of the best ways to gauge how effectively you are equipping and empowering your church is to look at your calendar. As you review your previous week or plan the week ahead, how are you spending the majority of your time? Are you accomplishing tasks by yourself or are you meeting with people? Are you spending most of your time on a laptop computer or sitting across the table having a conversation with someone. Of course, you need time to study and invest in yourself, but in general how often are you communicating with people?
To identify, recruit, train, and empower leaders to do the work of ministry requires intentional leadership. Think of it as being the lead car of a caravan on the interstate. You are leading the way, but you can’t drive so fast that you leave everyone, and you also can’t drive so slow that it takes you too long to arrive at your destination. When you are the lead driver of a caravan, you are regularly checking the rearview mirror. Are the people who need to be with you, with you? Is anyone falling behind? Did anyone exit without telling you? Does anyone need to stop and take a break? In a way, pastoring is continuously checking the rearview mirror. You set the pace, but a great leader makes sure he is being followed.
In a perfect world you would cast the vision, ask for help, empower the leader and never need to check back in, but ministry is not a perfect world, it’s messy because people are messy. The leaders you empower need to be challenged and celebrated. They need clarity and correction. That’s where your job as CCO comes in. A pastor should have at least 3, maybe 4, kinds of conversations every week. These conversations help to reinforce vision, provide clarity and instruction, and show care to the people you lead. There’s no hard and fast rule for how many meetings you should have; you get to decide, so pick times and formats that enable you to be at your best and make sure to have these conversations every week, so everyone arrives at the final destination together.
1. Clarifying Conversations
Clarifying conversations do exactly what it sounds like they do, they provide clarity. You have staff members, volunteers, and church members who need clarity this week, and you can give it to them. Maybe you need to clearly define their role on the team or their responsibility on the weekend. Maybe you need to clarify the vision because they’re not sure why you’re so committed to how you do do what you do. You probably have a new Christian in your church who needs clarity on spiritual questions. They need answers to Bible questions or instruction for how to overcome a spiritual battle. Does one of your volunteer leaders need a solution to a recurring problem, could you provide a solution that would help them stay committed and encouraged?
Think of clarifying conversations as releasing a small amount pressure from a kettle so that frustrations, hard feelings, or confusion, don’t build up and blow up one day. Great leaders are continually reinforcing values, vision, and expectation.
Go ahead and write down 3 names of people on your team or in your church who would benefit from a clarifying conversation this week. Set up a time to meet. By the way, don’t invite them to a “clarifying meeting,” invite them to coffee. Talk about their job, their kids, their hobbies. Have a 30-minute conversation and spend the last 5-10 minutes clarifying. Your agenda is not the material it’s the person sitting across the table from you. Invest in them and then clarify for them. Over time you will see them develop into an equipped and empowered leader.
2. Challenging Conversations
Challenging conversations are exciting because it gives you the chance to challenge someone to be more than they are settling for. A challenging conversation may be a hard conversation, but it doesn’t have to be. Maybe there is a person in your church who has been faithfully serving in a minor role, but you see potential leadership in them, take them to coffee and challenge them. Do what Dave Ferguson calls an ICNU conversation. It sounds something like this, “Sarah, I’ve watched how you’ve faithfully served the last few months in the kid’s department, and you’ve done such a great job. I want you to know that I see potential in you. I believe God has more in store for than just serving as a teacher’s assistant.” A challenging conversation may be out of concern. “Hey Joe, I’ve noticed you’ve been distant lately. Is everything ok? Is there anything I can do to help? I get worried when people get distant because I’ve seen too many people fall away. I want to challenge you to stay committed. God has big plans for your life.” You’re not confronting them; you’re challenging them. I bet you are the leader you are today because someone who loves you had a challenging conversation with you.
Think of challenging conversations as coaching. Every great coach knows how to motivate their players and push them to perform at their best. Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but the coach always has the players best interest at heart. I think one of my favorite and most awkward examples of a challenging conversation is found in Acts 16 when the Apostle Paul invites his new pupil Timothy to join him on his ministry trip.
“…so Paul wanted him to join them on their journey. In deference to the Jews of the area, he arranged for Timothy to be circumcised before they left, for everyone knew that his father was a Greek.”
Ouch! Can you imagine that conversation? “Timothy I know you’re not a jew, and you’re already in college, but I see great potential in you, and I think if you got circumcised it would grow your influence.” Now that’s a challenging conversation.
Go ahead and set up 1 or 2 challenging conversations this week. Is there someone who doesn’t realize the call God has on their life yet? Is there someone who is underperforming and needs to be motivated? When you take time to intentionally challenge them you are leading them to fulfill their God-given potential; it doesn’t get any better than that.
3. Confronting Conversations
Hopefully, you don’t need to have confronting conversations often, but if you’re leading people, you will undoubtedly be required to confront people and issues at times. No one likes confrontation, not normal people anyway. The fact that you don’t want to confront someone lets you know that your heart is in the right place to help them. Is there a team member who has consistently underperformed even after challenging conversations? Is there a church member who is living in blatant sin and needs to be confronted by their pastor who cares about them? Is someone being divisive or leading people astray. When you agreed to be the pastor you agreed to have the hard conversations. If you don’t, who will?
Even the apostles had to confront each other at times. According to Paul, he had to confront Peter for the way he was acting towards the Gentiles.
“But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong.”
If I told you I had a genie in a bottle and you could confront someone with the guarantee there would be no fall out after your meeting, who would you confront? I don’t have a genie in a bottle, but now you know who you need to meet with. The problem won’t go away, and you’re not kind by ignoring it, you’re selfish. You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level; you just have to get the courage to confront what everyone knows is a problem but refuses to address. You can do it!
[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level. Confront what everyone else around you already knows is a problem. You can do it!” quote=”PASTOR: You are probably one or two incredibly painful, hard conversations away from your church growing to the next level. Confront what everyone else around you already knows is a problem. You can do it!”]
4. Celebrating Conversations
I saved the best for last. Celebrating conversations are the simplest but most powerful tool you have to build unity, morale, and reinforce vision in your church. You are surrounded by team members and church members who need encouragement. They don’t believe in themselves the way you believe in them. They don’t think they’re doing a good job. They don’t think you notice what they’re doing. I don’t know who coined the phrase, but what gets celebrated get’s replicated, so find people doing what you wish everyone else was doing and make a big deal about it! At our staff meeting, every team member writes 2-3 thank you cards for someone on their team. It’s such a simple thing, but based on the reaction of the people who receive the thank you cards you would think we attached $100 bills. They feel appreciated and motivated to work even harder to build the church.
Clarifying, challenging, and confronting conversations need to be done face to face, but celebrating conversations can be in any format. Go crazy with it. Send 20 text messages today. Write a few thank you cards. Post on someone facebook timeline. You will be surprised how something so small makes such a big difference. You will never celebrate the people around you enough.
It’s counter-intuitive to think that a day with a breakfast meeting, a coffee meeting, a staff meeting, and a lunch meeting is more productive than a day where you cross tasks off your list, but you’re not the help anymore, you’re the pastor. God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people. As you plan your schedule make sure you prioritize conversations; communicate, clarify, challenge, celebrate and confront if necessary. For a while, you will drive home at the end of the day, and wonder “What did I really accomplish today?” You will feel guilty. You’ll think you should be doing more, but you’re doing what only you can do: you are consistently communicating from the top down. The more you equip God’s people to do the work of ministry the more the church and your leadership will flourish. You got this!
[clickToTweet tweet=”PASTOR: God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people.” quote=”PASTOR: God didn’t put you at your church to be the best musician, designer, small group leader, or handyman, he put you there to equip and empower people, and there’s no substitute or shortcut for building people.”]