by Dan Reiland
It seems like I should be writing more on the responsibilities of staff members, if for no other reason, the raw numbers. But curiously, more Senior Pastors have been recently talking to me about the core of their role and responsibilities. One church planter said, “I’m doing literally everything, that can’t be right.” Another pastor told me he wants to study the Word, teach and do nothing else. Yet another pastor who has a great staff confided that he won’t delegate and empower basic roles to his team.
Sometimes it doesn’t feel like you are leading from the “First Chair”. Between the board, staff, parents of teens, choir, first time visitors, benefactors, and local officials (and on it goes) you may feel more like the caboose than the engine. It is, however, not only possible for you to truly lead, it’s at the core of your job to take the reins and go for it. Responding to all these people and their agendas can take you off track. You can lose sight of what your job is.
My hope is to encourage you and give you fresh permission to lead. Not to make everyone happy, but to lead. You can’t do that if you are running on everyone else’s agenda. You need to know what your job is and stay ruthlessly focused on it. Your personality and unique passion contributes heavily to what you choose to do and how you choose to carry out you role and responsibilities.
The culture and community of your church have a significant influence as well. In some churches, the local church board has a strong say in what the Pastor does. In other churches there is so much freedom that the freedom itself presents its own set of complications. Every leader is different and every church is different, but there are some basics that hold true for all. There is more than one way to lead from the First Chair. This article does not attempt to offer the unique nuances that are just for you, but the baseline that you build upon so you can arrive at a unique job for you without compromising the basics. Here’s the list of basics. I trust they will help you stay on track.
Call upon God
Your non-negotiable responsibility is that of chief intercessor. Your whole church prays, but you lead the way. It is unlikely that many in the church pray with more zeal and commitment than you do. You set the pace. It’s not that your prayers are more spiritual or God listens to you more, but there is something deeply sacred about the office of Senior Pastor. It’s not a power thing, it’s about calling. God chose you to lead your church and frankly, God has stuff He wants you to know.
Your uniqueness is not as much about how you pray, or even what you pray. It’s about what you hear. That’s the key, hearing the voice of God. I don’t think there is anything more important. Everything starts with God’s direction for you and your church. Hearing His voice often and clearly is essential. What is He saying to you today?
Communicate the Word
For most Senior Pastors this is the fun part. You can’t wait for Sunday! There is a grind and discipline to the preparation and the “every seven days” nature of it all, but what a cool thing! You get to teach, literally, the Words of God! Unlike your prayers where your words are very important, but not critical, now every word counts. And The Word counts even more. On any given week, these thirty or so minutes (the “or so” covers a lot of latitude for some of you!) may be the greatest public work you do.
You can’t overestimate the need and value of your preparation. If you are a gifted communicator, please, you still need to prepare. The same is true for those of you who aren’t as gifted. If speaking isn’t your sweet spot, go shorter rather than longer. Wrap it up in twenty-five minutes. Your church will immediately think you just got better.
Cast the Vision
This is where direction for the church and your leadership kicks in. You are the primary vision-caster. Great vision is collaborative in its execution, but not so much in its origin. More often than not, God speaks to a man or a woman, not a committee. The team matters huge, but God sends the dream to the leader and the team helps the dream come true. This is not to infer a dictatorship. Leaders can “hear” incorrectly. That’s why you need other trusted leaders around you to test what you believe God is telling you. But when it’s settled, cast vision and lead.
That’s what you’re there for. Leadership. The people are counting on you to point the way. What if you don’t have a sense of direction from God right now? That happens. My best advice to you is to call your church to stay focused on core activities of the Great Commission (Matthew 28 -- Evangelism and Discipleship), while you and your key leaders seek the mind of the Lord for the specific direction.
Carry the Stewardship
Let me be blunt, the church needs money to move forward. We don’t like to say it, read it, and sometimes even admit it. It doesn’t sound spiritual, but it’s deeply spiritual. Scripture is very clear about our hearts and our treasures. In that way it’s not as much about money as it is about priorities and passion. It’s not as much about money as it is calling and commitment. Money reveals the depth and maturity of your church and their level of buy-in to the vision.
Pastor, you cannot escape the reality and responsibility of raising faith and raising funds for your church. In contrast to “preaching,” most pastors don’t like this role, and either partially ignore it or attempt to have others cover it. That never works well over the long haul. Pastor, embrace the biblical nature of what giving reveals about the maturity of your congregation. And if giving is down, especially in this economy, don’t be upset with your people. Instead, ask yourself what you can do to make the beauty, power and promise of God’s Word more evident to your people. In other words, how can you better inspire your people to embrace God’s Word?
Create the Culture
Many can help you carry this out, but you set the scope and direction. Every church has a culture. It’s either the one you want or the one that created itself. I’ve never seen the latter go well. You can cultivate and guide it or just go on its own and land who knows where. Whether your culture is casual or formal, local or global, traditional or edgy, mercy or justice, caffeinated or decaf, you need to know you who are and be yourself. There is no right or wrong. Well, the only wrong is to not know who you are or pretend to be something you’re not. An interesting experiment is to ask visitors to describe your church culture to you. They often see it more clearly than you do!
Coach the Staff
If you are in a mega-church environment, you may have an XP (Executive Pastor) to coach the staff for you, but most of you who are Senior Pastors carry this responsibility as well. This is what I do so there is great danger of me writing for pages! I will discipline myself to hold back!
Let me just say that you have primarily two avenues by which to invest in your staff: Nurture and Leadership Development. Everything else falls into the large category of “getting stuff done.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but if you want a world class team scoring large in competence, character, and chemistry, investment is the key. Let them know you care and give top quality leadership training on a consistent basis. If you do this well, month after month, year after year, I promise you it will make a huge difference.
Cultivate the Community
Last but not least, it’s time to leave your office and get out into the community. I know, after the first six, it’s easy to feel like there is no time left. The good news is that you don’t need to give huge amounts of time to this, but you do need strategic time. Cultivating the community includes your personal evangelism, connecting with key leaders in your county, and a general awareness of what is going on outside your church. A few hours a week can get this done pretty well. The cumulative effect is powerful. Keep out in the community on a consistent basis and, though not immediate, this will come back to you with strong results over the long haul.
I hope this basic set of responsibilities is helpful to you. Whether you are recently out of school and in your first or second church, or you are a veteran of many years, this list will hold true for you. Add your personality to it and give it 100%. Let the other leaders carry the rest of the load.