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The Healthy Pastoral Leader
By: Author Unknown
In his research of leaders, both historical and contemporary, author Robert Clinton found that few leaders actually finish the race well. His two books, The Making of a Leader (NavPress) and The Mentor Handbook (Barnabas), explain that finishing well could be defined as a life that until its end is increasingly more in love with Christ, more committed to His service and more devoted to godly leadership.
What causes a leader to continue to grow, to stay on track and to finish well in life and ministry?
Five Habits of effectiveness. Effective leaders learn to become intentional about their character growth and formation. In this development of a leader we can make three general observations:
- God develops a leader over a lifetime;
- God uses people, circumstances and ministry assignments to shape the life of a leader; and
- Leadership plateau is often indicative of a growth issue within a leader's life.
To help us become more intentional about our health as leaders, let's explore five insights from leaders who have finished well.
- Healthy leaders are lifelong learners. Leaders pursue three types of training: personal training, (personal growth, projects, personal research); informal training (workshops, seminars, conferences); and formal training (continuing education, degree programs).
- Healthy leaders are committed to serve and develop others. Be alert to potential leaders in your sphere of influence (II Cor. 1:3-4; II Tim. 2:2).
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Causing growth in a church and leading God’s people is a challenge. Looking through the scripture one quickly notices that no leader of God’s people found his role easy.
It often seems that our job as ministers is more reactive than proactive. It’s important to understand that while there will always be a needed degree of reactive management, there also needs to be a healthy measure of proactive leadership.
One doesn’t need to pastor long before he/she finds themselves becoming bogged down with the daily routine of managing a congregation. Your own list of duties preformed regularly would be very comparable to many other Pastors and church leaders. As I communicate more and more with church leaders around the globe, I am surprised to find that even though regions and languages may differ, there are often, very similar “People Problems” that Pastors have to deal with.
Managers organize. They report on what is. Their role is to assign and control people. Leaders on the other hand cast vision. They offer what could be. Their role is to align and motivate people. Notice the difference between these two leadership styles. One is managing what already exists and the other is moving the church forward into new growth and greater increase.
Nearly all pastors and church leaders perform both management and leadership roles. An imbalanced church is often one whose Pastor and leadership team has succumbed to one role or the other. It is the Pastor who has lost his zeal for growth so he simply manages what is already happening. Or it is the Pastor who constantly promotes growth and new programs, but does not provide constant management for the growth that happens.
Have I lost you? Are you already saying, “Now wait a minute. I can’t do it all!” You are right. You can’t. As much as you are talented, gifted, anointed and blessed, you are not Solomon. Moses couldn’t do it all and neither can you. In fact, the church leader that attempts to do all the management themselves will be overridden with the load of caring for God’s people.
This is why our Lord brings us other people into the church. Many Pastors overlook the people resources in their congregation. Since they lack the ability to trust others to a task, many Pastors fail to allow the talents of their congregation to become invested.
Moses had his captains of fifties and thousands. You too have been given certain individuals who can come beside your ministry to assist you in maintaining the growth from the vision you cast.
Do you find yourself routinely doing the job of the church janitor? Did you fix or repair something around the church lately? Are you the office manager? Are you the one who adds ink to the printer? Are you the only one visiting and praying for the sick? Who does the computing and tallying of numbers to record progress?[ read more...]
C – collect & categorize
- Eccl. 12:9 (NLT) Because the Teacher was wise … He collected proverbs and classified them …
- Collect Bible verses, quotes, articles, books, sermon tapes, illustrations, etc. – even years in advance!
- Categorize them in a filing system – put something away each day
R – research & reflect
- Eccl. 12: 9 (NASB) The Preacher … pondered and searched out …
- Research is studying with my mind; reflection is listening with my heart (meditation).
A – apply & arrange
- Eccl. 12:11 (NLT) A wise teacher’s words spur students to action and emphasize important truths.
- Each sermon should answer three important questions:
o So what?
o Now what?
- Arrange your sermon in an outline:
- Keep it SIMPLE.
Haddon Robinson: “Television has destroyed linear thinking”
The title of my article is borrowed from a book of great truth. Some books, although not biblical in origin, bear great truth nonetheless. Had I read this book several weeks ago, I may have saved myself a great deal of labor.
Because a Little Bug went Ka-Choo, is more than a child’s book of the Dr. Seuss series. It is in my opinion a manuscript of sacred truth often unrealized in the life of a leader.
Let me explain, in Because a Little Bug went Ka- Choo, Rosetta Stone describes the extreme chain of events that unfold as a result of a little bug sneezing. At first a seed is dropped. Of which a worm gets hit, who then gets mad and kicks a tree. Because he kicks the tree a coconut drops causing the turtle to get bopped… And so on until the final scene describes the entire town turned into utter chaos as fire trucks and town parades collide into a frenzied explosion of pandemonium.
A friend gave me this book the other night after I finished the complete renovation of her kitchen. The inscription she wrote inside the first page of the book says, “Jim, let this book be a reminder the next time someone calls you to help them install just a stove."
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What attributes qualify us for leadership? Here is a few suggestions on how these qualities might be put to use.
1. Integrity – Where integrity is at stake, the leader works publicly. Behavior is the only score that’s kept. Lose integrity, and a leader will find himself in a directionless organization going nowhere.
2. Vulnerability – Vulnerable leaders trust in the abilities of other people and allow those who follow them to do their best. An invulnerable leader can be only as good as his own performance.
3. Discernment – This attribute lies somewhere between wisdom and judgement. Leaders are required to see many things (pain, beauty, anxiety, loneliness, and heartbreak). Two elements to keep your eye on: the detection of nuance and the perception of changing realities. What kind of antennae do you have?
4. Empathy – Without understanding the cares, yearnings, and struggles of the human spirit, how could anyone presume to lead a group of people? Person skills always precede professional skills.
5. Courage – When conflict must be resolved, when justice must be defined and carried out, when promises need to be kept, when the organization needs to hear who counts – these are the times when leaders act with ruthless honesty and live up to their covenant with the people they lead.
6. Humor – A compassionate sense of humor requires a broad perspective on the human condition and an accounting for many points of view. You’ll find a sense of humor essential to living with ambiguity.[ read more...]
Why do preachers preach?
Since the goal of preaching is to change lives, preaching is the ultimate tool for church growth. But how can you be effective in communication through preaching? Listed below are eight questions to ask about your preaching.
1. Who will I be preaching to? Asking questions like, "What are their needs?", "What are their hurts?", and, "What are their interests?", will help us focus on where the people are. Why ask? Because although there are three things that always get one's attention:
- Things that threaten us.
- Things that are unusual.
- Things that we value.
"A preacher can only consistently keep people's attention by focusing on what people value."
2. What does the bible say about their needs? Since the Bible is the Book of Life, is will have the answer to peoples needs! The preacher's task is to show the Bible to be relevant for today's needs.
3. What is the most practical way to say it? Application is the central task in preaching. So, preaching must be practical enough for people to know what to do. How to make preaching more practical?
- Always aim for action.
- Tell the people why.
- Show them how.
Exhortation without explanation leads to frustration. Too often people respond to a message with the expression, "Yes, but how?" In other words, I agree with what you're saying, but "how do I do it?"
4. What is the most positive way to say it? Jesus never tried to convert anyone with anger. Although the Scriptures clearly warn of judgment, negative preaching only produces negative people.[ read more...]
I can hear my mother still to this day yelling, "Are you listening to me?" Being the single mother of 5 children left her without much patience. I believe much of her frustration as a single, struggling mom, was she felt that no one heard her.
Mom worked all kinds of jobs to try to provide for us kids, so she was not home much. We pretty much raised ourselves. My 4 brothers and sisters were just about as unruly as children left to their own devices could get.
When Mom finally made a pit stop at the house, she would find it in shambles. Then, with the frustration of a mother trying to do her best, but failing miserably, she would simply lose it. "Are you kids listening to me?" The truth of the matter was, we weren't listening to a word she was saying. We were too busy having a blast doing our own thing.
I once read a story of a pastor who was asked by a woman in his church for a few minutes of his time. The pastor agreed to meet with her and while they talked, she said flatly to the pastor, "My father molested me when I was a little girl". Without missing a beat, the pastor said, "I believe you." The woman was shocked! She couldn't believe that someone had finally believed her.
Through tears she said, "For years I have tried to tell my family members, but no one would listen to me". It was such a relief to finally have someone who listened and believed her. The pastor asked, "What can I do for you?" "Nothing she replied, I just needed someone to listen and believe me."
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I’ve heard many people say over the last year that, as we enter into the 21st century, it will not be the size of the church that matters, but its health that will ensure its survival. So, what about the health of the church? May I suggest a few guidelines for assessing the health of a congregation of any size?
- Biblically based. Do your congregation members have a clear understanding of what they believe and substantial information to assist them in defending their faith? Is there a discipleship- training program?
- Mutually concerned. Do your people genuinely care for one another? Is there a system in operation that easily allows your congregation to know when people have needs and a prayer chain to respond to those needs?
- Socially concerned. If you do not have a small group ministry, do you have a Sunday School program that provides adequate time for your people to break bread together? Church is fellowship as much as it is a formal worship service.
- Community saturated. Are you aware of the day-to-day decisions that are made in your community that affect the school system, the social programs, and the overall moral climate of the city you serve?
- Financially stable. The church that is fiscally responsible will be able to weather any situation. Every pastor and board should insist on maintaining a certain dollar reserve, and do everything possible to avoid paralyzation of ministry through an unrealistic building or property debt. People must be taught by example to give and to give cheerfully.
I frequently converse with ministers and business leaders who are overwhelmed. They need help and I have solutions. I am good at what I do. However, all too often my attempts to help prove futile because leaders are notorious for not allowing themselves to see beyond assumed responsibilities and circumstances. They have problems focusing. For some it might be their Attention Deficit Disorder kicking in, and for others it is simply personal neglect. Just as a mechanic’s car often needs the most repair, and a plumber’s house needs a leaky faucet fixed, leaders seem to avoid personal changes of routine and lifestyle.
Sadly this is all too common. Many leaders assume roles and responsibilities they should not assume and therefore settle for a constant state of chaos and mediocrity. Numerous potential problems arise when a leader reaches a saturation point but refuses assistance and is unwilling to change habits.
I want to highlight a five of the potential problems and emphasize a few solutions for each.
The first potential problem: Addiction to adrenaline. Workaholics get used to the adrenaline they feel when meeting certain goals or deadlines. Many leaders develop a sense of pride at being busy; often boasting whenever their schedule hits overload because it feeds their false ego of self-importance. They have a hard time saying “no” to new responsibilities.
The intensity one feels when overwhelmed develops stress. This affects the quality of their relationships. Stressed leaders can become very controlling, territorial, moody, and sharp with their reactions to others. Stress also has negative affects on health in the long term.
Depression often sets in when someone who is addicted to adrenaline attempts to slow down or relax. Time with God, loved ones, and for personal development tends to be neglected or placed on the backburner. Those things simply aren’t the leader’s priority, and that is a big part of the problem.
Suggested solutions include:
- Establish a maximum number of hours to focus on work each day.
- Refuse to take work home with you.
- If an extra request for you to do something means you cannot accomplish it without adding to your maximum allotted workday hours then say “no” to the request.
- Schedule time off on a regular basis.
The second potential problem: Burnout. The body, mind and emotions are designed for a balance of work and rest. Time must be made for both. Burnout sneaks up on you, and when it comes it can be very difficult to conquer.
Burnout produces a cacophony of emotions. One might develop a sense of guilt, anger or regret. These are hard to overcome when one is in a state of burnout.[ read more...]