John Rinaldo has some great thoughts on successful pastors. And I heartily agree with him.
OK… don’t fly off the handle at me for using the word ‘successful’ and ‘pastor’ in the same sentence.
Because I know I have a target on my head for saying that.
Don’t read too much into it. And don’t let it ruin your day.
To some pastors… to be successful means to ‘preach the word’.
Don’t get me wrong… preaching the word is great. Awesome, actually. But while preaching the word is one way (and a very important one) to being faithful (and might I say… successful); it is not the only thing that a pastor needs to be doing to make sure that the church is healthy and moving forward.
So… if you’re of the ‘preach the word’ only mindset… please read the following with an open mind. (Please?)
1. Communicate the vision… over and over and over again.
When I say something once, I often assume that everyone gets it. The fact is that they don’t. As a pastor, you need to have a compelling vision for your church. What is your church all about? Why would anyone want to get involved in your church? You need to figure that out.
Once you do, you need to communicate that exciting vision again and again. My rule of thumb is this: by the time you are tired of saying it, people will just be hearing and understanding it. Do these three things:
Write down your vision. Writing it down allows you to articulate it well. It’s been said that you don’t truly understand something until you try to write it out.
Communicate your vision.
Communicate your vision again. Repeat.
(But wait, Todd… communicating your vision is not ‘preaching the word’. (sigh) True… but it CAN be part of it. It IS possible to preach the word AND communicate a vision.)
2. Get the right people in the right spot.
When you take on a new church as pastor, you inherit a team of staff and volunteers. Just because you inherited them, doesn’t mean you have to keep them. I know this might be hard for you to hear, but if you have ineffective people on your team, whether they are volunteers or staff, it is your job as a pastor to transition them. If they are effective, by all means, keep them!
The successful pastors I know have spent a lot of time recruiting the right leaders to be in key roles on staff, on pastoral councils, on finance councils, and on liturgy councils. As a pastor, it is your job to actively look for and invite potential leaders to join you on your team to serve your church. And that does mean transitioning people off that do not help you fulfill the mission of the church. (Let’s be honest. “Transitioning” is code word for “firing.”)
(This success talk makes me sick, Todd… God will work it out with the right people in the right spot. Maybe so. But as the leader, it’s important that you are constantly cultivating new people to be in the right spot. Be sure to keep your side of the responsibility).
3. Embrace change.
Change is inevitable. If your church is to continue to be relevant in the eyes of the faith community, then you need to embrace change as a regular and recurring reality of your leadership. What worked 10 years ago doesn’t work today. Yet, you know plenty of churches that are still employing strategies from 30 years ago. I know change is hard. If you are serious about your pastorship, then embracing and leading change is an essential strategy.
(Not gonna do it. Relevancy is a myth. God’s word is always relevant. Preach the word, and forget about culture, Todd. –to that I’d say… again… do both… preach AND be relevant. It’s tougher to be sure… but will get you some great returns in the long haul.)
4. Help your team know what success means.
Leaders in ministry can define success differently. That’s fine. But until you tell your team what success means for you, they will have a hard time meeting your expectations. You have to measure your success. Once you can define success for you and your team, talk about it at every staff meeting and one on one. Include it has part of their performance evaluation. It is easier to finish the race when you know where the finish line is. That’s true for you and your team.
(We ALL define success in one way or another… even if your definition of success is to be faithful in preaching the word. Be sure to define for your team, staff, and lay leadership what exactly the end-goal is. Until you do that, you’re treading water).
Question: As a pastor, what strategies have you used to help you “win”?