I’ll never forget the walk with my Lead Pastor. It was the Winter of 2014 and there was some transition in our team. During this walk, my Lead Pastor asked me to take the role of Executive Pastor.
I was terrified.
I had been serving Young Adults for 4 years in a dynamic and effective ministry. We were seeing young adults come to Christ and producing content that was helping millennials across our region. It was a great gig and a dynamic season of ministry.
The prospect of stepping into a senior leadership role was daunting. I had little knowledge of what an Executive Pastor actually did, but I felt that it was another way to serve our church and gain some experience along the way.
There was an immediate step up in responsibility, expectations, and influence. After three years, I have learned some lessons in this role that I would not have learned in any other. It has come with some painful failures and a few victories as well.
If I was to sit down with me 4 years ago, how would I coach myself? What would I tell myself to cultivate, develop and practice?
Here are 4 things you can do now that will prepare you for then:
This is what differentiates good leaders from great leaders.
Self-awareness is the ability to know yourself well enough to put yourself in places where your gifts are most clearly expressed.
In this way, self-awareness allows you to say “no” to some opportunities and “yes” to others.
Self-awareness is cultivated. It demands that you become a student of you.
For example, you start to notice when your heart starts to beat fast as your passion increases over a certain initiative. You also notice when you feel the energy draining out of you put data into an Excel spreadsheet.
How can you do this now?
o Take advantage of personality tests. These are a great tool to help diagnose the places and spaces where you flourish.
o Take advantage of community. Great friends are ones who are brave enough to give you feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.
o Take advantage of your current opportunity. The best way to understand you is simply by being faithful to what you are called to. Don’t underestimate how God is preparing you for the future with the opportunities you are given today.
2. Passion with margin
A key attribute I always look for in new hires is passion. If you don’t have it you won’t. Passion cannot be manufactured – it is innate.
Yet lots of rookie leaders don’t know how to manage passion. They are like a fire hose open and on full blast. While the immediate impact is seen, no long-term fruit occurs.
This is why passion with margin is so important.
I have learned from my colleagues in this area. I have seen them manage themselves throughout the 8 years I have served at CA Church. They know when they can work hard, and when to rest.
Younger leaders (like myself) struggle with this. In the last three years, there have been a few times where I have red-lined my life. My soul and schedule were packed full and had no room for things that gave me life.
How do you do this?
o Regular days off – Sabbath is a gift AND a command. Turn the screen off, go for a walk and pray.
o Healthy devotional life – the Bible is for you as much as it is for them.
o Serving in your area of passion – make sure your heart beats for your area of ministry.
o Living your own story – don’t try to be someone you’re not.
o Managing your calendar – you will either manage it or it will manage you.
Be passionate as all great leaders are, but to have a lasting impact you need to put margin in to ensure long-term health.
3. Ability to identify and develop people
It’s painful but true: the leader is often the lid.
This means that the ministry and its impact will only go as far as you if you cannot identify and build up people who own the mission as much as you.
This is hard for a few reasons as it means:
o that you will not always be the hero with the microphone
o that ministry will most often move slower than what you want as developing people is an unhurried game
o that you will have to give credit more than receive it
o that you will have to train people to love Jesus and develop leadership skills
o that you won’t always get your way as you yield to other people’s dreams and gifts
While this is all true, being on a team is the desire of every great leader because they realize that the Bible was on to something when it talked about the body of Christ. That together we can do more than as individuals.
So, start building a bench today. Spend time with those people who may not have the skills yet, but are hungry to learn. Identify those people who seem to naturally take ownership of a room. Learn how to give effective feedback. Give ample encouragement to the insecure first-timer. All of these skills will help you move the mission forward.
Teamwork really does make the dream work. If you can learn how to build leaders today, it will help you lead a movement tomorrow.
4. Theological convictions for ministry
You have to make a decision at some point in your ministry. I’d recommend doing making it early.
The decision is: where will you get your marching orders on how you will do ministry?
There are lots of great books with good advice. But the Bible should be the basis for all we do in the local church.
If I were to sit down with myself 5 years ago, I would coach myself to articulate Biblical convictions for ministry. There will be temptations to take shortcuts and to rely on pragmatic gimmicks rather than Scripture.
The last three years haven’t changed my frameworks, but I have had to articulate them and use them as a filter as I make decisions.
For example, here are a few of my convictions:
o Process over progress – This means that the way we do ministry matters just as much as the outcomes of ministry. Character short-cuts simply won’t do. The Lord should be honored in all aspects of our ministry, from beginning to end.
o Priority of preaching – I believe that the preaching of the Word is the highest point of a Sunday morning gathering. Therefore, I commit to preaching the Bible instead of preaching from it.
Without these convictions articulated the struggle will be to emulate the model that the church down the road is using or change your church based on the last church leadership book you read.
The Bible must be the basis.
This is a humbling post to write as I know I will look back 5 to 10 years from now shaking my head. The fact is that we always look back and think our previous selves were a bit ignorant and underprepared.
But this is why we have and swim in God’s abundant grace.
Take it from me if you implement the four lessons above, you will not only change your current situation, but the future of the church will be greatly impacted.
And that is the reason I write.