Pastors Need Leadership Skills

Hiking TrailThis is Pathway to Pastoral Ministry – Develop Pastoral Skills (Part 3). Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here. The series starts here.

In addition to speaking skills and people skills, pastors need leadership skills. If you’re thinking about going into ministry, now is a good time to begin growing as a leader.

Leadership is the ability to influence people in a direction they need to go.

Being a leader doesn’t mean you are an aggressive personality, taking charge of everything and ordering people around. Leaders see the direction a group of people needs to go. In the church setting, that includes spiritual growth on an individual level, and it includes making disciples as a church. A leader communicates those ultimate goals to the people. He also encourages and equips them to pursue those goals.

A pastor, as a leader in the church, will often see steps a church can take or strategic efforts it can implement in order to pursue the goal of reaching its community with the gospel and making disciples. He will intentionally provide teaching and urge the people to do their part. Or he may see ways in which the church needs to mature as a body, so he preaches from passages of Scripture related to those areas and plans ways the church can apply these truths together.

How can you develop now as a leader?

1. Pray for God to develop your leadership. Jesus developed the disciples. They were normal men who became influencers. He taught them, gave them opportunities to serve, corrected them when needed, and eventually entrusted them with starting the first churches after He ascended back to heaven.

In a similar way, God will enable and develop you into the leader you need to be in order to fulfill His purpose for you. Express your dependence on Him through prayer. Ask Him to give you wisdom, help you learn from experience, and mature you into a man who can influence others.

2. Learn from others who lead. You can do this by reading good resources on leadership. A great book to start with is Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. I recommend it very highly. Sanders tells you what it means to be a spiritual leader, gives many helpful principles, and includes a lot of examples. It is truly a life-changing book. You might want to read and discuss it along with someone else – your Dad, your pastor or youth pastor, or a friend.

Also, observe how your pastor and others in positions of influence exercise leadership. Watch how they lead a group of people to pursue goals. See how they communicate. Notice how they plan, then enlist and equip others to pursue the plan. Pay attention to how their example affects others.

You can even learn from leaders’ weaknesses and mistakes. I don’t mean to encourage you to have a critical spirit. But sometimes leaders handle things in a way that isn’t the best. Quietly make a mental note of what they did and the impact it had, and think of how you might handle it differently if you were in their place.

3. Learn from Jesus. Jesus is the greatest leader of all. Read through the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) paying special attention to how Jesus influenced others and what He taught His disciples about leadership.

Carefully read Mark 10:35-45. Jesus’ disciples asked Him for prominent positions in His kingdom. He responded by telling them greatness in God’s eyes is very different from how the world views it. His words have become the gold standard for leadership in Christian ministry:

You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45, ESV).

You can learn Christ-like leadership by letting these words shape your life. Pray the quality of selfless service will be formed in your heart and will determine how you relate to others.

4. Seek opportunities to get experience. In your church setting, this may include helping plan and execute events, assisting with Vacation Bible School, or being on a youth council. There may also be opportunities at your school – class offices, special events, athletics, or clubs. If you have a part-time or summer job, look for ways to go beyond just putting in your time. Take extra responsibilities, help with planning, or develop a new idea to improve the business.

Leadership can be learned.

Some people’s natural personalities or abilities make them leaders. You may not feel like that’s you. But anyone can acquire knowledge, gain experience, and develop leadership skills. And when God wants you to influence others, He is at work from within, growing you so He can use you in Christ’s church-building work.

If you are supposed to be a pastor, God will enable you and you will learn to lead. Think of it like a shepherd with sheep. He knows they need food, water and protection. The shepherd thinks ahead, knows where to take them for nourishment and safety, gets out in front, and starts going in that direction. His sheep follow him.

As a pastor, you will need to get out in front. You don’t have to act like a military commander or a corporate CEO. Just start pursuing spiritual growth and bring others with you.

I love this quote:

“Leadership is often viewed as the product of natural endowments and traits of personality – intellectual capacity, force of will, enthusiasm. That such talents and scholastic attainments do greatly enhance leadership is beyond question, but those are not the factors of paramount importance in the spiritual leader. The real qualities of leadership are to be found in those who are willing to suffer for the sake of objectives great enough to demand their wholehearted obedience” (from Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders, p. 25, emphasis mine).

If you obey God’s call on your life and His commission to make disciples, and if you are willing to spend your life serving Him, you will influence others in the same direction. You will become the leader you need to be.

Do you know what ordination is? Sound scary? We’ll talk about that next.

Factors That Influence Young Men Toward Ministry

In a recent meeting with college students who are preparing for pastoral ministry, I asked them three questions. I wanted to understand better the influences that encourage high school age young men to consider ministry. We filled a white board and discussed these ideas for about 45 minutes. Mostly I just listened and wrote down what they said.

God calls men into ministry, but people in their lives influence them to consider and pursue it. I encourage pastors, youth pastors, parents, teachers, and any Christian with a position of influence in a young man’s life to read over these questions and answers. Then think about how you might help cultivate a desire for ministry in young men. You may be the one they’re talking about five years from now – the one God used to encourage them toward ministry.

Here are the questions and answers without comment. The answers are not in any significant order, other than approximately as they were given by the students.

What influenced you as a high school age young man                                                   toward ministry?
Youth Pastor
Awana Commander
A man in the church who discipled me
Camp speaker
Camp staff
Pastor
Bible college students on a traveling team
Opportunities to serve in church
Mission Trips
The need for good preaching
The need for pastors
Parents
The effects of sin on friends’ lives
God’s Word

What would you tell high school young men who are considering ministry?
It’s okay if you feel inadequate. God will enable you.
Serve now any way you can.
Be open to change – doing something different than you plan.
Pray about it.
Be in the Word.
Have a high view of the gospel – what it can do in your life and others’ lives.
God is sovereign, He will grow and equip you.
Guard your moral purity.
The ministry isn’t for everyone (James 3:1).
Have friends who encourage you toward ministry, not discourage you from it.
Be all in.
Be real.
Be discipled by someone – seek it out if you have to.
Develop compassion for others.

What would you tell pastors and youth pastors about encouraging young men toward ministry?
Talk to them! Spend time in conversation, get to know them, show interest in them.
Share your own testimony of how God led you into ministry.
Preach on it.
Be a Paul to a Timothy.
Emphasize ministry as a viable option for life’s work.
Disciple them.
Involve them in ministry.

 

 

 

I clicked SEND!

This is an announcement. And it is one excuse I have for not writing blog posts for the past year or so.

Tuesday evening I wrote an email, attached several documents, and clicked SEND. That email represents a big milestone in my life. Here’s why.

Old Typewriter

Several years ago while I was pastoring, a church member encouraged me to develop one of my sermon series into a book. The idea was very appealing. My administrative assistant transcribed the audio of some of the sermons so I could edit them for publication. I heard that’s how John MacArthur did it, so surely it couldn’t be too hard.

That process didn’t work for me. When I read over my sermons, I realized the way I speak would not read well in a book. I marked up pages and pages of text, drawing circles and arrows and rewording sentences. I finally decided the best way for me to turn sermons into books was to use the research and ideas, but start from scratch and word it for reading rather than listening. And of course that takes a lot of time and effort. I started and stopped a few times, then finally gave up trying.

Since then, I have turned some sermons into articles that have been published here and elsewhere. But the idea of a book has stayed on my mind. I just didn’t have the motivation or blocks of time to make it happen.

A little over two years ago as I considered what was next for me after pastoring, I wished and prayed for a role that would allow me time for writing. God in His wisdom and goodness placed me in a teaching job. And teachers get summers off.

During the summer of 2017 I started writing the manuscript for a book. Preaching trips, vacation, and home projects filled those summer months as well, so I couldn’t devote the whole time to writing, but I got off to a good start. I worked on it here and there through the next school year. Then last summer I devoted significant time to pushing it toward completion.

Writing does not flow easily for me. There are occasions when my fingers can hardly keep up with my thoughts. But most of the time it is laborious and I agonize over each sentence. I’m a plodder by nature, so I just keep at it.

A week ago, I texted my wife, “I’m about to jump out of my chair!” I could physically feel the excitement as completion was in sight. Reading over the manuscript later, I realized I had left out an important section. So I had to go back and fill that in.

Tuesday night I completed and collected all the necessary elements:

Cover letter: Check!

Manuscript overview: Check!

Table of contents: Check!

Biographical information: Check!

Manuscript: CHECK!

Earlier in the process, I had sent a proposal to a publisher and was invited to submit the entire manuscript when complete. I entered my contact’s email address, wrote a note, attached the documents, and clicked SEND!

Now a new process begins – waiting while the publisher evaluates the manuscript and, if approved, going through the steps of preparing it for publication. It’s a new adventure and I’m loving it. And I will be thrilled if the fruit of my labor helps others.

One of these days I’ll tell you what I wrote about :).