Sunday Morning: Leader or Manager?

In the average North American church most pastors must fulfill both leadership roles and management roles. The problem we face is that these two roles require completely different skills. And what made you great at one WILL NOT make you great at the other. 

Ignoring this will cripple your ability to scale. 

No time? Download the Leadership or Management Infographic at the end of the post. 

Sunday Morning

Before we jump into the practical, let’s look at these two roles: Leader & Manager.

What does it mean to be a capital “L” leader?

Peter Drucker says it well, "Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher sights” (see Quote card). As a leader, your role is to point to something higher. It’s to point to the next mountain and rally your people to march onward to the next camp on your journey to the summit.

What does it mean to be a capital “M” manager?

This is a slightly different role. Managing that same team you just finished “inspiring” requires some different skills. It’s no longer to only inspire, it now includes mobilizing the team. Management requires an ability to see each individuals contribution to the journey. Marcus Buckingham would say "The true genius of a great manager is his or her ability to individualize. A great manager is one who understands how to trip each person's trigger.” You now are mobilizing a group of people to accomplish a common goal.

Both these roles are needed as an organization moves and grows. The summit cannot be reached without both a leader and a manager.

So, how does the size of your church change the role you need to lean into? More specifically, how does this impact an average Sunday morning?

Sunday Morning Attendance - 100 +/-

You most likely lead a team between 5 and 20. You are hands on and lead from a personal vision. You work closely with your team and have personal relationships with the volunteers you manage. Right now, you need to be a Leader just enough to remind people of where you are going.

This might mean you use other forms of communication to fulfill your Leadership role. You might send your team video messages, emails (see How To Inform & Inspire Your Volunteer Team) or even inviting them to separate gatherings to cast some vision and rally the team. Sundays become management game day.

Your job then is to mobilizing your team. Finding their strengths and positioning each member of your team to make their greatest contribution. (Suggested reading: First Break All The Rules) Your Sunday is all about putting people in their strongest role.

Sunday Morning Attendance - 250 +

By the time you start finding yourself managing a team of 20 you are likely starting to feel the pressure of capacity. Having the time to manage a group that large is straining your ability to do the rest of your job. You've been looking around for people who can help you lead your teams and this is exactly what you should be doing. As you add new team leaders (team managers) your role with those teams will change. It is incredibly tempting to still be "hands on" but is increasingly important that you begin to release.

You will need to begin focusing on effective communication with your team, setting clearer expectations for your team and managing conflict between team members (see 5 Ingredients to an Empowered Team).

At this size your job still leans heavier into your management role then it does leadership. You are still hands on when it comes to identifying strengths and building teams, though now you may be building a team managed by someone who “reports” to you.

Sunday Morning Attendance - 500 +

By now you running an average Sunday is likely requiring a small army of volunteers. Your manager and leader roles have now switched. You still manage a small team of team leaders but the majority of your Sunday morning is spent encouraging people. You spend more time leading and helping people focus on the common goal.

Once you’ve built a team of team leaders around you, you will need to pay special attention to developing them, while at the same time not undermining them. Remember, the definition of great management isn’t having everyone do things the same way you would, it’s understanding how to trip each person's trigger. How to have them contribute at their very best?

The larger your church gets the more you’ll need to rely on others to manage well. Your job begins to lean heavy into leadership and reminding your broader team that we are working together to reach the summit.

If your not knee deep in leadership development it’s time to stop everything you're doing and start. Pick up a copy of Exponential (link) and start building your leadership pipeline.

Sunday Morning Attendance - 1000 +

As you approach a Sunday with 1000 in attendance you are relying almost completely on leadership to be your primary tool for progress. In fact, if you find yourself managing you are likely doing more damage than good. You efforts should be primarily focused on vision and strategy. Your management role will only really function within a smaller leadership team.

Start creating new opportunities for leaders to lead and managers to manage. Start more services, new campuses, more small groups or even new ministries. Expand your impact and unleash your people.

No matter what size your Sunday morning is pay special attention to what your organization needs most. And remember, not every manager is wired to become a leader. It’s crucial to understand is which role is most important for your current situation and lean into it now.