When Pastor vs Manager Collide

Ever met a pastor that just saw people as pawns?

It’s an easy trap to get sucked into. 

We have a vision for the future, and board or a boss watching us. We want to deliver, but delivery takes manpower. Volunteer manpower. 

So, we get sucked into viewing everyone we meet as someone who can help us meet our goal. Eventually, we burn people out and everyone feels like they are just being used. 
There is a solution though and it’s directly related to the expectation you put on yourself. 

Pastor vs Manager.png

It took me a long time to learn this lesson. For years, I would push toward a goal. If the person in front of me wasn’t helping me accomplish those goals, they didn’t get much attention.  

It was almost 12 years ago now. We had cut our department’s paid staff essentially in half but still needed to push forward. We put our heads down, grew our existing ministry and added a new ministry from the ground up. Not to mention the fact that we were no longer planning week to week, but had a 6+ month runway. We got things done…but I realize now I was focused on the wrong thing. I had created a massive org chart in my head. One for a ministry 3-4 times our size and all I was focused on was putting people in my org chart. We got things accomplished, but I was forgetting one important piece. I wasn’t just a manager, I was a pastor too. 

It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I had to make a purposeful change in my thinking. And it was one that made me just as likely to accomplish my goals, but was a lot more fun. 

Whenever I meet with someone, I remind myself that I have two equally important objectives. 

  1. Manager - move toward our goals

    It is our job to manage our church or department. I’m assuming you have goals and every day you are working hard to accomplish those goals. That may be growing your weekend attendance, starting a new ministry or investing in an existing one. This is important. It means that you have to always pay attention, always be sharing your vision and your plan, and pay attention to who’s eyes light up. 

    As leaders, we must stay focused on our goal. We must lead the way and engage people in the journey. 

    We must lead our church in the direction we believe God is leading us. That means staying focused, saying "no" to good things, and only putting effort into the right things. 

    But, at the very same time, we must remember that we have a unique opportunity to help our people discover their best contribution to the kingdom of God. 
  2. Pastor - help everyone discover their best contribution

    We have a responsibility to our church and to the Church. The person sitting across the table from us has a calling, a life’s work that’s equally important to our life work. Our role gives us a unique opportunity to help people discover their own contribution. Remember that even if that doesn’t end up happening within your church, it still is having an impact on our world. 

    Just last week, I had a friend in my office asking this exact question. What was next on their journey? Let me tell you, there is nothing quite as fun and helping someone unpack that question in their life. And sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes their passion lines up with what you are trying to accomplish. Either way, when you help someone unpack their calling, it’s a win-win. 

Before people can get excited about your vision, they have to feel like they have something to contribute. It’s our job to help them find it. 

And let me tell you, I've got a lot more accomplished now then I ever did when I only focused on my own goals. 

Where Do You Find New Ministry Ideas?

Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When was the last time you sat in a dark room and came up with the next great idea that was going to revolutionize your ministry? It’s far more likely that some other ministry or business sparked that idea.

Maybe you were visiting another church on your family vacation and noticed something cool they did. Maybe you were more intentional and went to visit some other churches in your network.

Inspiration is a vital ingredient to solving your ministries biggest problems, but it is also the reason your ministry can completely stall.

I work with an extremely passionate leader named Tim. Tim is in the financial management world but graciously accepted the challenge of shepherding our campus’s Student Ministry teams. When Tim started he was a volunteer leader working with about 20 kids in a mobile campus. Every week we would convert a choir and band room to our student ministry “wing”.

After some time, Tim and his team started to see some growth and they wanted to make sure they capitalized on the momentum.  So, as any great leader would, Tim began to visit some of the other Student Ministries in his network. He saw some fantastic student spaces, full time staff and some great mid-week ministries. Everything looked so much cooler than the converted band/choir rooms we would temporarily occupy on a Sunday morning.

I remember having a conversation with Tim and Brandon (one of his key volunteers) on a sunny Sunday afternoon after we had packed our mobile campus back into trailers. They had been working hard but were envying some of the other ministries in town...until they realized one simple rule:

Don’t take your cues from someone behind you.

What Tim and his team had almost lost sight of was the fact that they were doing a great job. So many of the ministries they were initially envying weren’t having near the impact they were. Sure, they had a cool space, and a full-time staff, but that wasn’t what this ministry needed. What they need to do was stay focused on their own context and do the best possible job they could there.

Don’t take your cues from someone behind you.
— StevenJBarker
  1. Understand Your Context

    Just because the ministry you envy has the building, or the resources, or the staff you don’t, does not mean they are worth mimicking. If you are a mobile ministry don’t use the excuse that you don’t have the student building the mega church has in the next city over.

    Spend some time studying the strengths and weakness of your own situation. The energy doing that analysis is way better spent!
  2. Look for Similar Outcomes

    Study the people who are succeeding in your type of ministry. If you minister in a diverse local community, look for churches succeeding in similar situations. If you meet in a theater, look at other churches that succeed there. If you are looking to grow your small group ministry, don’t just go look at a successful church, go look at one with successful small groups.

Tim (now on staff part time) and his team have worked hard over the last number of months and broke the 100 barrier this last weekend. They’ve still got work to do, but they know that the work ahead means working in their unique context on their unique goals.

10 Reasons Pushing Your Leadership Limits Could Help Grow Your Church

Like most parents, I believe my son is a smart kid. I want to help him reach his full potential. I want to be his biggest cheerleader and help him push over speed bumps even when he believes they are walls.

A few months ago, while I was helping him with his homework I could see he was frustrated. The material he was working on was hard and it was pushing his limits. I noticed that he was starting to feel discouraged so I decided to speak up. I said “Son, when it starts to get hard, that’s when you know you are learning. That’s when you know you’re in the right spot.”

In reality easy is boring. Sometimes it feels safe and maybe sometimes that’s what we need, but if we really want to grow we have to put ourselves in situations that stretch us.

If we want our church to grow, we need to live by this same truth.

Here are the top 10 reasons why pushing your leadership limits could help your church grow.

1. It requires you to educate yourself.

Read what you need. When you put yourself in stretching situations it gives you the context for learning. You can immediately put into practice theories and methods from people who have been down your path before.

2. It requires you to pay close attention.

When you can coast by, you can get away with putting life and work on cruise control. You believe you can get yourself out of trouble if necessary with a little effort. But when you are pushing your limits you begin to realize the if you’re not on top of things, something is going to fall through the cracks.

3. It requires you to ask for help from your team.

Sometimes the fear of failure us just enough to help you get over the embarrassment of asking for help. Failing because you didn’t ask for help is just ridiculous.

4. It highlights the need for a leadership pipeline.

When you step into new and stretching roles it often means you have to stop doing something, often something that still needs to be done.  And if you are going to keep putting yourself in stretching roles, it will require that you pass off what you are doing now to someone confident and capable. Thus the need to a develop growing group of leaders will become more and more pressing.  

5. It can give you new confidence.

Let’s be honest, it is quite the shot of confidence when you accomplish something you weren’t sure you could. That confidence is the fuel you use to take on the next leadership stretching project.

6. Your leadership limits are the bottleneck of your church.

Unfortunately, because of the authority you hold (officially or unofficially) your ability to lead can be the governor slowing down your church growth. This is a heavy burden to carry, but it is also a relief to know that this is such an effective area to focus. The energy you put into pushing your limits is directly tied to the amount of impact your church can have in your community.

The energy you put into pushing your limits is directly tied to the amount of impact your church can have in your community.
— StevenJBarker

7. It forces you to assess your own limits.

When’s the last time you sat down to self assess your leadership limits? 

8. You lead by example.

Image what would happen if the top 10 key leaders at your church would begin to push their own limits!! Imagine what you could accomplish.

9. It honors the skills you have been given.

It would be rude not to maximize the skills you’ve been given. Why would you want to waste them. The key here is to understand your strengths. Pick up a book like “Stand Out” and do the assessment. Understand what your best contribution is and then put yourself in stretching situations to use those strengths.

10. Hope for a future you can be proud of.

Wouldn’t you love to look back and see your impact expanding? Wouldn’t you love to look back on pictures and recall the hard work and growth you experienced.

Pushing your leadership limits is as simple as taking lead on a new project or task. Choose something you don’t have a lot of experience in. Review #9 and make it part of your work culture, part of your habits, part of your planning. Understand your strengths and then look for new situations to offer them.