10 Ways To Be A Great Non-Profit Board Member


I believe in public service and giving back to the community. While I was in the business world, serving in an elected office, and now in ministry I have continued to volunteer in the community in which I live. I believe it’s truly the best way to be a Kingdom-builder.

Along the way, I have served on dozens of non-profit boards at the state and local level. I have worked with nationally known organizations, such as Boys Scouts, Red Cross, United Way, and YMCA and numerous other local non-profit ministries and service organizations. I realize the value of non-profits in community development.

It could easily be said that the success of any non-profit is directly related to the strength of its board. Finding, training and keeping good board members is a critical part of non-profit leadership. With this recognition, I have also helped develop non-profit boards over the years.

With that experience, I share a few thoughts for those who set out to serve in such noble ways.

Here are 10 ways to be a great non-profit board member:

Find out what’s expected. Determine what they expect a board member to do — preferably before agreeing to serve. Know what the role of a board member  is, how they define a “great” board member, and consider how the requirements fit with your talents, abilities, and schedule. Don’t agree to serve unless you know you can meet the expectation.

Live up to expectations. If you agree to serve, serve well.  Work the meetings into your schedule, participate in activities expected of board members, and fulfill the obligations expected of you. Don’t make them feel awkward about you being on the board. I’ve served on boards where no one knew where the person was and yet no one wanted to have the awkward conversation in order to learn. Granted, they should, but, in my opinion, the weight of responsibility to shift to the one who is supposedly a good enough leader to be considered for the position.

Learn the organization. It’s hard to lead what you don’t understand. I’ve seen board members who just sit in meetings and vote. They don’t learn the language of the organization or ever feel a deep commitment to the cause. Don’t be that member. Participate. Show up when things are most exciting. Ask questions. Learn the “lingo”. It’s the responsible thing to do and you’ll make better decisions.

Don’t micro-manage. You are there to advise and hold accountable — not to run the place. You should check your power at the table of decision-making. There may be times when you need a more active role in day-to-day operations, but those should be rare — not a regular occurrence.

Invest your strengths. You bring qualities to the board no one else has. Figure out why you are there and what your unique purpose is for the board and organization. Then leverage yourself for the good of the organization. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so you may not be a good fit for the board.

Be a connector. This may be one of the best roles for a board member. You have influence places the organization may not yet have. Use your network of connections for the good of the organization.

Ask good questions. In the end, even though you shouldn’t micromanage, it is your job as a board member to protect the integrity of the organization. That may involve asking hard questions — the ones you may not even feel comfortable asking. You may be the only one who is thinking the way you are, but you may not be. You may regret not asking later. There are no bad questions, but there may be some great questions, which protect the mission, and you may be the only one brave enough to ask them. Be kind always. Believe the best in others. But, do the right thing.

Willingly be a fundraiser.  If it is part of the assignment – work to raise money. Remember, you are not asking for yourself, but for a cause in which you believe. Money is the leading need of most every non-profit. Not every board is required to raise money. Every organization appreciates when a board member recognizes the need.

Don’t overstay your welcome. When it’s time to go — go! Most boards will have some board rotation, but do everyone a favor and leave when you lose enthusiasm to be effective and useful.

If the board agrees — replace yourself. Finding a good board member is hard for any non-profit.  Leave them well by recommending quality people to replace the spot you leave void.

What am I missing? What would you add to the list?

7 Ways to Parent with Grace

family lifestyle portrait

Cheryl and I had a model for our parenting.

Whenever I say that to people they hear “complicated”. It wasn’t. We aren’t complicated people.

Simply put, we attempted to implement grace into our home.

Our boys are now grown — in their mid-twenties, but we have seen the fruit from our methods. We have two amazing sons. They love Jesus, they serve others, and they respect their parents. (And, they are self-supported. That’s a good thing.)

Our heart is now to help other parents learn from things we did wrong and things we did right.

Grace-based parenting is one thing I believe we did right.

For an easy definition: Grace-based parenting attempts to parent children the way God parents us — by grace. It makes sense to me — if God leads us by grace we should lead our children by grace. I read in the Scriptures that grace teaches, graces protect, grace encourages, and grace redeems. Grace even disciplines and corrects. Oh, the power of grace.
We are not under the law — but grace.

Grace-based parenting does not mean that we let our children do whatever they want to do. It doesn’t mean there were no rules in my house. (My boys would say Amen to the last sentence.) It didn’t mean we released them to sin.

The apostle Paul dealt with these same concerns regarding grace-based living. (Romans 6:1-2)

To the contrary, I actually believe grace parenting has led to a stronger walk with the Lord for each of the boys. They are now young men, honoring Christ (and their parents) with their lives.

Basically with grace-based parenting we had some basic principles with which we parented. We considered these often.

Here are 7 ways to parent with grace:

Set clear boundaries. 

Children need to know what is expected of them and what the limits are in the home. They will test these — primarily because they intrinsically want to know how real they are. When they do, enforce the boundaries, but do it with grace. For example, one of these boundaries for us was respect. My boys could speak openly and honestly about anything with us — anything — but I expected them to respect Cheryl and me in the way they responded and talked to us. Another solid boundary was honesty. Punishment was more severe if they did wrong and lied about it than if they confessed.

Recognize the individuality of the child. 

You can’t parent all children the same with the same results. Some children require more structure than others do. Make sure the boundaries set are appropriate for the needs of the child. One of our boys needed more structure than the other boy. His boundaries had to be more defined. He also needed illustrations to help explain to him the boundaries. The other boy just needed a clear destination — a path for him. He would get there in his own way.

Have certain goals.

I am not sure our boys ever knew, but we had goals for them every year for improvement. For example, we concentrated on building their patience. We tried to encourage more honesty in them. Basically, we talked about where we saw our boys — what we saw they needed — and together we planned an intentional effort. That was grace to them — as we intentionally imparted truth into them by stories, Scripture and by example — even when they just thought we were throwing a ball together.

Major on the majors, not the minors.

This is huge. There should be some things, which everyone understands are non-negotiable items. We tended to let these be moral or Biblical issues, such as lying, cheating, disrespect, etc. If the issue affects the child’s character then it is a major issue. These major issues are handled sternly and thoroughly. Of course, they are still handled with love, but we made sure the boys knew we were very serious about them. The minor issues — those which do not affect the child’s character, are not to be ignored, but can be handled less severely. Leaving clothes on the floor or forgetting to take out the trash may feel “major” at the time, but it isn’t likely going to help determine who they are as a person years from now. This will eliminate much of the “nagging” children often feel parents do.

Consider the heart.

We always tried to determine the reasons behind our boy’s actions before deciding on discipline. A pure heart was always treated differently from a rebellious heart. Remember you are trying to mold a character for life. Scripture says that we should monitor and protect the heart above everything else. (Proverbs 4:23) If your child’s heart is pure and wants to do the right thing, instructing them in the way they should go may be better than harsh discipline. If their heart is bent on rebellion that should be handled much stricter.

Give multiple chances and forgive easily.

God has given Cheryl and me so many chances. Shouldn’t we do the same for our children — especially if we want to model the heart of God for our children? After punishment is decided upon, make sure the child understands why they are being punished. You may not be able to fully explain at the time, but go back to the child afterwards to make sure you have not broken their spirit or closed their heart to you. They should always know that you love them, that you would never forsake them, even when they have done something wrong. They should never question your commitment to them even in your anger. Give love liberally, just as God gives it to us.

Be a “fun” parent.

Children should enjoy having a good time with you. That’s true even when they aren’t fully living up to your standards. You want your children giving you access to their lives later in life. We wanted our boys to honestly be able to say they lived in a fun house. At the same time, we wanted to witness their character being molded into the image of Christ. We laughed so much in our house and under this model. There were rarely days where life was no fun in our home, even during some of the most stressful times in our lives as parents. There will be some days that are no fun — but if children are living within the boundaries of your home, don’t take the stress of your world out on them. When you’re home — be home — and have a good time being there.

Our boys quickly learned the concept of grace as they grew in our home. They understood that we were holding them to high standards, but that we would extend to them lots of grace.

7 Ways I Gain Influence with My Team

Business team

John Maxwell says leadership is influence. If that’s true, then how does a leader develop that influence with the people he or she leads?

I have had the opportunity to build my own team — that’s easier — and to inherit a team I was supposed to lead. That’s hard. But, either requires intentional effort on the part of the leader. Influence is never gained simply by holding a position.

I’ll never forget the first week in my current position. We have a large staff and it seemed everyone was on edge around me. It was awkward. I’m a pretty easy-going guy. I can appear intense at times, because I’m very driven, but I genuinely like people. My door is always open. But, it was tense. Eerily tense. The church had experienced a couple difficult years and they were obviously resistant to give immediate trust. I would have to earn it. 

If John Maxwell is correct that leadership is influence — and he certainly is at some level — I knew I had to gain influence with my team. I can’t lead people if I can’t influence them.

Influence is always based on trust. So, ultimately, that’s what we are discussing in this post. Building trust that gains influence.

Here’s are 7 ways I attempt to gain influence with my team:

Treat people with respect. I expect to be respected as a leader. Most leaders have that expectation. I know, however, that I can’t demand or even expect respect without displaying it. If I disrespect people it doesn’t build influence, it fosters control. People need to know they are valued members on the team and that they will be treated fairly, professionally — with grace and truth.

Take risks on people and give opportunities to fail — or succeed. I like placing faith in people. I love to recruit people who start their ministry career with us. And, if a team member comes to me with a dream, I’ll try to help them attain it. The risk is almost always worth the return. People need to know they are free to explore — even if it’s into unknown territory. More importantly, they need to know you’ll back them up if it doesn’t work. Team members need to be able to learn from mistakes — and success — and continue to grow and develop.

Recognize and reward efforts. I’m not afraid to single out exceptional work for individual recognition. Texting or emailing everyone to compliment one should not be forbidden. Yes, you may miss someone — and I try to discipline myself to look broadly for areas to applaud — but individuals need recognition just as he collective team does. What I’ve learned is a culture which recognizes achievements of others is contagious. As you do, so will the team.

Allow the team to know me personally. This is huge. I’m very transparent. In fact, with my entire church. I try to be clear about my weaknesses and own my mistakes. I’m also not afraid to be the brunt of the jokes. The fact is I miss details. I see only the big picture sometimes. I need people around me who can cover-up for my short-comings — and ground me. They need to know they serve a role on our team — to make me and the team better. 

Be responsive and approachable. I return phone calls and emails to our team quickly. It’s part of building trust which leads to influence. They can get in touch with me and on my schedule before anyone other than my family. I keep the door open when I’m in the office and welcome walk-ins. I don’t make them wait long for an answer and follow through on requests.

Be consistent and reliable – I keep lots of lists so I don’t forget things I’ve committed to do. I have an Evernote folder with different teams and member’s name in it. It helps me keep up with things relative to them specifically. I want to always do what I commit to do, so I don’t make many promises. If I tell a team member I’ll do something, I make it a priority in my schedule until it’s accomplished.

Help others achieve personal success. I love to learn a team member’s goals and help them achieve it. Recently we had a staff member who felt God was leading them to another position — one we couldn’t accommodate at our church. I actually served as a sounding board for him, a personal reference for the new job, and coached him through the interview process.

I think it’s vital to a healthy team that the leader be continually conscious of his or her need for influence and ways to improve upon it. Most of what I’ve learned in leadership came from doing the wrong things first.

Keep in mind, I’m not perfect and this is not an attempt to brag about my performance. As with all my posts, I’m trying to be helpful in developing good leadership. I continue to ask my team how I can improve. Frankly, three years into a new position, I probably have influence with some of our team more than others. It’s a work in progress — always.

A Secret Your Husband Needs You to Know

couples golfing

Ladies, there’s a secret your husband probably won’t share.

He may not even like that I’m sharing it.

It’s not that he doesn’t want you to know. He does. But, it’s hard to admit sometimes. Or, difficult to find the right words.

But, I feel you need to know. It could make a huge difference in your marriage.

Here goes:

He needs your unconditional respect — in fact — he needs you to be his biggest fan.

There. The secret is out in the open.

It’s true. He needs to know you respect him — what he does and whom he is.

Your support feeds his God-given ego.

Of course, that ego can be abused. And, it is many times. It doesn’t, however, diminish his need. I would even say — his greatest need.

Just as you need his unconditional love, he needs your unconditional respect. (And vice-versa)

I also realize you nor he is capable of perfectly fulfilling those individual needs. 

But at least you know the secret now.

Doing well for the woman he loves is perhaps one of the greatest goals in a man’s life.

That inner desire starts at a very early age. The little league ball player who turns around to see if mom watches him bat. The same little boy who brings a flower (weed) home to mom. It’s the respect he’s seeking.

The truth is sometimes a guy feels as if he doesn’t measure up to everyone’s standards. Actually it happens a lot of times.

(Please don’t tell him I told you all this.)

He feels the weight of being wonderful in so many areas. His home. His family. His work. Even in his hobby.

It’s a pressure men carry internally — possibly never sharing it with anyone.

Chances are fear of failure is his greatest fear. And the fear of disappointing you is a close second.

He may see you seeming to do so well with all your responsibilities. Whether in the home, with the kids, or in relationships — he feels you always know what you’re doing. He knows he doesn’t.

Even your walk with God may shine brighter than his sometimes. Okay — most times.

You handle things so well, in fact, at times, he’s tempted to not even try.

(Please don’t tell him I told you this.)

Let me give you a personal example. One time after preaching Cheryl said nothing. Usually she says “Great job today” — or — ”That was a good one”.

That day — nothing!

Three days later I asked, “Was I that bad?”

See how shallow I can be?

Truth is I need her positive feedback and encouragement. It’s what fuels me. It’s what keeps me motivated to do my best.

Your husband is likely similar.

I know that sounds shallow of us. Perhaps it is.

But, here’s the best part of the secret.

If your husband feels respected in his home — he will do anything to keep it.

Maybe even start doing the dishes. If he does, brag on him.

Who knows? Maybe next will be the dusting. Nah — don’t push it!

And, if you’re raising a son — next time your little boy — I mean big boy — is up to bat, make sure he can turn around and see you smiling. It will make all the difference.

When the Employee May Have to Go — The Hardest Decision a Leader Makes


One of the hardest decision a leader makes is to release someone from employment. I’ve only known a few very callous people who weren’t extremely burdened by having to fire someone. Making any kind of employment decision comes with the sobering reality, regardless of what the person did wrong, that the decision will likely impact others who are many times innocent.

In working with pastors this issue is one of the hardest they face. The church is often notorious for delaying these type decisions — often in the name of grace. (I’m always equally concerned about being good stewards of the Kingdom investment people make in the church.)

And, it’s an issue few seem to want to talk about. Yet it’s one we all struggle with personally.

I’ve heard great leaders say repeatedly that we should “hire slow” and “fire fast” — and I agree — but that’s much easier to say than it is to do. In fact, it’s painful to follow this principle. The opposite seems more appealing. Most of us would rather rush someone in the door and then be very slow to get rid of them even when we know it’s needed. 

Sometimes the decision is made for us. Or at least is made clearer.

If someone is caught stealing.
If someone continually defies authority.
If someone is blatantly lazy.

Those aren’t easy decisions either, and due process, fairness, and grace should still play a part, but they are often easier to clarify what needs to happen. (And, I’m not saying termination is always the case. The offense is made clearer though.)

One of the harder decisions for me (and other leaders I’ve spoken to), but one I’ve had to make numerous times, is when I have to release someone for less obvious offenses. They aren’t clear-cut, black and white issues.

Years ago, I had someone on my team who was a tremendous producer. One of our best. He could sell anything. Taking a strictly bottom line approach — on paper — he made the company money. But, it was some of the external, not as easy to define aspects of his employment that made him a poor fit for the team. He was disrespectful, never attended meetings, bad-mouthed the company, etc.

It was hard to lose a top performer, but there were larger issues at stake. I had to make a hard decision.

And, there are multiple situations where a hard decision needs to be made, but it is from a seemingly gray area. It isn’t always clear when to make the decision.

Here are a few examples I have personally experienced or walked through with other leaders:

The person has lost all credibility with the team. This could be with peers, a team he or she leads, or with volunteers (this is especially true of volunteers). At this point  the energy trying to repair their relationships would be too overwhelming. Everyone else is wondering why you haven’t moved sooner to make a hard decision. Sometimes it’s best for everyone if we simply start with a clean slate.

The person refuses to support the overall vision. They may have the skills to be outstanding, but their attitude causes them to serve as more of a cancer to the team than an asset.

The person’s heart has “left the building”. They are ready to move on to something else, so they no longer give their full heart to the job. And, everyone knows it. It could be bringing down the morale and work ethic of the rest of the team. It could just be that the best is not being achieved anymore. Best is never achieved without a heart for the work.

The person’s actions or reputation discredits everything the mission claims to be. Sometimes the integrity of the organization is at stake. Sadly, I’ve seen this with people who go through personal life changes, such as having an affair. They bring their drama to work. Everyone goes through bad seasons — whether self-produced or of no personal cause, and grace should be applied generously, but a healthy team can’t live in high periods of drama for long. Some people simply never recover, they continue making bad decisions, or their heart never returns to the job they were once doing. It may even be that they need a change forced upon them before they can recover.

Again, hard decisions. Not always easy to define. Not clean and simple. This doesn’t mean you fire in each of these scenarios. I’m not advocating that at all. No two situations are alike. It does mean the red flags are drawn. And, as a good leader you don’t ignore the situation or pretend it doesn’t exist. You have to do something or nothing will ever change — and will likely get worse.

But, making the right decision protects the organization, the teams involved, and, often, the ability of the team to respect your leadership. At times, people are wondering why you’ve waited so long to do something.

If you find yourself in one of these situations – – bathe it in prayer, seek wise counsel, whether that’s in the church or outside the church. I almost always consult with a Christian attorney or employment expert. Ask confidential advisors — not many — but people you know are trustworthy and wiser than you in these situations. Never make these type decisions alone. (The hard fact is the problem could be your leadership and you need to be open to that.)

Do you have a hard decision you need to make these days? It won’t be easy. It may even be a temporary setback in your leadership. But, your credibility and success as a leader may depend on the quality of decision you make.

7 Tips for Hiring the Right Person for the Church Staff

racial diversity

We must make good staff hires in the church. 

That’s seems common sense to me , but there’s a definite reason. 

In most churches it is often difficult to remove someone once they are added. (That’s somewhat of a pet peeve of mine after spending much of my years in business, but that’s another blog post.)
Regardless of the industry, however, adding to a team is a critical decision — perhaps one of the most important a leader makes. New team members change the dynamics of a team. That will either be positively or negatively.

In a day where budgets are thinner and the mission remains critical, we must hire the best people we can find.

Here are 7 tips I’ve learned by experience for hiring:

Biblical qualities – In a church position, especially a called position, this is first and foremost. There are standard passages we use for positions such as pastor. I wonder, however, if there aren’t good Biblical standards for hiring even in every position — even in the secular world. And not just using the couple passages we tend to use. I realize this is open for critique, but it seems to me the “fruit of the spirit” is a good measure of character for anyone I’d place on my team — in the church or in business. Love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — would you hire someone with those qualities?

Know them – I have told my boys that in their generation, they will most likely never have a job where they didn’t know someone connected to the organization. The more you can know the person the more likely you are to make a wise decision. This is one reason we often hire from within our church whenever possible. If it’s not possible to know the individual personally, try to know people who know the person. I’ve found there is usually someone connected to the person on our team, in our church, or in my social network. LinkedIn is a good resource for this. (If there’s no way to know the person, that doesn’t eliminate them, but it does generate a slower decision-making process for me.)

Investigate them – I don’t insist on background checks on everyone. I understand some do and I’m okay with that, but I do believe in asking questions of those who know the person — whether or not they were placed on their list of references. Knowing them personally helps eliminate some doubt, but if there is any unanswered questions in your mind, it is better to be awkward in the beginning than surprised in the end. (I’d be curious in the comments if your organization does background checks and if so, what kind.)

Meet the spouse – I have always held a simple policy in business and ministry, especially for any position with authority. I won’t hire someone whom I wouldn’t also hire his or her spouse. Period. Most likely, whether you know it or not, you are hiring both anyway. Both spouses will certainly impact the organization either directly or indirectly. Plus, the spouse always asks better questions. 

Chemistry AND Culture – The ability to get along with others and especially the team often trumps a pedigreed potential employee. We can make a team work with people who work well together and are sold out for the vision of the organization.

Culture is equally important. If the person doesn’t like or can’t support the church where it is today (even if the desire is to take the church elsewhere) they will likely make things difficult for the church and you. They may be a great person, you may like them a lot, but they need to be able to love the church (and it’s people) even in its current state, even if they aren’t satisfied with where the church is today.

Talk them out of it – I get push back on this principle when I share it, but I’m really not trying to be a bad guy here. I want to make sure someone knows all the negatives of me and our church before they agree to join our team. So, before a person accepts a position, I tell them everything I can think of why they perhaps shouldn’t accept the job. I did this in business and I have repeated it in the church world. If it makes you feel better, to date I’ve never had anyone decide not to join us. It has prompted some good, honest conversations as a result of this tactic. I feel people have come better prepared for what they will face once they join our team. It also exposes some issues or concerns we likely would have had to deal with down the road. It is easier on the front end.

Take risk – After I’ve done my homework, I’ve prayed for clarity along the way, I hire the person my heart tells me to hire. Many times it is a gut-instinct. I often bring Cheryl along on interviews and I heavily rely on her recommendation. She’s got a much better feel for people than I have sometimes. In business, and in church, I’ve taken some huge risks on people. I always tell leaders — if you’re gut is grounded with Jesus — you can trust your gut. Overall, we’ve created great teams and I’ve even found a few superstars along the way.

What tips do you have for hiring the right person?

7 Suggestions When Interviewing for a Church Staff Position


I serve on the board of a local youth leadership program. These students are the top of their class, so the entry is competitive. Part of qualifying process is an interview with board members — most who are seasoned business and community leaders. I am always reminded in the process how interviewing, as critical as it is to acquiring a position, is not something everyone knows how to do — regardless of their other accomplishments.

I’ve found that to be true in the church also. And, in business when I was in that world. I have hired dozens, maybe hundreds of people in my career — which means I’ve interviewed lots of people. Some people do better at interviewing than others.

I decided to offer some advice from the hiring side of the table. Since my blog is read mostly by church leaders, I am speaking primarily from that perspective.

Here are 7 suggestions for interviewing for a church staff position:

Know the church. Do as much research as you can about the church, it’s history and its culture. Obviously, read all you can online. Ask who will be in the interview and what role they have in the church. Google can be your friend in researching these people. Find out if you have any connections in the church. (LinkedIn can be a great source as it shows you connections to your connections.)

Be honest. This is critical. They need to know you and you need to know them — as openly as possible in a formal setting like this. The worst thing for you personally would be to land a job where you would be miserable — or make them miserable. Plus, in my experience, the more honest and transparent you are — even about your weaknesses or past failures — the more attractive you will be as a candidate — if you’re a fit for the role.

Be upbeat. I’ve learned this is especially difficult if you are nervous — or, like me — an introvert. The main concern in adding staff at most churches is that the person be a good fit for the church and current team. Show you’re easy to get along with, fun and likable. Have a firm handshake. Look people in the eye. But, balance this with also attempting to be yourself. It’s obvious if you’re trying too hard. Especially on a first interview, the key should be to connect with those in your interview.

Be humble. If you’ve had past success, don’t take all the credit. Share the victories with others, knowing that most likely you couldn’t have succeeded without them. It’s a much more appealing approach. Use the word “we” more than “me” or “I”. While you need to demonstrate your ability to perform, keep in mind arrogance is never an attractive quality in a team member. 

Appear competent without appearing controlling. There is a huge difference between being able to lead with confidence and being a bullying leader. Churches are places where people need to be empowered. Your goal should be to demonstrate a care and love for people (which should be genuine), while assuring you have the tenacity and courage to lead boldly. That’s a delicate balance every church needs.

Be forward thinking but celebratory of history – Most churches, even after a difficult period, continue to remain proud of their heritage. (This is where researching the church as much as you can helps.) The worst thing you can do is to bash the church or it’s culture. They may welcome your input to change, but you won’t endear them to you if you make them defensive about their history. Let them know you are willing to build on their past, but also willing to help them go wherever God leads in the future.

Pray – It should go without saying, but pray before and after the interview and ask others to pray with you. (Although as I’ve seen people do, I wouldn’t necessarily post this on Facebook.) In the end, you want this to be a God-thing — not a man-made thing. You don’t want to take the position if it’s not of God. I believe God often gives tremendous latitude and freedom in choosing our place of service, and we should represent Him with our best appearance, but in the end, we want to be in the center of His will.

What tips would you offer to those interviewing at another church or ministry?

16 Often Unknown Roles of a Pastor


What is it you have to do when you’re not preaching?

Must be nice to only work one day a week.

I’d like to come see you this afternoon. Since it’s not Sunday I’m assuming you’re free.

Believe it or not, I’ve heard all of those. Most are simple misunderstandings. Sometimes people are just trying to be funny.

I must admit. It’s not always funny — not laugh out loud funny at least, because the jokes have grown stale by now. They are still new to someone I suppose.

But, especially when it’s said as an indictment that pastors have it “easy” it can even hurt. That’s probably true even more for my pastor friends in smaller churches where they carry the weight of multiple staff positions.

What does a pastor do when not preaching?

That is a valid question. This is not meant to seem as a complaining post, but an informational post. You only know what you know. I don’t know what the doctor does when not seeing patients or all the things that teacher does when not in the classroom. Every job has its own responsibilities that are clearly known until you do the job.

The answer for pastors is — lots of things. Lots. A day is seldom the same.

The pastor wears many hats. Some of them of which you may not even be aware.

Here are 16 often unknown roles of a pastor:

Counselor. All pastors do some counseling. Many pastors — I might add most pastors – – are not qualified to do extensive counseling. They can’t commit the required time, nor do they have the expertise. Still, some counseling is a part of nearly every pastor job.

Career Coach. One of the most frequent requests for my ministry help has to do with people’s career steps — from school to employment. And, I’ve heard similar from other pastors. Because work — or lack of work — greatly impacts a person’s life it is a huge part of the pastor’s life. In fact, I keep a file of people in our church who are looking for work or looking for someone to hire

Business Advisor. It may be because I have a business background, but I think it also comes with the role. Business leaders – especially self-employed business owners – want help discerning the right decisions. (I admire that about them.) one place they consistently seeking input from is the pastor.

Custodian. I can’t stand a piece of paper on the floor. If I see a trash can overflowing — I don’t call someone — I do something about it. Most pastors I know want the facility ready when people arrive. So, they do what they have to do. In fairness, I don’t do much of this. Mine is a more supervisory role. We have a large facility and an excellent team. I do know pastors, however, that have to help on a larger role in facility maintenance or custodial care.

Arbitrator. I’ve stood between a few people before trying to work through division and build cooperation. It could be in a marriage or I have even been between business partners in the church. People often want a third-party objective and many times they look to the pastor for that role.

Social worker. I read a definition of social worker recently. Seeks to improve the quality of life and subjective well-being of individuals, families, couples, groups, and communities through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, crisis intervention, and teaching. Yea. That.

Volunteer coordinator. Every pastor must learn how to coordinate the efforts of different people, who communicate uniquely, and have their expectations of volunteer leadership.

Events manager. I need to be honest. I don’t fill this one often, although I do have some responsibilities with events. I am no good at the details of it and thankfully there are people in our church who can fulfill this role better than me. But, most pastors, including me, have responsibility for events at some level.

CEO. Let me be very clear that Jesus is the CEO of the church. (Some may argue Jesus is the owner and He left us to provide everyday leadership — under His direction.) If I get critics on this one criticism it will be because you misunderstand what I’m saying. Maybe on my ability to say it where you can interpret it. But make no mistake about it – the pastor is expected to lead so many aspects of the church. On every major decision of the church most churches want the input of the pastor. Regardless of the structure of the church it can feel very much like a CEO position. (And, I’ve been one in my previous business career.) This is one of the larger uses of my “non-preaching” time. By the way, I have talked with dozens of pastors who don’t feel prepared for this role.

Fundraiser. Ministry takes money. And, most of the church looks to the pastor to be the primary solicitor of contributions. (Honestly, it’s a huge burden to most pastors and one they don’t feel comfortable doing.)

Recruiter. No church can function without volunteers or leaders. Most pastors are consistently looking for new people to get involved and lead ministries of the church. And the search for volunteers is a continuous effort.

Trainer. Pastors consistently help people learn how to do something. Whether it involves life skills or how to function within a ministry of the church, one of a pastor’s primary goals is to help people improve in areas of their life.

Scholar. I’m not the smartest person in our church. But, at the same time, the church has a certain level of expectation regarding my understanding of history, the Bible, and current events — locally and around the world. Most expect the pastor is to be well-spoken and well-read.

Writer. I estimate I average five to seven writing assignments a week beside my message and my blog. Bulletin articles. Church-wide emails. Letters of recommendations.

Manager. Every pastor manages someone — even if they are volunteers. In fact, volunteer management may actually be more difficult.

Public relations. This part of a pastor’s role is increasing daily. The days when a Sunday announcement or bulletin announcement would get the word out to the church are gone. With so many mediums to communicate and people’s divided attention among them — not to mention the frequency of attendance for many in the church — communicating to people has become a huge challenge for pastors.

There’s my list. I’m sure there are others. And, it’s a labor of love — certainly of calling — for most pastors I know, but it requires more than preaching.

And, I didn’t even mention politician. :)

Granted, the size of the church will often determine the amount of time spent on anyone of these. But, except in exceptionally larger churches, the pastor wears multiple hats. Certainly more than a Sunday job. And, many pastors, myself for one, spend up to half or two-thirds of our week preparing for Sunday.

It should also be noted (and this is an edited addition resulting from a comment) — the pastor shouldn’t do ALL of this. I spend much of my energies helping pastors learn to be better leaders which ultimately means learning to delegate. I believe in the Acts 6 and Jethro models of pastoral leadership. 

Thankfully, I serve in a church where most of these tasks are primarily assigned to other staff members for direct oversight. I actually had other pastors in mind when I wrote this more than myself. But, in all of these roles, at some level, in most churches they are under the pastor’s purview. If there is a need for or problem with one of them the pastor will be looked to ensure it is addressed. Therefore, whether or not the pastor does all of these personally, there is a level of responsibility. To ignore this and point to an “ideal” job description of a pastor would be naive, in my opinion. 
One final thought, considering these roles, imagine how that plays out for bi-vocational pastors. Say an extra prayer for those pastors.

Pastors, any other roles we serve?