What Every Senior Pastor Needs From His Staff

This is a guest post by Eric Speir. Eric is a staff pastor, writer, blogger and educator. He likes to use biblical principles, coaching, practical wisdom and encouragement to help others to thrive in every area of their life. You can read more of his posts at www.ericspeir.com and follow him on Twitter @ericspeir.

What every senior pastor needs from his staff:

Being a pastor can be a lonely and brutal job. It’s a task that requires determination, tenacity and a work ethic that rivals most NFL coaches. Even if a pastor is gifted in many areas he cannot accomplish everything on his own. In fact, pastoring is nothing new, because it’s been around for a long time.

In the Old Testament Pastor Moses, the first mega-church pastor, had more problems that most pastors can dream up. At one point he almost had a nervous breakdown until the Lord intervened and sent him a wise mentor and raised up a staff around him.

If Moses couldn’t do everything by himself, then it is more important than ever for a pastor to have a staff around him that can help to accomplish the God-given vision. With this in mind, there are some characteristics that every pastor needs in a staff:

Every senior pastor needs a staff that…

• Is committed to the same vision he is. If you’re not committed, then find somewhere else where you will be. There’s no shame in finding a place where you’ll be effective in ministry.

• Will overlook his bad days. David had the chance to stab Saul in the back when he caught him with his pants down, but he chose not to. Remember, everyone has a bad day!

• Will pick up the trash when he needs you to. Simply put, don’t be afraid to do something that seems beneath you.

• When you say you’re praying for him, then actually do it. Being a senior pastor is a tough job that most people won’t ever understand.

• Has his back, instead of talking behind it. In other words, when you have a problem, bring it to the team, instead of to people who can’t help.

• Can help solve problems and be team players. Jesus couldn’t do ministry by himself, pastor’s can’t do it all either.

• Can think BIG! Anyone can be small-minded, but it takes someone extraordinary to think what could be.

• Can laugh and cry with him. It’s easy to forget your pastor is human and bleeds the same color blood as you. Just because he’s the spiritual leader, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t have needs as well.

What would you add to this list? How can you serve your leader better?

A Strong Word Every Leader Must Learn

This is a strong word every leader must learn. Sadly, many of us learn it the hard way. We try to please everyone. We live for the approval of others. Only to find out that…

It’s often not that some people don’t like your leadership…or don’t like you as a leader…

The strong word to learn is:

Sometimes people don’t like their life.

Your leadership simply gets blamed by default.

It’s a hard lesson, but learning it keeps you from feeling defeated when unhealthy people do unhealthy things and blame it on your leadership. They’ve been injured by others and now they blame everyone around them. You are in the leading position, so you are often the recipient of the greatest blame.

Learning when this is the case will make you a better leader.

You can’t lead people effectively who are unhealthy personally, either emotionally or spiritually. That’s why much of leadership is helping people get better so the team can get better so your leadership can get better.

Have you ever tried to lead people who were unhealthy and took it out on others?

5 Steps When the Changes are Overwhelming

I’ll be honest. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed lately. In my new position, there are more opportunities than time. I’m excited about the potential, but my calendar won’t hold anymore and my mind is exploding.

One day recently, I was driving on the road which leads back to Clarksville. I considered my schedule, the enormity of the challenge ahead, the dozens of emails awaiting a response and the people I was still having to say “no” to when they ask for my time, many who don’t understand why the pastor can’t see them right away, and I turned to Cheryl and said, “Right now I wish I could just keep driving and that this had been a nice little dream”. That wasn’t reality speaking or how I really feel. It was emotions talking. I knew that I was simply feeling overwhelmed.

What do you do when you find yourself in that situation? Here’s what I am doing.

Here are 5 steps when change seems overwhelming:

Step back – Take a day. Take a week. Pause everything. Stepping back gives you an opportunity to take a fresh look at the challenges ahead. It may seem like you don’t have time to pause right now, but it may be you don’t have time not to do so. The time away will give you a better perspective, a clearer head and the rest will give you energy you need.

Get fit – I used to tell our staff in a church plant that “you have to strive to be healthy to work here right now”. I’m in that season in ministry again. As much as it depends on me, I need to be healthy spiritually, relationally, emotionally and physically. I need to eat healthy, exercise, and maintain a healthy relationship with Cheryl. I also need extended time in God’s Word and prayer. This is even more than usual a time for intentionality in living a healthy lifestyle.

Renew the vision – When change is overwhelming you need to remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing. The why is the key. It’s what fueled you in the first place and what has the best potential to fuel you again. I was called here for a purpose. God doesn’t make mistakes. If you are overwhelmed at something God called you to do, ask God to renew that passion you had in the beginning, before you were overwhelmed, again.

Chart a course one step at a time – Baby steps. That’s how big change is accomplished. One foot in front of the other. The bigger the change the more methodical you must be. One day, one week, one month at a time. I’ve had to ask some people to be patient. I have to prioritize each day. I have to not feel bad about saying no. I have to get up every morning, create a list of things I can accomplish that day, and realize that tomorrow is a new day.

Invite people on the journey – Delegation becomes even more important during overwhelming times in leadership. If you’re world is like mine, that pretty much equates to every season of ministry. :) Read THIS POST for more of my thoughts on delegation. I’m learning again the value of a team. I’m learning who I can trust, but I’m taking risks on people. I can’t do it without them.

I’m making slow progress, but the process is working. I am expecting great things in the days to come. Stay tuned.

Are you overwhelmed at the changes occurring in your life right now? Try these 5 steps.

What suggestions would you offer?

4 Actions When You Put Your Foot In Your Mouth

What do you do after putting your foot in your mouth?

Recently I was meeting with a couple for the first time and in the middle of the meeting I forgot their name. I tried to remember it but I went blank. It wouldn’t come to me. I muddled my way through the meeting. As I went to pray for them I was certain I had remembered their names. I thought it was a Holy Spirit moment. It wasn’t. As I called them the wrong name in prayer they politely corrected me…during the prayer. (I’m certain God must have giggled a bit at the moment.)

Sooner or later it happens to all of us. It happens to leaders, pastors and friends. No one is immune from the foot-in-mouth epidemic. We say the wrong thing. To the wrong person. At the wrong time. You hurt someone’s feelings. You offend them. You put them in an awkward position.

What do you do?

Apologize – Admit the error, say your sorry and ask for forgiveness. i quickly told them what had happened. They laughed and understood.

Don’t make excuses – You said it. It hurt. Don’t make it worse by pretending it didn’t or defending yourself. I couldn’t disguise my error, but it would have made it worse anyway had I tried. Making excuses only deepens the injury or awkwardness.

Try to do better – Learn the discipline of thinking before you speak. I should have simply admitted I just went blank. They ended up learning it anyway. I’m human. I meet with lots of people throughout the day and the meetings sometimes seem to run together, but I need to do better at committing names to memory; especially with people in my office. :) Of course, in more serious situations, this is even more important. Saying the thing you wish you’d never said, that hurt someone deeply…we should continually strive to never do that intentionally, and do it less spontaneously. Scripture is clear that as we mature we get a tighter reign on our tongues.

Move forward – Everyone says something they regret occasionally. My mistake was a small part of a much longer meeting. It wasn’t as big of a deal as it felt like in the moment. I felt horrible, but I didn’t let it make things awkward when I saw them later at church. Even when you make the big awkward comment, you should not let it keep you from moving forward. Part of the maturing process is moving on from your mistakes.

Mine may be a silly example, but it’s one I felt freedom to share. Other times are more awkward. Even more damaging to the relationship. The actions are the same.

Apologize. Don’t make excuses. Try to do better. Move forward.

Got any stories of when you put your foot in your mouth?

7 Statements Every Leader Needs To Use Often

Recently, I shared 7 questions every leader should use often. It opened some good discussion around the post. It also made me think there was a similar set of 7 phrases leaders should consider using frequently. These are not questions, but statements.

One of the goals of a leader should be to encourage, strengthen and challenge a team to continually improve. Almost as a cheerleader rousing the crowd at a game, the leader uses his or her influence to bring out the best in others.

How do leaders do that? One way is by the questions and statements we make as leaders. This post is an extension of that thought.

Here are 7 phrases leaders should memorize and use often:

I believe in you.

You are an asset to this team.

Let me know how I can help you.

You are doing a great job.

I need your help.

I want to help you reach your personal goals.

You are making a difference here.

You may not be able to use these phrases every day. You shouldn’t overuse them. They need to be genuine, heartfelt and honest. That may not even happen every week. But, as often as you can, slip a few of these into your memory bank and pull them out where appropriate. It will help you build a better team.

What phrases would you add?

Leader: How Are You Using Your Power?

As leaders, we have influence. John Maxwell defines leadership as influence.

Some would say leadership comes with power. I would agree.

Regardless of the size of your following, if people are looking to you as the leader, you have influence.

You have power.

How are you using that influence?

I’m reminded how Jesus used His influence. Do you think He had some power? He had the power of God at His disposal. He was there when stars were set in place and He knew the numbers of hairs on the disciple’s heads. He could command storms to cease and raise dead people from the grave. Power? Yea, I’d say so.

Yet how did Jesus use that power? How did He use His influence?

“…who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave…” (Philippians 2:6-7)

Of course, we can’t miss the part before that part:

“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus…”

(Philippians 2:5)

So, I’ll ask again…

How are you using your power?

I’m contemplating that answer myself today.

The Reason Many Policies are Written

Many policies are written because someone didn’t want to solve a problem.

In her book “Unleashing the Power of Rubber Bands”, Nancy Ortberg talks about the need to differentiate between “a tension to be managed and a problem to be solved“. One example for me is the constant tension between the administration/money side of ministry and the discipleship/hands on side of ministry. As pastor, I’m always going to have to balance tension between our business administrator working to conserve cash and our youth pastor finding legitimate ministry needs in which to spend it, for example. That’s a tension to be managed, not a problem to be solved. On the other hand, an employee who is taking advantage of a more casual organizational structure, which I typically prefer…that’s a problem to be solved. Quickly. A system, which is not working, causing more harm than good to the organization…problem to be solved. Now.

Most of the time, however, in my experience, churches are notorious for creating a new policy to attempt to manage the problem rather than doing the difficult work of solving it. Solving the problem often involves getting personal with people. It involves challenging people. It involves change. It involves holding people accountable to a higher standard. That’s messy. It’s never fun. Most churches like neat, clean and seemingly easy. (Just being honest.)

Using my illustration above, if the youth pastor has a perceived spending problem, rather than addressing the problem with him directly, many times a policy is created to “solve” the problem and curtail spending. Every other staff member may be performing satisfactorily, but the policy controls everyone. Plus, without wise counsel, the youth pastor never learns principles of healthy budgeting or how to manage cash flow, for example, and it continues to impact his ministry for years to come. Problem not solved.

Policies are easy. They are a piece of paper. They may involve some discussion, perhaps a committee meeting (maybe even a tense committee meeting), maybe even a church vote, but they seldom specifically address the people who are causing the problem in the first place. They make people feel better about the problem, but they almost never solve real problems. In fact, they usually only create more problems…which later need to be solved!

For more of my thoughts on policies, see THIS POST. I realize this problem is not limited to churches. Even the best organizations and corporations struggle to address problems as needed.

My advice:

Manage the tensions, but solve the problems.

Do the hard work. It’s what leaders are supposed to do. Not always easiest. Always best.

Have you seen churches (or organizations) try to manage a problem that needed to be solved?

Bonus points if you give me an example.

7 Questions Leaders Should Use Often

Questions are a powerful tool for every leader. The greatest leaders I know ask lots of questions. Whenever I consult with leaders, one of the first things I do is analyze what questions the leader is asking.

Here are 7 questions leaders should memorize and use often:

How can we improve as a team?

Will you help me?

How can I help you?

Do you understand what I’m asking?

Do you have what you need?

What do you think we should do?

What’s next?

What questions would you add?

One Secret to Long-term Leadership Success

If I could give one piece of advice to leaders who want long-term success it would be this:

Learn the people.

I know. It sounds too simple, but until you learn how the people you are trying to lead think, what the people value, the differences among the people, how situations impact the people, and the way the people are likely to respond to situations…you can’t lead them successfully.

Learn people and you can successfully lead people.

Try it. It will work in any setting. In the church. In business. In the home.

New to a church or organization? This is your key to beginning well.

Long-timer in a church or organization? This is what will improve your leadership. Make it last.

Of course, you’ll have to respond according to what you’re learning, but this is where you start. This is what gives you the tools you need. This is what can help shape your leadership. This is the gold information of leading people.

Learn the people and you can learn how to lead people.

How are you learning the people you are attempting to lead?

What advice would you give to leaders who want long-term success?

7 Times Leadership is at Its Best

In my opinion…

Leadership is at its best when:

People follow willingly, not under coercion or force.

People can keep up, but are still being stretched.

People feel valued, while being challenged to continually improve.

People are assigned to their specific passion, but readily do what needs to be done.

People have a clearly defined vision, but have freedom to invent and dream along the way.

People have real responsibility and authority, but don’t feel dumped on or abandoned.

People take time to celebrate, but aren’t allowed to sit still for long.

What would you add?