Christian leadership is a complex and demanding vocation. Learning how to pastor in healthy ways is vital in today’s world. Therefore I think posts like these ones in this week’s church leader insights will Christian leaders lead with courage and wisdom.
Most small church pastors are shepherds.
It’s not our choice, it’s our calling.
There are good reasons for pastors of large churches to move from the shepherding/pastoring model to the ranching/management model. But most pastors aren’t called to be ranchers or to manage systems. Most of us are called to pastor people.
That’s the normal state of affairs when a church is under 100. It gets much more complicated when the church is between 100 and 200.
A church between 100 and 200 in regular attendance is still technically considered a small church. It operates by most of the small church principles, but it’s too big for the pastor to shepherd alone.
It requires an interesting, awkward hybrid of pastoring and managing skills. In this zone, the pastor is half shepherd, half rancher. So how do you manage this without going completely crazy?
Know Your Limits
I’ve pastored churches between 100 and 200 for about half of my 30+ years in ministry. To do it without going crazy, I’ve had to come to grips with this essential reality: A pastor can’t have meaningful relationships with 100 to 200 people. If we try, the pastor and the church will suffer for it.
Everyone can’t be lead in the same way. When leading one person, more direction, or follow-up may be perfectly appropriate and needed, but for another, it’s micromanagement.
If someone is new to the team, or learning a new skill, or perhaps slipping in commitment and does not seem to have their head and heart fully in the game, staying closer to them and their work is needed.
That is not micromanagement, its good leadership. The point however, is not to catch them messing up, it is to coach them so they improve.
On the other hand, if you have a proven leader who is skilled at their job, has a great attitude, and gets their job done, monitoring their work too closely can indeed be micromanaging.
It’s a fine line, however, because you need to stay close enough to be in touch, encourage and offer guidance when needed. But don’t crowd them with too many questions, constantly checking up and telling them how to do their job.
The fine line between micromanagement and good leadership is dependent on the staff member’s needs.
Cues to possible micromanagement:
You struggle with trust.
Perhaps someone close to you has let you down, consistently fallen short of meeting their responsibilities, or even hurt you. It can be difficult to trust that person again. But it’s important to not ascribe that experience to other staff and leaders around you. Extend trust freely until its broken.
No church can effectively accomplish all God intends if only a handful of people are leading the way.
No church will get where it wants to go if the leaders it has are worn out and have lost their desire to grow and mature as leaders.
Can I get an Amen, pastor?
If you are overwhelmed by all the work you have to do, stressed because there aren’t enough people involved in the work of the church, or frustrated by your staff, elders, deacons, and ministry teams, we should talk.
I totally know the feeling.
Several years ago, our church started to grow. A lot.
Dozens of new people every week. We had to add a gathering. For those of us in leadership, it was one of those seasons where everything clicked.
Until it stopped clicking.
The number of visitors went from a torrential downpour to a soft drizzle. We eventually canceled the additional gathering. Almost as quickly as we experienced rapid growth, our numbers came crashing back down to earth.
I can remember sitting with our elders trying to sort through what happened. Did we say something wrong? No.
Was this God’s judgment on some hidden dungeon of sin? Not that we could tell.
So the elders sent me off to think and pray and pretty much do whatever I needed to do to discover what in the world happened.
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There’s lots of media talk about the British government being in “chaos” as a result of the “Brexit” vote.
There’s a lot of exaggeration there – after all, the media is about sensationalism, since that’s what sells newspapers and media advertising.
But there’s no question that many companies, churches, and nonprofit organizations experience times of chaos, and many times over the years, I’ve been asked to consult during these catastrophes.
During those times, I’ve helped them navigate through the storm. So the question becomes, how should leaders react when the ____ hits the fan?
When everything breaks loose, what’s the best approach for righting the ship and getting the organization moving forward again?
While each story involves complexity and time, here’s my suggestions from the start (and feel free to pass this along to our British friends):
1) The best leaders understand the business.
During times of crisis, everyone will step up with “advice,” and many of those ideas will be crazy. The best way to navigate the overwhelming tide of outside opinions and ideas is to know the business well. Know your team, and who’s the best in which roles.
Know the organization’s structure and know how the business works. Industry, government, nonprofit, church – whatever, know it. Otherwise, you’ll be lost in the tidal wave of sincere but terrible suggestions.
2) Tilt toward action.
Too many leaders freeze in a crisis, and because of the delay, those organizations rarely recover. In the early days of a crisis, tough decisions have to be made, and I just might prefer making a wrong decision than no decision at all.