At the ripe old age of 19, I was given my first position on a church staff. Of course, it was as a youth minister. Yes, that’s right. Someone put a 19-year old in charge of all the 13-18 year-old kids. Brilliant. Needless to say, I was terrible at leadership at that stage of my life. I was just learning. But, I was blessed with a kind pastor and a patient church.
Through the years, I’ve learned about leadership through the Scriptures, prayer, godly mentors, plenty of books, and lots of experiences. But, there are so many lessons I wish that I could have learned earlier.
Whether you are a new or experienced leader, here is a list of leadership lessons to consider. They are ones I will continue to grow in and attempt to master:
How to lead laterally
You will not always be at the top of the organization. In fact, even if you have a title that claims you are, you likely are not. Forget the title and know that our aim is to be the most loving and influential person for the truth regardless of title.
The difference between the biblical idea of deacons and elders
Many congregations confuse the roles of these offices. Define it in your mind and be ready to give an answer.
Preaching is not the same as leading
Preaching is included as a portion of leadership but not the sum total of leadership. The key lesson I needed early on is understanding that just because you say it in a 30-minute sermon does not mean everyone will do it in the other six days, 23 hours, and 30 minutes of their week.
Learning and application are not that far apart
I spent way too much time consuming information but not finding a way to leverage it into day-to-day ministry. Truth is something that is always to be put into practice.
Preparing your heart is more important than preparing your outline
It is not to say that you should just pray for hours on end and then wing it for the sermon delivery. We should however lay our heart before God as much or more as we submit our sermon outline for His blessing.
Evaluations are good when you know how to do them well
Church leaders love to talk about how to disciple people but we are terrible at knowing if it is actually happening. We must learn healthy means of measuring growth in our congregation beyond the attendance and budget numbers.
Setting goals are for minimums, not maximums
Hitting the goal on high-attendance Sunday should be where you start. It is the place where we see what can happen with a concerted effort. If you use goals, use it to teach that God can do so much more than we can imagine.
Training is the best tool you have for recruitment
Rarely does a ministry have enough volunteers, workers, or leaders. It is often because it is widely known in the church that assignments happen without any support. The more effectively you train, the easier it becomes to recruit.
Leadership training can always be better
No matter how well it went this time, there is always room for improvement. Learning the nuances of great training is a discipline that requires continued improvement.
The danger of the un-critiqued win
In a culture where so many churches are plateaued or declining, when we get a “win,” it is painful and some take it as insulting to critique it. The danger is that we will continually hit the repeat button on church programming without thinking through how it could be more effective for gospel impact. Learn how to evaluate ministry in a way that encourages believers and expands their horizons.
You need more friends
Pastors are an ironically lonely bunch of people. The compassion fatigue we experience from constant prayer for needs, counseling in their crises, and burden we carry for the salvation of souls demands we have friends. Always be on the lookout for those you can lean upon.
Philip Nation is the Director of Content Development with Lifeway, and serves as Teaching Pastor for The Fellowship, a multi-campus church in Nashville, TN. His latest book is Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out. He is also the coauthor of Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow.