When Pastors Fail to Lead a Staff

I’m a pastor. I guess the “senior” one even though I’m the youngest pastor on staff and one of the younger employees of our church. I prefer the term “Lead Pastor,” because I would rather be seen as leading the charge than standing above barking out orders to those beneath.

One of my goals recently is learning how to lead a church staff better than what I have been doing. It is so easy to allow that aspect of my job to fall by the waste side because of all the responsibility. In reality, leading a staff is one of the top responsibilities I have for the success of the church.

What Kind of Ministry Boss Do I want to Be?

As I began thinking about all the good and not-so-good that I have seen from leaders through the years, I started wondering what type of ministry “boss” I wanted to pursue.

Regardless of the types of employment you’ve had in your lifetime, you’ve probably experienced differing levels of helpful bosses. It doesn’t matter if you have worked for a non-profit or a for-profit, the challenges can be similar. 

The two extremes for a boss can be an aggressive micromanager or a passive leader. 

The Aggressive Micromanager

The aggressive micromanager has to have his hands on everything. He criticizes more than he complements, nitpicks more than navigates, and expects more than examples. Working for such a boss can be an exhausting, overwhelming task. People will stick around for a while if they believe in what they are doing, but over time, the micromanager will fire them or exhaust them into quitting.

The Passive Leader

The passive leader isn’t as combustive but can still send many diligent employees packing. This type of boss typically has a set of skills that has allowed him to reach a position, but the job description includes other inherited tasks of which he does not thrive in the undertaking. In ministry, many gifted preachers struggle in administration which can cause a significant level of dysfunction on a church staff.

Fulfilling the Task of Staff Leadership

I think more pastors are passive leaders than aggressive micromanagers. In my experience, I find many associate pastors and support staff frustrated because they want to know what the plan is and what the pastor is thinking about their personal contributions, but he is typically too busy with other responsibilities to guide the staff.

Leading a church is daunting. The tasks that are seen are challenging, but the unseen responsibilities would make many unsuspecting church members shocked at the randomness that a pastor can undertake in a given week.

If you are serving as a lead pastor and have any size staff that serves with you, I want to give you a list of questions that they are thinking about even if they aren’t bold enough to ask you about during their service with you.

The 5 Questions a Church Staff Wants Answered by Their Lead Pastor

  1. Where are we going? Many staff members struggle because they don’t see the big picture drawn out by the pastor. Without clear direction, gifted second-chair workers will start charting their own courses. If you don’t want them to do that, then give them a heading first.
  2. What is my responsibility to that end? If there is an overarching vision for the church, your staff wants to know what part they play in accomplishing it. Clarity is so vital. If it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s no one’s responsibility. And if you don’t clarify what each one is doing, they will begin to cross over lanes and frustrate each other.
  3. Do you notice anything I’m doing well? You may not realize this fact, but your staff could use your encouragement. Most likely, they either respect the position or the person, and your voice carries weight as they serve. Find a way to encourage them privately and honor them publicly. 
  4. Is there anything of which I could improve? Do not assume that your staff members are mind-readers. They most likely want to get better, but they will not if you don’t tell them how. The Church is one of the most constructive-criticism lacking environments in the world because we have a poor understanding of what being nice actually means. So many staff members have been poorly dismissed and never warned about changes that could save their job. Part of the pastor’s job is to develop that team into a healthier team. The way you go about doing it is your prerogative, but don’t assume they know how to improve without some type of coaching.
  5. Do you have my back? As you lead your leaders, they want to know that you support them. As they minister, sometimes, they will be criticized or attacked. Most of those ministry leaders are willing to endure difficult situations as long as they know they have support. They need trust to make sure you aren’t saying one thing to them and another thing to other leaders or members.

I’m not there, but I’m trying to get there. The more I can invest into our staff, the more I am watching ministry multiplication take place. I know you have so many needs, but maybe the only way you can address them is by not neglecting this responsibility any longer.