As a church leader, you will run up against limits in your life and ministry.
You’ll encounter a new problem.
You’ll come face-to-face with a unique situation.
And at times, you’ll just get stuck.
Over the years, you’ll fall into a routine, and after a while, you'll feel as if you can’t break free from your circumstances.
One proven way you can continue to grow as a Christian, spouse, parent, friend, and church leader is through mentoring. Not in the sense that you have to mentor someone. But in the sense that someone should mentor you.
Mentoring isn’t something reserved for “church members” or “new” pastors, and it’s not something church leaders should avoid. Mentoring can be an ongoing, beneficial activity as long as you’re open to someone speaking into your life.
Even though mentoring isn’t as common as it once was, in this post, I want to encourage you to consider pursuing being mentored.
To help you along, I’m going to cover:
5 common misconceptions about mentoring
4 steps to finding a mentor
Let’s get started!
“Mentoring” isn’t a new concept and it’s not difficult to grasp.
Here’s what you need to know:
A mentor is someone who intentionally helps someone else (mentee) grow personally, spiritually, or professionally in a relational setting.
The idea of mentoring has been around for thousands of years.
You may not be able to find “mentoring” mentioned in the Bible. But you can spot several examples of mentors and mentees, including:
Jethro (mentor) and Moses (mentee)
Moses (mentor) and Joshua (mentee)
Eli (mentor) and Samuel (mentee)
Jesus (mentor) and his disciples (mentees)
Paul (mentor) and Timothy (mentee), Titus (mentee), and Barnabas (mentee)
If you spend time studying just these few examples, there are four essential ingredients you’ll discover about mentoring. A mentor should:
Set an example
The first thing we discover about mentoring is that a mentor should follow Jesus. A mentor’s life should exemplify what it means to live and love like Jesus. His or her life should be marked by a love for the Bible, dependency upon God, and a desire to share his or her experience with you.
A mentor should also be able to teach you. He or she doesn’t necessarily need a Bible degree or even to serve as a pastor, elder, or deacon of a church. What he or she teaches isn’t confined to the Bible alone.
At some point in your life, you’ll need to learn how to overcome a challenge, learn new skills, or expand your leadership abilities. In every one of these scenarios, a good mentor can guide you through whatever you need to learn in that season.
One significant part of being a mentor is setting an example. Regardless of what you want to learn, it’s ideal that the mentor you approach has “been there and done that.” When a mentor has experience with whatever you’re going through, he or she will be able to apply his or her knowledge and experience to your situation.
What is more, mentoring isn’t just about transferring information—it’s about transformation. With this in mind, a mentor is someone who can give you tips and advice. A mentor is someone who’s willing to set an example for you to follow.
Consider how Jesus and Paul mentored people.
In general, Jesus’ call to every one of us is to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow him (Matt 16:24). When it came to the twelve disciples, this is literally what they did. They physically followed Jesus, lived with him, and learned from the example he set.
As for Paul, he was super clear about setting an example individuals and the church could follow. Check out these passages:
1 Corinthians 11:1
2 Thessalonians 3:7
I’ll get into this more below. But be sure your mentor is someone who is setting a good example, which leads me to the next point.
Your mentor should be someone who models what a life dedicated to following Jesus looks like, brokenness and all.
A mentor is not a perfect example, they are a living example.
Just like you.
Now that we know what a mentor is, let’s go ahead and talk about some common misconceptions.
5 common misconceptions about mentoring
Before you find a mentor, you first have to know what you’re not looking for.
In other words, there are some common misconceptions about mentors you need to know before you consider who you should pursue.
Here are five common misconceptions:
Anyone will do
I need a paid coach
I have a teacher, so I don’t need a mentor
A mentor has to be perfect
The first common misconception about mentoring is that you can reach out to anyone. On the surface, this sounds okay. For instance, after you watch a video, read a book, or observe someone you admire, you may feel inspired to reach out to him or her for help, which makes perfect sense.
In this situation, you’ve experienced a benefit or were encouraged, and it’s natural to think that he or she will be willing and able to help you further apply the lesson you learned.
But remember, mentoring is more about transformation—not information. To really benefit from a mentor, you have to be in a position to not only hear what they have to say. You have to be able to model what they exemplify.
Instead of reaching out to a stranger, prayerfully consider finding a mentor among the people you know and naturally interact with during the normal ebbs and flows of your life.
If there is someone who may be able to help you, but you don’t know this person, see if you are connected with him or her through someone you know. Getting connected with someone through a personal relationship can make a world of difference in getting started on the right foot.
I just hinted at another common misconception about mentoring, and that’s confusing a mentor with a paid coach.
As a church leader, there are times when you can benefit from paying a coach to help you answer a question or overcome a problem. But a paid coach is not a mentor.
As I mentioned above, a mentor is someone who intentionally helps someone else in a relational setting.
A mentor isn’t someone you pay or someone who will serve as your church consultant.
A mentor is someone who’s invested in you as a person.
A mentor will be able to teach and guide you, and they’ll also be able to provide help in certain situations. But all of this is done through a relationship, and their focus is more wholistic versus helping you with a task or project.
Confusing a mentor with a paid coach is similar to the next misconception: Confusing a mentor with a teacher. Said another way, a mentor is not someone who (necessarily) follows a strict course or curriculum. Basically, there’s not a specific 12-step program for mentees you need to take to graduate.
A mentor will be able to teach you, but not in the way a teacher or professor teaches. The lessons a mentor shares are from his or her experience and aimed toward transforming your life—not just teaching you a lesson. There’s a subtle, yet significant difference between the two.
When it comes to finding a mentor, you should find someone who’s several steps ahead of you. But they don’t necessarily have to be significantly older than you.
As you look for a mentor, your goal is to find someone who’s ahead of you in whatever area you’re trying to improve upon. In this scenario, a mentor may be significantly older than you are, they may be several years older, or they may be your age. A mentor’s age isn’t a prerequisite. You want to have your eyes more on his or her character, experience, and wisdom.
The fifth common misconception about mentors is that they have to be perfect. I’m not talking about someone who lives a perfect life per se. Instead, I’m talking about treating a mentor like a vending machine who provides answers to your questions when you key in what you want.
A mentor isn’t someone whose role is to answer all of your questions and tell you what to do. Instead, a mentor is someone who can ask the right questions, provide guidance, and help you discover the steps you need to take.
This is what Solomon was getting at in the Book of Proverbs:
“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Prov. 20:5).
Now that we’ve cleared up these misconceptions about mentors, let’s take a look at how you can find one.
4 steps to finding a mentor
Finding a mentor doesn’t have to be a Herculean task.
After you walk through the steps below, there’s a good chance you’ll identify several people who may be a mentor.
Before you go on this journey, hang tight.
There’s one point I’d like to stress:
Take your time.
Mentoring takes place in relationships.
Mentoring isn’t something you can force. It’s something that takes time, and you’ll need to exercise a great deal of patience and humility. This entire process is something that will happen organically over time.
Will you have meetings?
There will be times when you meet with your mentor. But more often than not, your meetings will not be structured or occur more than once a month.
Does this have to be formal?
Technically, you don’t have to approach someone and ask, “Hey, will you be my mentor?”
There’s nothing wrong at all with taking this approach, and at times, it’s a good idea. But at times, it can work out well just to ask someone to go to lunch, let them know you’ve observed them for some time, and that you’d like to learn more about how they do whatever it is you’d like to know or learn.
Mentoring is something that will naturally work out well for you and your mentor. So be prepared to let this process simmer on low—not on high like something you’re trying to boil.
Here we go!
Step 1: Figure out who (or what) you’re looking for
What are you looking for in a mentor?
There’s nothing wrong at all with having someone in your life who encourages you, challenges you, and prays for you. Honestly, having many of these people in your life is a good thing.
Now, when it comes to finding a mentor, you’re not necessarily looking for a generalist. You’re in search of someone who can help you do one of two things:
Solve a problem
Grow in a specific area
In life, you will come up against different problems at different times. After reading books or seeking out advice, you may feel stuck and in need of help to overcome whatever you’re facing.
When this happens, don’t take it personally.
Remember, you’ve been created by God to be dependent upon him and in community with other people. One big part of your community is being in a relationship with people (mentors) who can speak into your life and help you to solve problems.
Do you need help in your church with a specific problem?
Having a difficult time breaking through a growth barrier?
Not sure about your next steps?
In any one of these situations, a mentor is someone who can help you figure out what you need to do.
Another common reason why someone pursues a mentor is because they’re interested in growing in a specific area of their life.
Whether it’s growing as a pastor, parent, or marketer (or whatever field you work in), a mentor can help you to grow as an individual. He or she can ask questions, provide suggestions, and even point you in the right direction.
What are you looking for in a mentor?
Answer this question before taking the next step.
Step 2: Be observant
Mentoring takes place in a relationship.
When you take the time to prayerfully consider the people in your life or open your eyes to potential mentors, you’ll be surprised at how many people come to mind.
As you consider the problem you need to solve or the area you need to grow in, does the Lord bring to mind anyone in particular? Write his or her name down to prayerfully consider whether they’re a potential mentor.
Step 3: Look to your denomination or network for support
Is your church affiliated with a denomination or network? If so, then there’s a good chance you’ve met a variety of peers who may be a good mentor during meetings or at other times.
Is your church non-denominational?
Depending upon the location of your church, look into joining a local meet up of pastors or starting one yourself to meet peers in similar situations.
Step 4: Attend conferences
Every year, there are many church conferences you can attend.
At these conferences, you have the opportunity to meet other church leaders, and I’m not talking about the speakers on stage either.
If you haven’t already, plan on attending a conference this year to recharge your batteries and network with peers. During this time, be observant to see if there’s someone you may be able to follow up with later to talk about life and ministry. You’ll be surprised at how many people may just say yes.
It’s time to find a mentor
Are you ready to find a mentor?
I hope so.
Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you think it should to find the right man or woman.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a dozen times:
Mentoring is something that takes place in a relationship.
It’s organic, and it will naturally grow as you follow the steps above.
Relationships are crucial to leading your church well.
It can be easy to get caught up in using your administrative skills while leading your church.
From possessing an ability to teach, to organize worship services, and to manage your money, there’s a lot you need to take care of to make sure everything functions.
But your church is more than a task to complete.
Your church is a group of people you must shepherd.
To lead your church well, you have to do more than preach a killer sermon and organize a breathtaking worship experience. You have to build relationships with the people you lead. To do this, you have to know and be known by the people you serve.
Building relationships with your church members can be challenging. Not only is it difficult as a church leader to create a personal community, but the way you build relationships will have a ripple effect throughout your church.
Think about it.
If you regularly come across as cold and emotionally detached, then this will influence the way your staff, volunteers, and church members will interact with each other.
This is just one example, but I think you get the point.
So, how do you build healthy relationships with your church?
How do you influence the community you serve to live and love like Jesus?
The key to creating life-giving relationships in your church is authentic leadership.
Authentic leadership is more than a contemporary business trend.
Authentic leadership is at the heart of church leadership.
In this post, I’m going to share with you three ways you can be an authentic church leader.
#1 – Always stay humble
The first mark of authentic leadership is humility.
Specifically, I’m talking about knowing who you are in light of who God created you to be. For instance, God didn’t create you—or anyone else for that matter—to be completely self-sufficient. If that were the case, then no one would need to place his or her faith in Jesus Christ or depend upon God’s strength to live the life he’s called us to live.
As an authentic church leader, there are three marks of humility:
Live and love like Jesus
Make room for struggle
As a Christian, your goal is to live and love like Jesus.
Many verses highlight this reality, including:
1 Corinthians 11:1
1 Peter 2:21
1 John 2:6
Practically speaking, when it comes to leadership, every book you read, principle you learn, and conference you attend must be filtered through your goal as a follower of Jesus.
In other words, your goal isn’t to live an authentic life per se. Your goal is to live an authentic life to be more like Jesus. Basically, authenticity is a way to be more like Christ.
To live your life for Jesus and to lead your church well, you have to possess a high level of self-awareness. According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, self-awareness is “… knowing one’s internal states, preference, resources and intuitions.”
For you, this means being aware of who you are in Christ. In particular, to be an authentic leader, you need to know that you—like your church members—face an internal battle between the “flesh” and the “Spirit” (Gal 5:17). While the Holy Spirit leads you to live your life for Jesus, your “flesh” will tempt you to pursue sin instead.
What is more, self-awareness also means you understand that you too will face challenges in life. Whether you experience a natural disaster, suffer a financial setback, or endure a significant illness, you will have trouble in life (John 16:33).
What does self-awareness have to do with authentic leadership?
Well, a lot.
As you strive to live your life for Jesus, you are aware of the internal and external problems you face, which should lead you to make room for struggles in your life.
A big part of authenticity for anyone is being able to relate to someone else.
As a church leader, living a humble life dependent upon God’s strength will help you and the members of your church to empathize with one another, which leads me to my next point.
#2 – Walk in the light
The best definition of honesty is found in 1 John 1:7:
“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleaned us from all sin.”
Honesty is about being able to walk in the light.
As a church leader, this has two big implications.
First, you’re not hiding something sinful in your life.
I’m not talking about the one time you told a “white lie” or had an angry thought toward someone else. What I’m talking about are ongoing sinful patterns.
If you’re not able to walk in the light, then I encourage you to seek advice from a friend or counselor on how best to move forward.
Second, walking in the light also means that you’re able to talk about your struggles.
Talking about your struggles is one way you can shed light into the darkness of someone else’s life. Being honest about your life can be a tremendous blessing for someone else.
When it comes to being honest, this doesn’t mean you have to share everything with everyone. Whether you share something from the pulpit or with someone one-on-one, ask yourself these two questions:
“Will this help them live and love like Jesus?”
“Can they relate to what I’m going to share?”
In answering these questions, you’ll be able to gauge if you should or should not share something from your life.
There’s one caveat I’d like to include:
As a church leader, you may not be able to share everything with your church. But it’s a good idea to have someone in your life you can be honest with—someone who can help you work through your problems or overcome your struggles with sin.
#3 – Share hope
There’s one last key component to being an authentic leader:
Embracing the hope found in Christ.
It’s easy to get caught up in navel-gazing as we talk about living a humble and honest life by sharing your struggles. But here’s the deal:
God is at work in your life.
Despite the challenges and problems you’re facing, God is at work.
He gives you strength.
He empowers you to overcome sin and Satan.
He will fulfill his promise to give you eternal life.
The hope you have as a Christian is the same hope you need to share with your church. As an authentic church leader, living a humble and honest life, don’t forget to share the hope that is in Christ.
Becoming an authentic church leader
The life of authentic leadership is ongoing.
It’s not a class you can take, a book you can read, or a destination you’ll reach.
As a church leader and follower of Christ, by the grace of God, you’ll always have to stay humble, walk in the light, and share hope with the church you serve.
How you measure the effectiveness of your work in these areas couldn’t be further apart.
Think about it.
One part of your work is administrative.
You have to prepare for your worship service.
You have to organize events, arrange counseling sessions, and manage your volunteers and staff.
You also have to respond to emails, texts, and calls, and make sure everything else is being taken care of.
Your administrative work is something you can measure.
You have projects to manage, deadlines to meet, and tasks to accomplish. For better or worse, with your administrative work, you can experience tangible results—the sense of checking off something from your to-do list.
But this isn’t the case at all for your spiritual work.
You preach the gospel.
You teach the Bible.
You help people to live and love like Jesus.
The spiritual side of your work isn’t like your administrative tasks. Sure, you can check off of your to-do list certain things like, “Preach this Sunday,” “Meet with a church member,” or “Spend one hour praying for my community and church.”
But here’s the deal about your spiritual work:
You can’t control the results.
The more you do doesn’t necessarily result in more “accomplishments.”
You can’t force people to accept the gospel, apply a lesson from the Bible, or instantaneously live more like Jesus. In other words, the results of your spiritual work are in the hands of God—not yours.
Waiting for God to work in the life of your church can be challenging, and it’s easy to be discouraged. As you work, and work, and work with your people, you may not observe any tangible results (fruit) for months, years, or ever.
What do you do in the meantime?
There’s only one thing you can do, and that’s to wait.
Waiting on God isn’t the same thing as not doing anything.
It’s quite the opposite.
There are three core things you should do as you wait on God, and I’d like to share them with you now.
#1 – Trust in God
Do you preach the gospel?
Do you teach or preach the Bible?
Do you help people work through their struggles?
Then lean in to hear these words from the Apostle Paul:
“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Cor 15:58).
If you are doing God’s work, then your work is not in vain.
The work you do in your church is important in the kingdom of God.
Without someone sharing the gospel, how can anyone believe?
Without someone giving sacrificially, who will support the local church?
Without someone providing food, clothing, and shelter, how will those in need be cared for?
While you wait on God, trust that he is working through you to accomplish his plans.
#2 – Continue to pray
God didn't call you to serve his church alone.
He called you to participate in his work with him.
Practically speaking, there’s no way you can do your spiritual work without God’s strength. Serving the church without God would be like trying to drive a car without gas—it’s not going to work.
Without God’s help, you’ll experience moments of energy, positive momentum, and seasons of flourishing. But eventually, you’ll get tired, hit a wall, and burn out.
As a church leader, your primary problem won’t be stress—it will be a lack of strength. A lack of fuel to keep doing what you’re doing.
Your lack of strength isn’t physical, and it can’t be replenished by an extra cup of coffee or a four-pack of energy drinks.
The strength you need is spiritual. You can’t buy it online or from a convenience store. The only place—or better yet, Person—you can get spiritual strength from is God.
How do you draw strength from God?
One of the best ways to receive God’s strength is through prayer.
When you pray, you may not experience a booster shot of energy. But that’s not the point.
You’ll receive an inner strength and a renewed commitment to keep pressing on.
Here are several Bible verses about strength you can pray:
2 Corinthians 12:9–10
#3 – Keep doing good work
There’s one thing you can’t stop doing while you’re waiting: Working.
Now isn't the time to stop preaching the gospel, sharing biblical truths, or spending time with your people. Ceasing from your work as a church leader would be like a farmer not doing two things:
Protecting their seeds
Preparing to reap a harvest.
While you wait, you have toprotect the seeds you planted in the life of your people. As a church leader, you don’t labor alone. You’re up against spiritual forces. In the words of the Apostle Paul, you’re fighting “… against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph 6:12).
The people in your church (members and visitors) are struggling with sin, facing temptations, or simply navigating a difficult season. Neglecting your church at these crucial times can set your people up to be overtaken by whatever their facing.
Instead of sitting on your thumbs and watching the weeds grow, prepare to reap a harvest.
Continue to spend time with your people, know what’s going on in their lives, and most importantly of all, continue to share the gospel and point people to Jesus.
Working while you’re waiting isn’t probably what you want to hear.
So let me leave you with these encouraging words from Galatians 6:9:
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
Waiting on God
Waiting on God isn’t easy.
If anything, waiting on God is slowly becoming a more significant challenge for people. Whether it’s streaming a video to watch, purchasing a product online, or standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for anything or anyone can be frustrating.
As you wait on God to accomplish his work, take a step back, hit the pause button, and reevaluate your expectations in light of what I just shared.
God is at work in your church.
He’s at work in your community.
And he's working through you.
As you wait on God, remember to do these three things:
Pastoral transitions are frequent, and they can occur for good or bad reasons.
One key to pastoral transitions
Pastoral transitions can lead your church to lose one key thing: momentum.
I’m not talking about when a pastor is fired for a moral failure. I'm talking about normal pastoral transitions and the average amount of time it takes a church to call a new pastor, which can crush your church’s momentum.
Not only will a vacancy in leadership lead to these problems, so too will a mismanaged pastoral transition, which leads us to the next point.
6 ways to lead your church through a pastoral transition
Remember, pastoral transitions take on all sorts of shapes and sizes—both good and bad.
Here’s what you need to know:
If you don’t handle your pastoral transition well, you’ll create an entirely different set of problems.
To help lead your church well through this season, here are 6 steps you’ll need to take:
Continue your ministry
Make a plan
Follow Jesus’ lead
Let’s dig in!
#1 – Continue your ministry
There's one reality you must embrace during a pastoral transition:
The life of your church marches on.
For a variety of reasons, it’s difficult when a senior pastor transitions off staff. But the life of your church is not limited to this one man or woman. Your church is made up of every member who places their faith in Jesus Christ.
This is what the Apostle Paul emphasizes in his letter to the church in Corinth:
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ … For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12:12, 14).
As the body of Christ, your church—for better or worse—possesses achurch culture. In other words, your church has unique characteristics, behaviors, and ministries. So, when there’s a pastoral change, what makes up the culture of your church may change, which will cause anxiety among many of your members.
When there’s a pastoral transition, your church will be nervously questioning things like:
Will the style of worship change?
Will we continue this or that ministry?
Will other pastors, staff, or key volunteers leave?
What will become of my small group?
These thoughts and more will race through the minds of your church members.
If your church’s leadership does not address these anxieties, they will grow into more significant fears and may lead to gossip, slander, and division.
During a pastoral transition, it’s essential that the life of your church continues without interruption. There’s no need to make sweeping changes, and it’s best to let everyone know that life in your church will continue.
#2 – Make a plan
It’s easy to skip planning your church’s next steps during a pastoral transition.
Regardless of how well the transition takes place, this is still a difficult time for your church. You may be experiencing a sense of loss or feeling overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done. Taking the time to plan for your future can feel daunting.
Hear me loud and clear:
Make a pastoral transition plan and work your plan.
Writing for theVanderbloemen Search Group, Tracey Smith said, “Many transitions go strangely wrong because the leader(s) does not have a plan.” As I pointed out above, this is something you don’t want to go strangely wrong.
In your plan, there are several short- and long-term tasks you’ll need to think through and outline, such as:
Creating a job description
Planning for pastoral care
Providing pulpit replacement
Forming a search committee
Promoting the open position
In your plan, there’s one additional item you’ll need to include: clarify roles.
Since this last step is nuanced, let’s tackle it individually next.
#3 – Clarify roles
In team sports, when a player is unable to play in a game, his or her position is filled by someone who can assume the responsibilities.
For example, in football, if your quarterback is injured, you need a replacement who can play quarterback—not a different position.
What do team sports have to do with pastoral transitions?
A senior pastor serves as the leader of the church. From providing spiritual leadership to strategic guidance, a senior pastor provides oversight for your church.
During a pastoral transition, your church will experience a gap in leadership. When this happens, your church will be concerned about how these responsibilities will be fulfilled moving forward. Also, your staff and volunteers will be curious to know how their responsibilities may change.
To help create a healthy pastoral transition, you’ll need to do the following:
Identify interim leaders
Empower your staff and volunteers
Interim leaders for your church can be an interim pastor, assistant pastor or staff member, or even shared responsibility among your board, session, or staff. Whether it’s an individual or group who’s assuming leadership responsibilities, make sure all roles are clearly communicated to your church and staff.
When there’s a pastoral transition, there’s also a need for someone else to pick up the work left behind. The size of your church will determine how much work you’ll need to delegate to your staff and volunteers.
To clarify roles, you must first identify what work will need to be accomplished in the absence of your pastor. Take the time to jot down everything your pastor did—from preaching, to pastoral care, to administrative work.
Now, with your list of tasks in hand, it’s time to delegate among your staff or volunteers. Don’t feel obligated to make sure everything is passed along. If your team doesn’t have the additional bandwidth, there’s a good chance you can postpone non-essential work.
Finally, empower your staff and volunteers in their roles and responsibilities. Encourage them to continue doing what they’re doing.
If you need to make any adjustments to someone’s responsibilities, meet with them individually to work this out. Laying this out up front will minimize stress with your team and reduce the risk of team members vying for a different position or higher authority.
#4 – Overcommunicate
There’s one thing you cannot do enough during a pastoral transition: communicate.
As I shared above, pastoral transitions will naturally lead your church to experience anxiety and stress. Often, these feelings are exasperated when there’s a lack of communication. It’s human nature to fill in the blanks when questions are left unanswered.
Communication with your church will need to be a two-way street.
On the one hand, you’ll need to continuously share with your church about what’s going on. On the other hand, you’ll need to be open to receiving feedback and listening to the concerns of your church.
Let’s explore both of these in detail.
Here’s the deal:
In pastoral transitions, your church members and staff will be anxious.
What you share with the members of your church and staff will differ.
For example, the members of your church will be curious about many things, and fearful about others.
What led to this transition?
How significantly will this affect my family and me?
Is there anything we need to be worried about?
As for your staff, they’ll likely have similar questions, but they’re also going to be concerned about their job security.
In the plan you were encouraged to make in step 2 above, think through the questions and concerns your members and staff will have. It’s also a good idea to develop a response to these questions to ensure consistent communication with everyone involved.
In a transitional period, your members and staff will experience a variety of feelings.
They’ll feel the loss of a pastor, friend, or boss.
They’ll feel stress at adjusting to the change.
They’ll be concerned about the future of the church and their job.
Whatever your church feels, it's okay. Transitions are hard for most people.
Give them room to breathe, and let them know who they can talk to if they have questions. Providing people with a clear line of communication will be a comfort for everyone—even if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity.
#5 – Be patient
Let’s face it: Transitions are messy.
In the midst of transitions, your entire church experiences change—and it’s hard.
How your church—both members and staff—navigates this change will be different.
Know ahead of time that you’ll run into a variety of opinions, and it’s essential to exercise patience. In other words, be ready to encounter different views—even from people who won’t accept the new reality.
To prepare yourself, know that your church will fall into one of three categories when it comes to working through the transition:
Knowing how your church will (or will not) accept change, will help you be better prepared to handle the different opinions. Let’s break this down a bit.
When it comes to change, early adopters are people in your church who are aware of the pastoral transition, and are comfortable with the changes taking place. This doesn’t mean this group of people has hard feelings toward the previous pastor or are not fighting loss. But it does mean they are the first group to embrace this transition.
In dealing with this group, you may not have to work hard to convince them to accept the transition. A strategy that works well with this group is sharing information and answering their questions.
What is more, consider leveraging the influence of early adopters by encouraging them to be champions of the church. It’s always helpful to have a group of non-staff people who act as a supportive voice.
As for the majority, this group represents the members of your church who are battling the loss of their pastor, but understand things change, and they will fight for the well-being of the entire church.
Expect this group to be slower in accepting the transition. In working with them, be informative and answer their questions. But be patient in forcing them to “fall into line.” Quick moves with this group can lead them to become combative, rather than supportive, which isn’t a good idea.
Finally, in any transition, you’ll have a group of laggards. This group of people is committed to the previous pastor, and they will fall into one of two categories.
First, there’s a portion of this group who will not accept the transition under any circumstances. Regardless of how you deal with this group of people, they will not be willing to stick around to see what happens, and that’s okay. Don’t force this group to be different than who they are. Be ready to part ways on good terms.
Second, there’s a portion of this group who will accept the transition and embrace a future pastor, but they’re skeptical and waiting to see how things work out. In working with this group, practice extreme patience. Don’t worry about when they choose to come on board.
Also, encourage early adopters to be aware of this group, build strong relationships, and be an encouragement for the church during this transition.
In leading your church through a pastoral transition, there’s one final point to make.
#6 – Follow Jesus’ lead
Jesus is the head of the Church, and he is the leader of your church (Col. 1:17–18; Eph. 5:22–25).
Over, and over again, remind your church of these truths:
Jesus is alive
Jesus is in control
Jesus loves your church
God is involved in your situation
God will work things out
God has good plans for you
By opening up the Bible and fearlessly sharing from its pages, God will change the hearts and minds of your church to see things from his point of view.
This is not only helpful during pastoral transitions, but there are many common themes—change, vision, faith—that will also help people grow in their faith in Christ.
Over to you
In the end, I want to leave you with this reminder:
You’re not alone.
What you're going through isn’t uncommon, and most importantly of all—God is involved in your situation.
If you still feel overwhelmed after reading through this process, consider reaching out to a third-party to help you work through the situation.
From your weekly worship service, small group ministry, and everything in between, there is a variety of activity taking place in your church.
To make sure everything (and everyone) works well together, here’s what you need to know:
Every ministry in your church will naturally drift toward misalignment. In other words, your staff and ministries will eventually pursue their own purposes—not the mission of the church.
Often, misalignment doesn’t happen on purpose. The vast majority of ministries or events are rooted in good intentions. However, over time, everything tends to drift away from its original purpose.
New ideas emerge.
People pursue different directions.
Then, perhaps without even knowing it, what started as one thing turns out to be something entirely different, and it becomes misaligned with the church.
When people or ministries become misaligned, you’ll run into many problems, including:
Lack of clarity
Fights over money
Lack of volunteers
Think about it this way.
Let’s say the wheels of your vehicle become misaligned. At first, your vehicle will slightly pull to the left or right. But if you let this problem persist, then you will damage the wheels of your car, and maybe even experience a tire blowout while you’re driving, which can quickly lead to an accident.
Thankfully, no one will get physically injured or potentially die when your church staff becomes misaligned. But the problems it causes are real and they can negatively impact your church and thwart your ministry efforts.
To help you assess your ministry, fight for alignment, and achieve greater ministry success, we’re going to cover the following topics:
What is alignment?
4 reasons why alignment is important
9 warning signs of misalignment
6 practical tips for aligning your church staff
Let’s get started!
What is alignment?
Alignment isn’t a complicated concept to grasp.
It simply means to agree with a person or idea. For example, when it comes to politics, to be in alignment is to be on the same side of a political party or to support a specific cause.
To practically apply this definition to your church, Carey Nieuwhof writes:
“Alignment happens when you have a team of people—from the top leadership right through to the newest volunteer—pulling in the same direction not only around the same goals, but using the same strategy.”
For your church to be in alignment, you and your staff need to be on the same side in three core areas:
Regarding your beliefs, I’m not suggesting that everyone on your staff needs to agree with you on every single point of doctrine. But I am suggesting that your team needs to agree with your church's essential beliefs.
For your church, there are many Christian creeds, confessions, and statements of faith you may or may not adhere to. That’s okay. Whatever creed or passages of the Bible inform your beliefs, it’s essential for your staff to be in agreement with them, too.
One last point about your beliefs:
Provide your staff with the opportunity to share their disagreements.
For example, many creeds contain a variety of essential, secondary, and even tertiary doctrinal issues. Whether it’s during the interview process or a pastoral transition, provide interviewees and members of your staff an opportunity to discuss where they diverge.
This simple act will not only help your entire church staff to become aligned. But it will also help to create an environment for your team to feel safe in sharing their opinions.
When it comes to creating alignment in your mission, your church staff should be moving toward accomplishing the same goal—to be on the same page. Think about it this way.
If you're on a road trip and there’s a disagreement about your final destination, you’ll end up nowhere fast. In the same way, if there’s disagreement over the direction of your church, then your staff will go in different directions, which will negatively influence the team’s productivity and your church’s fruitfulness.
If your mission is what you want to accomplish, then your philosophy of ministry is how you will achieve your mission.
How your church fulfills its mission is just as important to people as the mission itself. For example, you can agree on the same destination (mission), but you can have different opinions on how you should reach your destination (philosophy of ministry).
From your style of worship music to your dress code, your philosophy of ministry will have a variety of practical implications.
In sum, it’s important to remember there are a few things alignment doesn’t mean:
Everyone has to be in 100 percent agreement
Staff members have to forfeit their perspective
No one can voice an opinion
This isn’t the case at all.
In general, your staff needs to be on the same side as you in your beliefs, mission, and philosophy of ministry. But you can allow your staff to share concerns, voice opinions, and even adhere to secondary or tertiary differences of opinion.
4 Reasons Alignment is Essential
Misalignment among your staff will inevitably lead your church to veer off course or crash.
No one may get physically injured in the process, but the consequences are no less severe. Many churches have been negatively impacted by misalignment, and many others have even closed their doors.
But there’s more to alignment than avoiding pain and problems.
There are several benefits your church can experience when everyone is on the same page. Let’s take a look at four reasons why alignment is essential.
#1. Alignment minimizes conflict
When your staff is aligned in your beliefs, mission, and philosophy of ministry, you will significantly reduce the number of conflicts in your team. At times, you’ll still experience healthy disagreements, and that’s okay and to be expected. But when your staff is on the same page, you’ll see a reduction in any significant conflicts that may be detrimental to the team.
#2. Alignment means better focus
Alignment will also lead your team to better focus on what you’re striving to achieve together.
When this happens, your staff will:
Be less concerned about pet projects
Not make excuses
Disregard non-mission critical problems
Most important of all, your staff will work together as a team toward accomplishing a common goal.
#3. Alignment leads to accomplishing more
By minimizing conflict and improving focus, your staff will be able to accomplish more together.
As you focus on fulfilling the church’s mission, your staff will be in a better position to accomplish goals.
#4. Alignment leads to momentum
Being aligned will also help your staff to build and maintain momentum.
Think about it like this:
When you have everyone pulling together instead of going in different directions, you’ll create more traction and pick up speed since you won’t have competing forces moving in opposite directions.
[bctt tweet=”When you have everyone pulling together instead of going in different directions, you’ll create more traction and pick up speed since you won’t have competing forces moving in opposite directions.” username=”churchfuel”]
As you minimize conflict, focus on what’s ahead, and accomplish more together, you’ll build a wave of momentum you can ride together.
Let’s be honest:
No one wants their staff to become misaligned.
It’s not like church leaders are standing around dreaming up new ways they can discourage their team.
Misalignment among your staff is something that can happen because of a mistake (we’ll get into that below) or because your team has just drifted along for a period of time.
Here’s what you need to know about misalignment:
It’s not if your staff will become misaligned—it’s when it does.
For your staff to become misaligned, the problems usually begin small.
It can be a variety of things, such as:
Challenges at work
There are times when something significant will lead to big problems. But, for the most part, it’s the little things that can creep into the life of your team that will sow seeds of discord.
Like a small misalignment in your vehicle, in time, if the problem is not addressed, it will continue to get worse.
As a church leader, you need to be able to identify the common causes of misalignment. By keeping your fingers on the pulse of your team, you’ll be in a better position to lead them well.
This brings us to the next point.
9 Warning Signs of Misalignment
There are several ways your staff can become misaligned.
Knowing how your team can get out of alignment will help you to make a course correction.
Here are 9 common causes that lead to a misaligned team.
#1. Inherited staff
As the new pastor of a church, you’ll face many challenges. But one area you’ll need to be aware of is how to lead your existing staff well.
Many times, as a new pastor, you won’t need to make sweeping changes with the staff you inherited. In other words, there’s a good chance you won’t have to “clean house.” But you will have to work with the staff you inherited.
If you plan on making changes to the church’s mission or philosophy of ministry, then you should expect that it will take your staff time to adopt these changes. Below I’ll share several ways you can build trust with your team and encourage them to embrace the new work God is calling your church to pursue.
#2. Bad hiring
The second most significant contributor to a misaligned team is lousy hiring.
If you hire someone who does not align with your church’s beliefs, mission, or philosophy of ministry, then there’s no level of training or conflict resolution you can provide that will help. In time, a bad hire who’s not on the same page with your church will create tension or cause conflict.
In your church’s next hire, look for someone who not only possesses the skills and experience necessary for the job but who also is in alignment with your church.
Fear is another common cause of misalignment.
Let me ask you this about your staff:
Do they fear sharing their disagreements?
Do they not ask for help?
Do they hide their mistakes?
Do they fear significant blowback?
Did you answer yes to any of these questions?
If so, then there’s a good chance fear grips your staff and it’s only a matter of time until things go from bad to worse.
#4. No chemistry
There’s more to creating a high-powered team than hiring individual rockstars.
To be effective, your staff will need to be able to work well together—to have team chemistry.
To know whether or not the chemistry of your team is causing misalignment, you need to ask two simple questions:
Can my staff easily collaborate on projects?
Or is there constant conflict among my staff that hampers results?
Many factors influence team chemistry, but the answers to these two questions will at least get you moving in the right direction.
#5. Disengaged staff
Disengagement in the workforce is an epidemic in business and the Church.
According to a report by Harvard Business Review, 70 percent of workers in the U.S. are not engaged in their work. This study may not have been conducted on the Church. But it does paint a good picture of the overall level of workers’ engagement.
To know if your staff is disengaged, there are a variety of signs you can observe, including:
Lack of initiative
Poor work ethic
Lack of involvement
There are seasons when your staff will feel disengagement for a variety of reasons. However, if you observe these signs over the long-term, then there’s reason to believe your staff has become misaligned.
#6. Lack of vision
The ancient proverb, “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Prov. 29:18), rings true today.
Do you regularly talk about the mission of your church?
Is your staff clear on the mission?
Does your work reflect the mission?
To align your staff, they need to see how their work contributes to the mission of the church, which leads us to the next point.
#7. Lack of goals
In your church, there is a tremendous amount of work that needs to be accomplished. However, if the work your staff is doing is not aligned with the church’s mission, then the work they complete will eventually veer off course or feel demotivating.
As you reflect on your staff, you need to look at two key areas:
Do the positions of your staff align with the church’s mission and philosophy of ministry? Are their individual goals connected with the church?
At its root, if the work of your staff is not in alignment with your church, then the work they do will lead them to become misaligned. It’s that simple.
#8. Lack of leadership
Poor leadership is one way many pastors create misalignment with their team.
Many church leaders lack the training necessary to create a healthy church staff. Regardless if you lead a small team of volunteers or several paid staff members, there’s a level of skill needed to lead a team well.
Without proper training, it can be easy to derail a team.
In time, without proper care, your staff will naturally drift for a variety of reasons.
Like many of the causes of misalignment, drifting is something that starts small. However, if it’s left unchecked, your team will end up way off course from your original destination.
To combat drifting and the other common causes of misalignment, you have to be purposeful.
As I mentioned above, no staff is created equal. There are unique challenges you face together, and there are different ways your team will respond to your leadership.
To help you deal with staff misalignment, here are six practical ways you can cultivate an aligned team.
6 Practical Tips for Aligning Your Church Staff
When your vehicle becomes misaligned, you have to get it repaired.
Similarly, when your staff becomes misaligned, you have to help them get back on track.
Unlike your vehicle, your church staff isn’t something you can drop off with your local mechanic for a mechanical repair. It takes time, effort, and a plan to help your team to get back on the same page.
Here are six of the best practices you can use to align your church staff.
#1. Selective hiring
Hiring the right people is the foundation of creating an aligned team.
As I pointed out earlier, if you hire the wrong people, you will not be able to create an aligned team—period.
In your hiring process, as you identify qualified candidates and move into the interview process, make sure you're clear about your beliefs, mission, and philosophy of ministry. At this time, you’ll also want to ask potential candidates if they have any disagreements with what you shared or if they need any clarification.
By clarifying these core areas of your church, interviewees will better understand if they are or are not a good fit for your church.
#2. Build trust
If hiring the right people is the foundation of creating an aligned staff, then building trust is the pillar everything else is built upon.
Building trust isn’t a one-time event. It takes more than a new employee orientation or lunch to establish rapport.
To build a healthy church staff, there are several things you’ll need to do on an ongoing basis, including:
Tell the truth
As you build trust with your staff, you’ll be in a better position to lead them well.
#3. Cast vision
The mission of your church is the driving force for everything you do. It’s the compass that directs your efforts.
For casting a vision, you’ll need to regularly talk about your church’s mission.
From sharing your mission during church announcements to talking about it during the week, reminding your team why they do what they do will help them to push through when things get tough. It will help them to see how their work and sacrifice contributes to the mission.
#4. Clarify goals
When you align the goals of your staff with the mission of your church, you will accomplish three important things:
For every position in your staff, you’ll need to ensure that the work and goals for that position are aligned with your church’s mission. This simple step is one surefire way to ensure your staff is rowing in the same direction.
What is more, based on the report by Harvard Business Review, when your staff can practically see how their work influences the mission of your church, it will increase results and boost morale.
By aligning staff goals with the mission of your church, you will also create clarity among your team.
As you know, there’s a tremendous amount of work that goes into helping your church move forward every week. For your staff, when their work and goals are aligned with the mission, they’ll be able to confidently prioritize their work, which will help them to focus better.
Finally, your staff will feel like they are participating in the mission of your church. When your staff can see how their work contributes to the bottom line, they’ll experience a sense of inclusion and motivation to know that their work matters.
#5. Align with strengths
As a pastor, if you can, place staff members in positions that are a good fit for their passion, skills, and strengths. Not only will this boost morale and productivity, but this will also help your staff succeed.
Think about it like this.
If you coach a football team, you need to place your players in the right position. For example, you don’t want your quarterback to play on the offensive line and vice versa. As a coach, when your players are in the wrong position, your entire team suffers the consequences.
In the same way, if each staff member is placed in a position that’s best suited for him or her, then your entire team will perform better overall.
#6. Clear (and constant) communication
A lack of communication can create significant challenges in your church.
It can cause uncertainty.
It can lead to gossip.
It can cultivate doubt.
In communicating with your staff, strive to provide consistent and clear messages. Don’t be afraid to share with them the state of the church or progress toward goals.
As mentioned above, keep an open door policy, and make sure your staff feels comfortable asking questions, sharing feedback, or input.
Remember, you are called to equip the church—not to be the entire church yourself (Eph. 4:11–13).
Is your team aligned or misaligned?
How’s your staff?
Is your team aligned?
Do you think your staff is misaligned?
If your staff is aligned, congratulations! That’s a great place to be.
If your staff is misaligned, don’t lose all hope. Make a decision today to take one step toward helping your team to get back on the same page.
20 years. That’s a long time when you think about it.
For 20 years I’ve been a pastor, as either a student pastor or as a senior pastor.
When I think back to my very first year of pastoring as student pastor, I honestly do not know that I can just list 10 things that I learned, because I learned everything. That’s because I knew nothing about being a student pastor except that I loved teenagers (because I was one!) and that I loved Jesus.
I could tell you about how I learned the joys of playing “Chubby Bunny” or how I learned how to file a missing persons report when I made it back to the church missing three teenage boys.
Oh, don’t worry—it was okay. They got arrested. So, all good. I didn’t lose them.
Being a senior pastor is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. It ranks third behind being a husband and a father.
If you have pastored for any length of time, you know that to be true as well. In fact, I would say if it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong.
I became a senior pastor and a church planter all at the same time. So the learning curve was pretty steep for me. There was a LOT I did not know.
I have learned a lot over the years and I’m still learning. But these 5 things were foundational to me in my first year.
1 – A crowd is not a church.
Anyone can gather a crowd. A crowd is just a bunch of people getting together in one place. They might all come for various reasons. But a church is not a crowd. For a long time, I thought the crowd we had gathered was our church. It was not because I was not really pastoring them yet.
2 – People will leave you. Don’t take it personally.
I’ll never forget getting really close to a large family in our church. I loved this family. They were so fun and they cared about me, my family, and our young church.
But because we really had not figured out yet how to engage their growing teenagers, they felt they needed to move on to another church. I’ll never forget reading the email through tears. It hurt. People leave you, they leave the church, and unfortunately, sometimes they leave Jesus. It never stops hurting. But I learned in that first year that I had to stop taking it personally. People leave for various reasons. It’s not always your fault.
3 – Everything rises and falls on discipleship.
John Maxwell famously said that everything rises and falls on leadership. He’s not wrong. But in the church, that’s only half the story. The church rises and falls on discipleship.
Discipleship IS leadership. Jesus never did leadership talks or held a Leadership 101 course. Jesus lived out discipleship and in turn, made leaders. As a believer, I knew this. As a young church planter and new senior pastor, I had “mis-remembered” this.
In my desire to grow the church and get a bigger crowd, I had neglected the importance of discipleship. I just thought that since we were doing church, we were doing discipleship. I learned that to do discipleship well, I had to be more intentional about it.
4 – I had to find MY voice.
In my first year (and probably even a few after that), I didn’t have a voice. Not a literal voice, but I just didn’t sound like me. My sermons sounded like Mark Driscoll one week, Andy Stanley the next, and Matt Chandler the next.
My church didn’t need me to be Andy. They needed me to be Bobby. I needed to find MY voice. I needed to preach and lead the way God shaped me. It took me some time to figure that out.
5 – Grow tough skin.
Before we planted our church and before I became a senior pastor, I kept hearing others tell me, “grow some tough skin. You’re going to need it.” I thought I had it covered. I found out pretty quickly that I did not. I needed to have thick skin not only for myself, but also for my wife.
When you become the lead pastor, when the church gets talked about, you feel like they’re all talking about you (see #2). Sometimes, they just skip talking about the church and just talk about you. Or other times, people will unnecessarily criticize you, your leadership, speaking skills, or their perceived lack thereof. It takes some pretty tough skin to weather that. I certainly learned to grow it and grow it quickly.
Remember to not take take things personally when they’re not, and when they are, keep your eyes on the vision God has given you, even if it’s through tears.
I love pastors and I love being a pastor. It’s one of the greatest privileges and honors of my life. I honestly can’t think of anything I would rather do. I have learned much in these last years, but I also know that I have much more to learn. I’m not there yet.
If I ever think that I have it all figured out, I might as well be done.
It’s good to consider what we have learned in the past and what we still have to learn for our future.
If you’re a young pastor starting out in your first few years of being a senior pastor, hopefully these few things will not be the things you have to learn the hard way. I’m glad to have learned them for you.