Just over five years ago I moved from working in the business industry to a ministry position within the Church. I spent five years prior to that working to advance my career and was fortunate enough to be entrusted with leading various teams. My step into ministry also came with leadership responsibilities and over the last two years I have learned several lessons about leadership that I didn’t fully recognize while in business.
1. A good Christian leader needs to be a good listener
This reminds me of a movie quote, “most often we’re not looking for answers, but comfort”. This sums up what everyone is looking for – someone to listen to them. And that is a real art-form. I’ve learned its one thing to listen to someone, and another to really empathize with someone as you’re listening. And then finally to speak words of life rather than rambling or air. I used to think that being a good pastor was telling people what they needed at the time. It made me look harsh always looking to correcting to others. I didn’t want it to be that way, but it certainly came across that way. Then God showed me how not saying anything and just listening can be in most cases very effective. You could say I had to turn off my “teaching” gift and put on the “quick to listen” (James 1:19) gift.
2. A good Christian leader needs to pour out a lot of grace and love
Unlike corporate businesses, the church needs to operate on God’s forgiveness and grace. That means being gentle and patient with people who need time to process Christian living. It also means not nagging those who don’t show up to prayer meeting/church service and not getting hung up over initiatives that nobody goes to (evangelism anybody?). The reality is that most Christians are just preoccupied with their own problems including family, children, school, and work. A good leader needs to enter into those problems in love, rather than putting on new burdens and fighting needless wars elsewhere.
3. People assume that you know their needs
I’ve noticed that Canadians are not very assertive when it comes toward personal matters. They won’t tell you what’s going on in their mind or their life for the sake of maintaining the peace of everyone else. The underlying reason is because ‘It’s the polite thing to do’. After all, step on nobody’s toes and you won’t get into trouble. I’ve found this mentality carries into the church realm too. As a Pastor, church-goers most often don’t share their problems when asked, and when I take them on their word that everything’s okay they feel disappointed when I leave it at that. They want fellowship, but not know how to ask for it. It’s very odd, as I’m more comfortable toward those who are assertive/aggressive/confident (aka when I lived in the US), because there’s no guess-work. So I’ve learned that it takes a lot more effort pastorally to go beyond the surface level and to speak into someone’s life. That as a leader you need to tell people what they need to hear and not wait for it to (never) come.
4. A collaborative model is more ideal than a directive model
The side effects of consumerism also flow into the life of the church. And Christians don’t like being told what to do (directive), but rather work as a team and find the solutions within a group (collaborative). If they don’t feel like they’re part of a team and contributing, then they won’t follow along.
One example that comes to mind is bible study. When I lead them a while back, I used a lot of power point slides and lecturing. In-between, I’d always stop to take in questions and give times of reflection. A few were interested, but a lot of people just didn’t feel that was worth their time. Looking back, I would cut off much of the lecturing and focused much more on the personal sharing/reflection time.
I’ve heard horror stories of the American “business” model being brought into church, where the church “CEO” brings the strong arm of discipline and guidance to bring order to ‘chaos’. The leadership comes across as stoic, stern, and unwavering. They’re hard to talk to, and barely personable on the pulpit. But now I’ve learned we need more servant attitude rather than business attitude. We need to lead from humility and not from power.
5. Size and stature matters much less than character and conviction
I have to confess that I’ve always felt being small at 5’6 put me at a disadvantage as a leader. Being unmarried also added to that doubt. However over time and with a lot of encouragement, those insecurities have begun to wash away. I’ve learned that people always judge outwardly in the beginning, but through my testimony and character their trust can be earned. And having preached on the topics of relationships, marriage, and parenting with a certain degree of approval within the church leadership shows that a single pastor can do it too!
Remember, a young, small, unmarried man took down the Goliath of his times. As God warned Samuel:
“the LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart”
Have any questions or comments? Please leave them below.