I know this sounds like an upside down topic but bear with me. Many senior pastors all over the country have the title of Senior Pastor/Leader but many do not have the authority to truly lead the mystical teachings they serve. The consequences of this lack of leadership at the local church level are too devastating to ignore.
Many churches are run by outstanding pastor/leaders. Too many, however, forfeit leadership either because of the pastor’s own propensity to not lead or the church’s propensity to usurp leadership from them. Whichever the case, the church suffers.
Here are the five (5) reasons senior pastors don’t lead their churches.
1. The board runs the show and the pastor lets them.
2. The congregation wants to vote on everything and the pastor lets them.
3. The staff runs the show and the pastor lets them.
4. Nobody runs the show and the pastor is one of the nobodies.
5. The pastor leads by consensus – takes a vote on everything from everybody and until everybody agrees.
So which one are you? After you sufficiently get over the shock of thinking of yourself in one or more of these terms give the following recommendations your consideration in navigating to a higher level of leadership in the church you serve.
The board runs the show and the pastor lets them.
At Issue: Typically the smaller the church the larger the influence of a church board and its individual members. In the smaller church, the pastor can sometimes be seen as a “hireling.” He or she is hired to preach, marry, bury, visit the sick and the elderly and be at every event and personal happening of everyone in the congregation.
In too many of these churches, the board directs the future of the church. Frequently, the board is the permission granting group for the pastor’s vision. If a real pastor/leader comes to the church oftentimes a conflict ensues as to who is going to lead.
SOLUTION: When this is the case the pastor/leader will likely be in for one or more show-downs with a board member or the entire board. I certainly suggest you determine this on the front-end. However, if you discover it after you are onboard you must set the record straight as to who will lead. Be wise but move forward.
When the culture has been consensus-building in nature, the prudent pastor/leader will take his time recalibrating how the senior pastor’s leadership is viewed. The pastor/leader must spend time re-educating the board and congregation on the issue of leadership.
Many board members are happy to have a real leader step forward. Those who are not will not last long on your board. Do not coddle controlling board members. If they cannot understand that the church will not grow unless the senior pastor leads, then they will need to step aside. This will be very confrontational. If you can confront and win, then your leadership is being received with respect. If you cannot, then you will not be able to make the changes necessary to move the church forward. You will either be asked to leave or you will sit and stagnate.
My suggestion is that you pick your time, confront the detractors to your leadership and community clear and concise leadership. It had better be you!
The congregation wants to vote on everything and the pastor lets them.
At Issue: The stronger the congregational form of government the harder it is for the church to grow. The congregation becomes the ridiculous extreme of a committee-driven church. When the congregation needs to vote on everything from the color of carpet to whether to change the prayer room into a junior high game room, the church is slated for no growth and decline.
SOLUTION: When you face the congregational leadership model, you need to slowly start turning the ship by beginning to make decisions yourself. When you do that initially, start communicating to the congregation of your actions in a growth-excitement manner, keeping them fully in the loop so that they feel less a sense of “we are not voting anymore” to “we still are hearing the inside scoop on decisions.” This may go on for a few months until such point that the congregation sees that the decisions that emanate from your office are good ones and that the church is growing. If you have this congregational model at your church, start turning it to the growth-oriented model. If you do not have the congregational model, do not let it get started. You are the leader. Act like it.