Naive Pastors, Here is How Leadership Really Works

I’ve been stewing on this topic in recent months, especially when it’s surfaced in my conversations with pastors and church leaders. The topic revolves around the dissonance between what’s taught about leadership versus what it actually takes to become a better leader.

I’ve heard many accomplished pastors, those who write the books and talk about leadership, say that leadership is just about character and skills. Another one is known for saying leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. Well, it’s so much more than that.

I am Naïve Too

Firstly, I confess that I was a naïve pastor. I took a leap of faith going to seminary about 30 years ago, thinking that I would be ready to become a good pastor by being faithful in my spiritual life and studying well in seminary. Going in, I knew pastoring would be the hardest job there was, and indeed I did experience it as such. And I believe pastoring has gotten even harder and more challenging than ever.

But that’s not what this blog post, and soon to be a blog series, I think, is about.

The Work of Pastoring

Yes, there is a lot of good things that happen on the surface in the world of pastoring. At its essence, in most churches, pastoring is teaching, counseling, and administrating. Needless to say, seminaries disproportionally teach about teaching the Bible. As important as may be, it is not enough.

Plus, in the larger churches, which categorically is a small percentage of the total count, there’s additional pastoring work that is more about managing staff and volunteers, strategic planning, organizational development, event management, logistics, communications, and many other tasks, projects, and programs.

What Else Is Really Going On

Where I want to go with this, is to write about and talk about those other parts of leadership. (Elsewhere, plenty of resources about practical skills and tips; plenty about inspirationally teaching about the Bible.)

What’s missing? Here’s some items I’m noticing (or shall I say, not seeing), in no particular order, and will work into a blog series:

  • power dynamics– the organizational structure of a church, both formal and informal, affects the way people interact in a said church, and often it does not have a direct correspondence to spiritual maturity
  • pain– one author says that one’s leadership capacity is proportional to your level of pain tolerance, or something like that
  • psychology– theology is more like the tip of the iceberg, where as much of pastoring is more related to the sociology of religion and psychology of people
  • posturing– I don’t like the word politics, and things aren’t supposed to be as bad as Game of Thrones, but once in a while, scandalous things do happen in church because of secret things
  • positivity– too much of church is keeping everything hopeful and positive, but the problem with that is how it does not present an accurate picture of reality
  • pragmatism– even though I’m idealistic about how things should be, so much of church operations concede to practical realities for keeping the lights on, instead of ministering to people who really need help
  • passion– when it comes down to it, I think there’s this intangible ingredient that gives strength to a few good pastors for the long haul. (I think this word connotes more than vision or ambition)

That’s my quick list of things I’m thinking about. You’ll notice the alliteration in this list, yes, all the words start with the letter P, albeit somewhat contrived. And, perhaps, these topics don’t get talked about because they’re not money-makers. In a free-market economy driven by what people value and will pay for, well, these are not the seeds for best-sellers.

Coming up next, each of these bullet points will be expanded and elaborated upon. Thanks for those of you who are interested in following along. Your comments are most welcomed.