How to Develop a Personal Growth Plan as a Pastor

How to Develop a Personal Growth Plan as a Pastor

The amount of different areas pastors must be versed in and knowledgeable of can sometimes be overwhelming.

On any given day, we can be facing challenges, solving problems, planning ahead, or addressing any of the following things:

  • Staffing (leading, coaching, hiring, alignment, meetings, evaluation)
  • Sermon prep (yearly planning, series planning, creative media around a series, individual sermon preparation, researching for a future series, compiling illustrations)
  • Pastoral care (various counseling, pre-marital, funerals, hospital visits)
  • Weekly service (how to improve, what needs to change, evaluating assimilation, evaluating first impressions, addressing grumbles from the flock)
  • Meetings (elder/board, ministry leaders, prospective church members, current church members, other pastors, committees, event planning)
  • Budgeting (annual planning, financial health checks)
  • Leadership development (one-on-one mentoring, small group leading, curriculum development, on boarding for new staff, on boarding for new servants)
  • Systems (assimilation – first-time guest all the way to leader, discipleship, generosity, org chart, annual planning, new believer, etc)

As you can see (and as you already know), there are a lot of things involved in being a pastor on a week-to-week basis. And I don’t need to tell you how much it’s important for us to be growing as leaders and as preachers because you know how vital it is to be pouring in as you are pouring into others.

But while we both know that we need to be developing in a wide range of areas, it can sometimes be difficult to know how to be as intentional as possible in order to grow as much as possible.

Here’s what great leaders know:

If you want to grow, you need a plan and the fortitude to see that plan through.

So let’s develop a personal growth plan. Together.

How to Develop a Personal Growth Plan as a Pastor

1. Make time. “Finding time” is a myth.

Before we get into specifics, this must be said: the idea that we can “find time” to implement this plan in our daily and weekly rhythms is nothing more than a myth.

If we try to find time for these things, they won’t happen.

We must make time.

We can just decide right now that every day from 8-9am or 3:30pm-4:30pm will be our daily development hour. I don’t know what it would be for you, but that’s what it looks like to make time.

Add it to your calendar. Block it out. You’re now busy during that hour–whatever hour that ends up being.

2. Prioritize your time in Scripture and prayer.

Our ability to be effective pastors is predicated on our devotion to Christ.

So we must, I repeat, we must be in the Word and in prayer. Our ability to minister, without those two things flowing in, will lack power.

So engage in Scripture consistently and engage in prayer consistently.

Let’s plead with God to lead the way and to have His way with us every day.

develop a growth plan - prioritize scripture

3. Take out a piece of paper and write this down…

Write “Personal Growth Plan” at the top.

And then space out a few headings:

  1. Books to read
  2. Podcasts to listen to
  3. Blogs to read
  4. People to have lunch with
  5. Conferences/Courses

4. Fill up the white space.

personal growth plan - fill the white space

Books to Read

We’ve compiled a few book posts in the past that are still relevant and helpful:

In this past year, though, I’ve read some books that I would highly recommend you consider grabbing and adding to your personal development plan.

And by the way, when it comes to books to read, you may want more space so use the back of the sheet of paper you’re writing on.

One other thing about book reading: if you haven’t downloaded the Libby app on your phone and connected your library card to it, you’re missing out. I’ve begun listening to audio books through this app. It’s FREE!

It doesn’t have all the Christian books you may be looking for, but it has a great selection, nonetheless.

And, yeah, it’s FREE!

Podcasts to Listen to

At one time, I had more podcast subscriptions than I could ever dream of keeping up with. Since getting an iPhone and essentially restarting my podcast subscriptions, I’ve landed on a few that I return to consistently.

By the way, the few I’ll list here are more centered around ministry and leadership. I compiled a list of preachers to consider listening to who you may not have heard of so be sure to check that out and listen to good preaching.

  • Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast – no one out there is putting together the kind of high-quality, long-form interview content like Carey and his team. If you want a deep dive in leadership, this is the podcast to go to. I’ve been listening since episode one and it’s been great tool as a leader.

Blogs to Read

I follow A LOT of blogs. Here’s a hack I use: I keep up with the blogs I follow through an RSS reader called Inoreader. I am able to go to the feed, see all the different headlines of the articles written on a given day and then either read the article on Inoreader or click over to their site (I tend to always click their site and read there).

So if you follow a lot of blogs, I highly recommend an RSS reader rather than just a list of bookmarks on your browser.

If you’re looking for a great list of blogs to follow, then be sure to check out Brian Dodd’s annual list: The Top 35 Blogs Christian Leaders Need To Continually Read In 2019. And whatever you do, don’t miss Brian’s blog. He is one of the most prolific Christian bloggers I know. He’s a great leader and an even better guy.

A few others I’d like to highlight for you are:

  • – Lane provides excellent material for preachers of all ages and stages. If you want to take your preaching to the next level, be sure to subscribe to PD.
  • – Brady and his company have been providing SO many helpful and, really, game-changing church communications solutions. The way we communicate has dramatically shifted and he’s helping churches navigate how to lead people to Jesus during the 167 hours outside of our Sunday service. Subscribe to them.
  • – Tim Challies is the most prolific Christian blogger I know of. His content is always thoughtful, theological, and well-written. I highly recommend you add him to your reading list if you don’t have him on it already.

People to Have Lunch With

I have done this for years now and truly believe that it can be one of, if not the most helpful thing you can do to grow.

I asked our Preaching & Leadership Facebook Group the question of what was most helpful for their growth in 2018 and Zack Mason mentioned this very thing.

Do you see that recipe? Yes and amen!

Find someone in your community, someone further along than you, and ask them if you could buy them lunch once a month.


You probably have a few conferences that you’d mark as your favorites. Conferences can be a great source of inspiration and, if approached well, a great pivot point for change and momentum.

If you’re going to attend a conference this year, please read this first: Pastor, The Next Time You Attend a Conference, Do This!

If you’re looking for a new conference to attend, click here for a list of Church Tech Today’s top 10 conferences (they also provide 7 bonus conferences at the end).

And while conferences can be a great dose and infusion of energy and strategy in your leadership, the growth of online courses that are providing real help for pastors and church leaders is on the rise.

Here are a few to consider checking out:

  • Church Fuel One – this is a monthly membership and it provides master classes, team training, and a great resource section that features all kinds of useful documents for leading your church.
  • The High Impact Leader – I’m not sure of any other online course that more people rave about than Carey Nieuwhof’s High Impact Leader. Whole teams are going through it and they’re seeing their margin increase as well as their impact.
  • Sticky Sermons Academy – I believe our online preaching course is the most practical solution to improving your preaching. And by the way, *begins whispering* we’re going to be permanently opening the doors to the course on January 8th.

5. Purge your prior inputs and start small and focused.

Most of us probably don’t need a TON more content in our lives. We don’t usually need more ideas, we need more execution on those ideas.

So consider purging a lot or all of your prior inputs and begin fresh, lean, and focused.

Pick a few podcasts, a few blogs, a course and/or a conference, one person to learn from over lunch, and, well, pick a ton of books. I can’t, in my heart, tell you to only read a few books. If that ever happened, notify the authorities because I would likely have been held for ransom as I typed those dreadful words.

Put it All Together and Begin Growing

If you’d like an easy, simple solution for putting this growth plan together, you can use this Google Sheet spreadsheet. Just copy it to your Google Drive account and begin filling it in.

What is going on your personal growth plan?

Join the conversation. You can do so on social media: Join our Facebook Group, tweet us, or post on our Facebook Page.

Grow as a Preacher and Leader [Free Resources]

Want to grow as a preacher and leader? We’ll help you do it. Just subscribe to the blog. And to get you started and as a way of saying thank you, we’ll include 6 free resources: Building a Leadership Pipeline Packet, Pre-Formatted Sermon Notes Template, Sermon Evaluation Worksheet, 56 Weeks of Preaching TopicsSermon Series Planning Evernote Template, and the Weekly Productivity Evernote Template. All this for free when you subscribe.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you purchase a product through a link, this does not add any cost to you.

Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Lead Pastor of First Church of Christ in Bluffton, IN. He also writes at You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.


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