Pastoral leadership is an area occupied by one Master and many students. We will never arrive, we will always be on a journey of discovery and progress. And since God isn’t done with you – you’re still breathing, He wants to use you and grow you as His child and as a leader in His local church.
That is a deep conviction of mine. I know that I should never be in a state of comfort because there is always room for growth. And growth is often tough. But it’s worth it. So as you are on this journey of discovery and progress, let’s look at some pastoral leadership traits that we can always be working on.
5 Pastoral Leadership Traits to Always Be Working On
Part of pastoral leadership is helping people make progress on what God has called them to do. To break this down, coaching means we:
- Help leaders set goals
- Help leaders grow their leadership
- Ask a ton of questions [why we should ask more questions]
- Listen well – more on that in a moment
- Help leaders make a plan [vision must always move to strategy]
- Encourage leaders in what they’re doing well
Who should we be spending time coaching? It depends on our context. It could be staff, ministry leaders, or team leaders.
Coaching is the time we set aside in order to help another person grow in their pastoral leadership.
One of the biggest mistakes we can make in coaching is to always bring the solution instead of asking questions that help them discover the solution themselves.
A good coach knows when to give instruction and when to ask questions.
For more, read: The Pastor as Coach
If there’s one thing pastors typically do well, it’s talking often. Unfortunately, the quantity of our talking doesn’t equate the quality of our leading. Just because we spent a lot of time talking, doesn’t mean we spent a lot of time leading. If we want to grow our pastoral leadership, we must learn to listen well, more.
We are going to be in a lot of difficult conversations as pastors. We are going to help people work through difficulties, hardship, sin, and bad theology. But in order to best help someone work through what it is they are going through, we must understand where they are coming from. We must genuinely take an interest in them.
If we listen better, we’ll lead better. When we listen, we communicate on a level that speaking cannot reach. And that’s a good thing because there will be a time for us to speak and when that time does come, our words will have more weight and more accuracy toward the heart.
For more, read: 3 Ways to Listen Better as a Leader
We live in a culture that has far different values than we do. Sins that are clearly condemned in Scripture are accepted, not only as ethically okay but as ethically celebrated. So, if your church desires to reach its community, your future will hold many difficult conversations with people who are wrestling with what Scripture says and what the world says about the things they are engaged with (or people close to them are engaged with).
To grow in pastoral leadership, we must grow in our comfort in standing on God’s word. We must not make excuses for God’s word. Speak the truth with grace. We must simply let God and His words penetrate the soul of the person sitting across from us.
If we stand on anything other than the word of God, we are setting ourselves up for disaster.
For more, read: 5 Things We Do Today Instead of Preaching the Word
It doesn’t matter how well we can preach, write, counsel, strategize, or cast a vision if we do not love. Love is the foundation of pastoral leadership. If love is not present in our leadership, we should stop leading and work on loving. Because true leading is self-sacrificing love.
Jesus shows us this clearly.
To love means we:
- Genuinely care
- Gently rebuke
- Humbly instruct
- Passionately preach
- Pleadingly pray
Love is the underlying foundation, the overarching theme, the embedded thread of pastoral leadership.
To love well, we must slow down. We must spend time with the sheep and call them to the Good Shepherd.
For more, read: 12 Practices of Highly Successful Pastors Who Love People
Pastoral leadership includes both coaching (as we’ve seen) and training. But what’s the difference? Training is teaching, coaching is tweaking.
Training is equipping a group of people on how to lead a small group as well as providing ongoing learning experiences once they are leading.
Training is showing a new leader how to modify their focus to leading their team rather than doing the job of their team.
Training is what we’re called to do in Ephesians 4. In training, we help people discover what God has wired them to do and we help them learn how to go and do it.
If we are not training our congregation, we are failing at pastoral leadership. It’s the very thing we’re meant to do.
For more, read: 9 Reasons Pastors Fail to Equip the Saints for Ministry and follow it up with this: How to Build a Leadership Pipeline in Your Church (Plus Free Pipeline Packet)
Pray for Wisdom
In all this, ask God to give you wisdom and guidance. Ask Him to reveal to you where you are lacking and plead with Him to change you from within. Depend on Him, always.
What Traits Are You Always Working On?
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