Church Growth

Moving from Pastor to Leader – Key to Growing a Church

Group of smiling friends standing against white backgroundResearch indicates only about 5 to 10 percent of pastors give more attention to organisational needs than to personal and professional needs as seen in the following characteristics. Remember, what they do is not wrong it is the focus of their behaviour, not their hearts.

  1. Emphasis on the big picture. The leader may seem not to need people or to be indifferent to their problems. In reality, leaders are so concerned about people’s needs that they are unwilling to abandon themselves to the concerns of the ninety-nine while they search for the one. Leading, they believe, represents the best way to achieve God’s purposes for the entire flock. Leaders make sure the flock receives pastoral care in a measurable way, primarily through systems of non-staff dependent, mutual self-care. The typical forum for this kind of one another nurture is a small group of ten to twelve people.
  1. Take-charge competence. Leaders set expectations like a band director sets the tempo for the song. This trait particularly shows up in areas of change and confrontation. For example, suppose a person in the church is involved in a significant moral sin. A pastor says, What am I supposed to do? My elders are so tolerant of sin that they wouldn’t assist or back me if I tried to initiate disciplinary measures. The leader takes a different tack. Before I attempt to discipline any individual, I’d better get the eldership in shape. If there’s anything in their lives that is wrong, I’d better have that fixed up so that together we can deal credibly with problems. So the leader sets the terms for being on the eldership. We’re going to pray together, study the Bible together, work together, and obey God together. If this isn’t to your liking, then maybe the eldership role is not the best place of service for you. Such changes do not happen overnight, but the improvements will never happen unless someone begins to take charge.
  1. One-another ministry expectation. Leaders set the expectations that the members of the church will give and receive care from one another. A leader will hold this standard in such a way that everyone understands this is how they do it. Churches are partly intentional societies and mostly folk cultures governed by a fabric of unwritten rules and expectations. One steering mechanism in folk cultures is the hero making that occurs in the process of telling stories. The leader publicly cheers those role models who show the way ministry “ought” to be done. The leader sets up a system of mutual care so that the little emergency calls and crises, that occur weekly, do not prevent him from attending to the greater works that God wants done.
  1. Group focus. Leaders perceive the church in terms of groups and ministry teams. Leaders, grasping this concept, view their work not as relationships with individuals but as relationships with leaders of groups and teams. When leaders find administratively gifted persons, they use these people as program organisers rather than simply as advisors to themselves. If they ask, What would you recommend that I do about this situation? they do not imply, What should I do about it? but, What do you recommend needs to be done about it?
    They know how to change the focus of the work from themselves to the vision, mission and goals of the organisation. The leader responds to appropriate ideas with, That sounds like a great idea: we’ll implement that. Are you willing to take a part in it? If so, take your idea and work it out. If not, we’ll hand your idea to someone who is willing.
  1. Flexible supervision. Leaders delegate work and then supervise. To be effective they must learn enough flexibility in delegation style to meet the needs of persons who receive the assignments. For example, entrepreneurial personalities need only the go-ahead to do the ministry. They are independent initiative takers. All the leader has to say is, Here’s how what you’re doing supports our vision, here’s your access to resources, and here’s how we’ll know when the job is properly done. Please avoid such-and-such, and check back with me to report progress at such-and –such a point.
    Other types of people cannot simply take something and run with it. They have to sit and nurse through a problem and visualise it in the presence of a group of concerned people until they have drawn out all the issues – quality assurances, misgivings, subtleties, and preferences. These kinds of people often love to sit and plan. They would prefer four hours of planning to one hour of execution. Then they need to come back and celebrate that accomplishment before taking on something new. If you try to treat both types of people similarly, you will achieve greater success mixing oil and water.
  1. Outcome objectives. Leaders focus on what something will look like when it is complete, not how to get there. They are open to ethical, legitimate ways of getting something done that they themselves have not thought of yet. For the leader, something being “my idea” is not a precondition for the acceptability of the method.
    Leaders appreciate those who have appropriate gifts for the position. Whereas the pastor gets comfort from those with the gifts of helps and hospitality, the leader appreciates the fact that the giftedness of people will be broad enough to do the variety of things that God wishes to have done.
  1. Large-picture focus. Leaders screen requests for their services by asking the following questions: Is this the kind of thing our church ought to be doing? Who is the best person to do it? If I’m the one to do it, should it be done at all? Everyone in ministry, whatever the style, struggles with passing up an opportunity for fear of missing something that may take the church into the future. But there comes a point in the leader’s life when they realize, energy must be conserved for what is strategically most important: keeping the entire church running smoothly. If I become distracted by this opportunity, knowing that not all opportunities are necessarily godsends, am I going to be able to do all the other things that need to get done?
  1. Role creation. Leaders also create roles and they will fill those roles, assigning the jobs or delegating them to other people. They know how job maturity affects the type of support needed. In other words, if someone is doing something for the first time and is insecure in the process, that person will need a different kind of attention than one who has done it several times. Furthermore, leaders will recognise the differences in the types of support needed. Does the person need feedback such as, You are so gifted. This is going to make people feel encouraged. Or is the worker more instructional and task oriented, requiring comments such as, Here are the techniques you can use.
    Furthermore, as people start jobs they need instructions. Later on, they need a little patting. After a while, they can get along without instructions if they receive occasional notice. Ultimately, they will do their ministry whether the leader has a role in it or not, because the intrinsic value of the activity is payoff enough for them. Their main concern about the leader at that point is that he doesn’t get in their way.
  1. Non-dependency. The driving motivation of a leader is how to enable people to function well without them. One of the solutions is to affirm people’s talents: Bless You. You do a great job with that. When someone challenges the leader’s apparent loss of control, the leader does not feel defensive or threatened. No, this person’s willingness to minister means that lives are being touched, even if I am at home getting some much-needed rest. Leaders’ freedoms originate in a mental permission note they carry around:

Dear Friend.

You do not have to carry the burden of the whole world today. That’s my job.



    Leaders refuse to live on the schedule of a nursing mother, who can allow her baby to be away so many minutes between feedings and changes. Leaders want their spiritual offspring to grow up, or at least be nursed by someone else, so they can think, pray, and plan the next hill that the church, as a whole, needs to climb.
  1.   Managerial skills. Most pastors have learned managerial talk: few have developed the competence of managerial behaviour. Pulpit ministers, in general, are articulate. They are experts at sounding good. They excel at appearing to be fully adequate. The reality? When ministers speak of their dreams, I pause at the parts that sounds slickest and without hitches. I begin to probe those areas. It inevitably turns out that the more ideal-sounding the plan, the less the person knows about how to pull it off. Leaders reserve solitude time for planning and prayer. They make planning a formal, written activity, even if they minister in a context where everything has to be announced orally. They develop skills to sense needs, define problems, and solve problems.

Carl George

How to Break Growth Barrier – “Permission to quote/adapt copyrighted materials has been obtain in 2011 from

Read The Size of a Church is Influence by Pastoral Behaviour to give further context to this Blog

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Colin Noyes

Colin Noyes is a Brisbane (Australia) based coach and consultant with extensive experience in the areas of organisational health and growth, change management, leadership development, recruiting/staff development and coaching. Read more

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