What Every Staffer Needs From His/Her Lead Pastor

Earlier today I read a great post on Ron Edmonson's Blog entitled: What Every Senior Pastor Needs From His Staff (of course I'd add his or her staff...) The post was written by guest blogger, Eric Speir. Eric gave some great advice to staff pastors and other staff members on supporting the Senior or Lead Pastor at his or her church. Here are his suggestions:

  • Is committed to the same vision he is.
  • Will overlook his bad days.
  • Will pick up the trash when he needs you to.
  • When you say you’re praying for him, then actually do it.
  • Has his back, instead of talking behind it.
  • Can help solve problems and be team players.
  • Can think BIG!
  • Can laugh and cry with him. 

These are great reminders. I have served in a few staff pastor positions in my decade plus in ministry but I have never served as a Lead Pastor. I imagine it is a tough job. I imagine it gets lonely and one filled with pressure. Although I have not served as a lead pastor, I have served as a staff pastor. So after reading this post I thought, "What does every staff pastor or member need from the Lead Pastor?" Here are the top five things I think we need:
Every Staffer Needs a Lead Pastor Who...
  •  Will give him or her room to fail.  I remember when I first started in ministry I worked in youth ministry. Frank Bishoff was not the lead pastor but he was the student pastor. He gave me permission to make mistakes and did not take off my head when I made them. He demonstrated grace and direction. Lead pastors must give their staff enough room to fail and not feel like failure will mean that are kicked from the team. If your staff feel like they have to always be atop their game or you are going to come down on him or her then you're doing it wrong.

  • Will be committed to his/her soul as much as his/her gifts. I will never forget the words that John Held, my Pastor when I was at Living Way Christian Fellowship in Greensboro (Living Way Church today), told me upon taking my first full-time ministry job out of bible college. He said, "Ray, you are a gifted man. People will see that and be drawn to it. Be sure that people care more about your soul than they do your gifting." At the time I did not understand, fully, what was meant by that. I do now. Pastors need gifted and talented people. There is nothing bad or wrong about that. However, Lead Pastors should never neglect the care for the souls of the staff member. After all, you are not just his or her boss; you are also his or her Pastor. If you are not shepherding and mentoring him/her then who is. Never forget that you are the Chief Shepherd at your local church. If you are not praying for your team; you are doing it wrong. If you are not getting up with your staff to talk soul and not shop; you're doing it wrong.
  • Will praise him/her publicly and correct privately. There are few things that I can think are more basic in leadership and managing as this. People in general do not like to be rebuked or corrected before other people. Doing such can create a climate that breeds resentment and distrust. The staffer needs to know that his or her Pastor will acknowledge the things that he or she does well and--at times--tell others about it. Again, Frank Bishoff has been the best example of this that I remember. Anyone who has ever served on his team can attest to this. He sings your praises in an effort to encourage and not to flatter. When there is the need for real truth that happened...behind closed doors. If you are just correcting publicly and never praising, trust me--as a staff member--you are doing it wrong and creating resentment. Praise publicly; rebuke privately.

  • Will hear him/her. I am not talking here about simply listening politely--or not so politely. But really hearing what s/he is saying. Now, hearing does not mean acquiescing to the suggestions of the person. Hearing mean you are going to remove the defenses. Actively listen and hear. I know you are actively listening when you remove the distractions. I know you are actively listening when you are not trying to formulate a response while I am speaking. You hear a person, when you can understand the motive and the "heart" behind what is being said. When I feel like I have been heard, it really matters little to me if--after suggesting something--my suggestions are implemented or followed. If a person has to continually repeat him or herself while talking with you then you are doing it wrong. Lead pastors should actively listen to the team member.

  • Will lead with grace and humility. Nobody wants to follow a person who is so sure that s/he is God's gift to humanity or at the very least the community where s/he leads. Don't read what I am not typing. (See what I did there?) You probably are a gifted leader with great ideas and great vision. However, those gifts and visions are from the Gift and Vision Giver; we should't boast in these. When you are convinced that you have all of the answers and you are the key to the success of that vision you very well might be doing it wrong. Just as Moses needed the team with which God surrounded him, you need the team with which God has surrounded you. If you have hired competent and gifted leaders then get out of those leaders way and allow them to lead. Certainly they should lead within and respect for the vision and parameters you have set  but once you set those, let your team do what they are called and gifted to do: lead. Staff members get frustrated when they are micro-managed. If every decision, from the color of the carpet to the theme of the checks must first be approved by you then you are doing it wrong. Lead pastors should serve with humility and grace by honoring, respecting and serving his or her team.

Let me say a few words of caution here, in closing. I believe that every Lead Pastor MUST be given the honor and deference due his or her office. Staff members must not be guilty--as I have been--of undermining or tearing down his or her Pastor. These suggestions really are offered in humility with the hopes that they will engender open dialoge and service to the bodies to which we were each called. A staff that is free from resentment, strife and ill-will will be an unstoppable force in sharing the hope, peace and love that is found in Christ and him alone. 

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