What Church Experts Won’t Say About Pastoral Leadership

When the experts blog, podcast, or show up at your door, there are some things they simply won’t tell you about pastoral leadership.

pastoral leadership

There are some things the church experts speaking into pastoral leadership won’t tell you. I serve as a consultant and coach to pastors and churches. I hope my work is helpful. To be clear, I believe in listening to people considered experts in their field. Some even refer to me as an “expert” in pastoral leadership – to which I would tell them I’m still very much in the apprentice stage in many ways. I do have lots of leadership experience – good and bad.

For example, not claiming to be an expert in crisis leadership, but I once helped lead a city through a tornado recovery serving in elected office. You might want to read my posts on things to do and not to do in times of crisis leadership. Prior experience helped me lead in the pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, I posted about voices that church leaders should be listening to – and voices I was listening to also. I mentioned a number of church experts in that post, so I do believe they have value.

But when the experts blog, podcast, or show up at your door, there are some things they simply won’t tell you. And knowing what they aren’t going to tell you may help you better implement their suggestions. 

7 things church experts won’t tell you about pastoral leadership: 

1. It’s hard – and there are no easy fixes.

I tweeted recently – “In my experience, decisions are easier to make when you aren’t the one who is actually having to make them.” It was while we were making some of the hardest decisions we had to make in a pandemic. People were so divided in our church and community.

There were lots of “expert” opinions about how to capitalize on the moment and win the digital world for Christ. And I’m an advocate for all of that. I believe in it and think we should. But it wasn’t that easy for most of our churches (certainly not the 180 plus year old one I was trying to lead at the time). 

I heard from so many pastors feeling the same way as me I decided to pin the tweet to the top of my Twitter account for a while. 

2. Formulas won’t always work.

What makes sense and seems to work for others may not work for you. It is a matter of context. The small, rural church may not be able to pivot towards a fully digital expression, for example. Even though I have said with a computer and strong internet connection I think you could change the world, that simply might not work for the people who attend Full Freedom Baptist in Knuckledown, USA.

One reason I never come into a church with an already built playbook is that I want to learn the landscape of the church first. There are “formulas” or models regarding pastoral leadership that work well and should be considered. I may even recommend some of them once I learn the context of the church. But the best of them won’t work every time and everywhere. 

3. You’re not all that wrong.

Sometimes when you read a blog post (maybe even one of mine) you start feeling you’re doing everything wrong. Likely you are not. Sometimes a little tweak can make a huge difference. Often the answers are in the room and it is the job of leadership to draw it out of your people. 

4. They learn from you.

This is huge. You have to know their expertise is coming from somewhere. I think we mistakenly believe these experts are simply geniuses that have all the right ideas. Most likely they became experts by observing 100 ministry leaders like you. They are watching what some are doing to figure out what others might or could do.

When I consult with churches, I always come back with great ideas. They pay me to pick up tricks from them. (Isn’t that cool?) Collaborative learning is so important in the church and in the Kingdom. And it is happening.

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Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive, and assisting pastors and those in ministry think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping church grow vocationally for over 10 years.