In my talks with pastors and ministry leaders, I hear some repeated themes. One common theme is that they have a story of a failed leadership experience. Their first church. The church experience that went bad. Or, many times, their current ministry, and that’s the reason for our conversation.
They grew (or are growing) from the time, but looking back, they wish they had known then what they know now. You probably have some of those same learning experiences too. It may have been an incident or the entire time in that ministry, but there were critical errors that kept you and the church from accomplishing all God had for you. Errors in leading. Why don’t we learn from each other?
I’ve reflected back on some of those conversations, so here are seven things I’m hearing that kept a pastor from leading well:
1. “I failed to delegate.”
Many pastors try to be a solo leader. They know the expectation placed upon them, they know what they want to achieve, and they begin to think if it is going to be done right, they must do it. They begin to try to control every outcome. Sadly, it can even limit the leader’s willingness to walk by faith. It doesn’t take long until a pastor burns out, potential leaders disappear and people are never developed and discipled. It’s a recipe for eventual disaster in leadership.
2. “We couldn’t see beyond today.”
Many pastors get a tunnel vision in leading people. They only see what they see. They don’t consider the unseen—the yet to be imagined—the hidden gems of opportunity. Again, often this is a matter of faith, or laziness, sometimes a personality wiring, or maybe just falling into a rut of routine. In the sameness of today, things become stale and eventually people become bored—and someday they disappear.
3. “I ignored the real problems.”
The real problems aren’t always the spoken problems. They aren’t the obvious problems. The real problems are the underlying reasons behind a problem. They usually deal with heart problems. What people are really thinking, but aren’t saying. The real problems always involve people, and often involve perceptions, which may or may not be reality.
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