I came close to titling these “essential” skills, but I knew that was unfair. God can and does work through all different types of people. But He has appointed some to be leaders, some teachers, etc. And I know this from my experience working with and hearing from dozens of pastors each month. There are some great pastors who admit they aren’t skilled at leading the church.
I hear it at least weekly—“I know how to teach and care for the people, but I’m simply not always sure how to lead.” And yet they recognize the value in and the need for leadership. They aren’t afraid of church leadership, as I’ve written about previously.
I believe there are some helpful skills for those who want to lead a church to not only care for and disciple the people in the church now, but actually grow and be healthy at the same time—where there is momentum and unity and excitement around the vision of the Great Commission.
Here are seven helpful skills I’ve observed:
1. Networking—For definition purposes, this is “the cultivation of productive relationships.” It is the ability to bring the right people to the table to accomplish the mission, and it is invaluable for any position of leadership. This is true inside and outside the church. One place where good relationships are proving helpful in the community, for example, is within school systems. With the right people, churches can make significant missional differences in their community with school relationships. Those relationships are formed through networking. And the possibilities here are endless.
2. Connecting—If the church is large or small, the best leaders bring people together. When a new person comes into the church, it’s important that they be able to connect quickly to others. First, the pastor needs to meet them, but that isn’t enough to really make people feel connected to a church. Good leaders connect them to people within the church, or help create systems of connection. They value connectivity—creating healthy, life-changing relationships in the church—and see that it is a natural, but intentional, part of the church’s overall mission.
3. Visioneering—Good leaders are able to cast a picture beyond today worthy of taking a risk to seek. They may not always have all the ideas of what’s next—they should have some—but they can rally people behind the vision.
4. Pioneering—To lead a church by faith, a leader has to be willing to lead into an unknown, and take the first step in that direction. People won’t follow until they know the leader is willing to go first. Momentum and change almost always start with new—doing things differently—creating new groups, new opportunities—trying things you’ve not tried before. Pioneering leaders watch to see where God may be stirring hearts and are willing to boldly lead into the unknown.
5. Delegating—No one person can or should attempt to do it all. It’s not healthy, nor is it biblical. This may, however, be the number one reason I see for pastoral burnout, frustration and lack of church growth. Good leaders learn to raise up armies of people who believe in the mission and are willing to take ownership and provide leadership to complete a specific aspect of attaining that vision.
6. Confronting—If you lead anything, you will face opposition. Period. Leadership involves change, and change in church involves change in people. And most people have some opposition to change. After a pastor is certain of God’s leadership, has sought input from others, cast a vision and organized people around a plan, there will be opposition. Perhaps even organized opposition. Good leaders learn to confront in love.
7. Following—Ultimately, it’s all about Christ. I can’t lead people closer to Him—certainly not be more like Him—unless I’m personally growing closer to Christ. But following also involves allowing others to speak into my life. It means I have mentors, people who hold me accountable and healthy family relationships. Good leaders have systems in place that personally keep them on track. Self-leadership—and following others who are healthy—keeps a leader in it for the duration.
That’s my list. Or, at least seven on my list.