Effective Pastoral Leadership – Doing The Work

Recently in a coaching group, we reached one of those enjoyable times, when the leadership goals of
several pastors were accomplished near the same time. This is not the norm for coaching groups, yet sometimes many benchmarks or milestones are reached simultaneously. As these pastors described their progress, there was much celebrating with verbal high fives.

Observing this good leadership progress, it’s clear that effective pastoral leadership includes what all effective leadership includes….doing the work. How so? Looking back at the achievements of these aforementioned pastors, it’s obvious they were willing to work toward implement their leadership initiatives. The following 6 key actions cultivated the readiness and openness of their congregations for moving ahead. These pastors….

Proved themselves competent in the major functions of pastoring

Leading worship, caring for the sick, administering the church, connecting with the community…these are basic pastoral functions. When the congregation knows their pastor can function well as a pastor, then they grow more open to that pastor’s leadership. When a pastor is incompetent in the major functions of pastoring, the congregation discounts nearly every pastoral leadership move.

Personally invested in disciple development and congregational cultivation
For many pastors, this looks like one-on-one conversations. These pastors see their pastoral care roles as including the development of healthy disciples. They initiate contact with their people when their people don’t even have an expressed need. These pastors are regularly and consistently cultivating the faith of disciples, along with encouraging their engagement with their church. They see “well visits” as vitally important when it comes to individual and congregational cultivation toward mission-congruent progress.

Continued leading in drought conditions

Several of the pastors in this coaching group have worked with hand to the plow, even though they were seeing very little or no progress. They persevered, continuing to show up and serve. They did not abandon their leadership efforts because the congregation seemed spiritually dry or unresponsive. Their perseverance, combined with ongoing focused effort, eventually led to the harvest.

Removed obstacles to growth as they surfaced
As these pastors moved ahead, they encountered rocks, roots, and other obstacles which interfered with the growth opportunities. Over time, one by one, they addressed these obstacles with as little reactionary emotion as possible. Through differentiated engagement, they were able to shift the systemic dynamics holding the congregation back.

Seized the leadership opportunity when the timing was right
Because these pastors were strategic, working toward specific goals, they were ready when the openness for growth presented itself. Progress can happen quickly when we’ve done the cultivation work to ready the growing environment. These pastors anticipated the openness to growth since they were working toward that end all along.

Celebrated the congregational advancement in multiple ways
Sometimes the progress was small, while other times large. Either way, these pastors are aware that what we reinforce tends to grow. They intentionally celebrated the harvest in multiple ways, drawing attention to mission-congruent movement. Affirming progress and adaptive moves is the fastest way to cultivate movement in congregations.

Pastoral leadership then is what we are doing with our time when not doing the basic pastoral functions. Sure, we are leading then too, yet moving initiatives ahead is the combined result of these six factors. I’m grateful to be in partnership with pastors who are daily investing in the collective progress of their congregations; doing the work. May we recognize our roles as Faith Change Agents, leading our congregations toward passionately living into our callings.

Mark Tidsworth
Pinnacle Leadership Associates