A pastor called me recently and confessed his frustration with his senior pastor due to the lack of leadership. Stewart (not his real name) loves and respects his pastor as a friend and Godly shepherd, but the lack of leadership and therefore leadership development has resulted in an increasing frustration. Stewart shared that while he appreciates his leader on a personal level, but believes he’s under a leadership lid and the church will not realize its potential. He simply asked, “What should I do?”

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This is a tricky phone call, and unfortunately a common one. In some ways it might seem like the appropriate thing to do is not to engage in this conversation, but how is that helpful? So I took a risk and offered some coaching.

The foundation for my approach to this issue lies in Colossians 3:23-24:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Here are the practical thoughts in summary form.

  1. As long as you’re under his authority, it’s important to remain completely loyal to and supportive of your pastor and his leadership. It is your responsibility to continue to give 100% effort and commitment to the ministry of your church, with a joyful spirit and productive outcomes.
  1. If it ever gets to the point where you are so frustrated that you just can’t do your job, you need to leave, not attempt to “fix” or change the pastor. God put him in charge not you. It’s not your job to get your pastor to do what you think is best.
  1. Take the initiative to engage in authentic and productive conversation. Make sure you take time to nurture the relationship, not just drive an agenda. You can’t understand his mind if you don’t know his heart.
  1. It is your responsibility to offer help. Speak up with positive ideas and solutions. Tell him you want to serve him well and help the church win. Don’t pout or sulk if he says no. Try again another day. Some leaders need time to process before they buy-in.
  1. It’s healthy to have one or two trusted friends or advisers that you can talk to, who are outside the church. But other than that, never make this a topic of general conversation with others and certainly not one of gossip. The goal of these outside conversations is not to validate your thinking, but to help you serve with maturity.
  1. Ask permission to tackle new ministry endeavors that will help the church move forward. Suggest that these new initiatives might be an experiment only. If they work and he likes them, then they continue. If not, you shut them down without a complaint.
  1. Offer to assist in or launch some leadership development. Include him. Keep it simple. Gather a small group of leaders or potential leaders. Pick a good leadership book and meet once a month. Ask two questions: 1. What are you learning? 2. How are you applying what you are learning? That’s it!
  1. You will want all this some day if you become a senior pastor.

I closed by encouraging Stewart. He’s doing a good job and wants to serve well. I hope this helps if you ever find yourself in a similar situation. If you have a helpful comment or question to add, please do!