Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills (Part 3)
Great leadership requires great delegation. If you’re a senior pastor, you want to do great things and have a great impact. You want to contribute to what God is doing in your community and throughout the world… But you can’t reach your potential (and your church can’t reach its potential) if you try to do everything yourself.
We’re currently in the midst of a series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills where we’re outlining the three roles an Executive Pastor can’t delegate and the four roles a Senior Pastor can’t delegate. It’s important that both of these roles are clarified so that we know how they should work together, with each pastor laser-focused on the roles only they can do and learning to delegate the rest.
DEFINING THE SENIOR PASTOR ROLE
In the first two parts of our series, we unpacked the three roles an Executive Pastor can’t delegate (making the vision actionable, driving core initiatives in order to free the senior pastor to focus on only the roles that they can be responsible for, and leading a high-impact team).
In this episode, we’ll discuss the first two roles a senior pastor can’t delegate: being the primary vision-caster and spiritual leader/teacher. Listen in as we walk through:
- How to define and communicate a vision
- Reflection questions for your current vision statement
- How to make your sermon prep a priority
- Tips for knowing what only you can do—and delegating the rest
How to Sharpen Your Vision-Casting Skills
As your church grows and the world around it changes, your vision needs to be refreshed. Join Tony Morgan, Amy Anderson and guests for this free webinar where you’ll get re-energized to clarify your church’s vision and learn how to successfully rally your congregation around it.
This Episode is Sponsored by PlainJoe Studios:
PlainJoe: A Storyland Studio partners with churches, nonprofits, faith-based organizations, and educational environments to create unforgettable strategic, digital, and spatial stories that lift the Spirit.
Through architecture, branding, interior design, website development, themed environments, and more, PlainJoe champions churches as Sacred Storytellers and collaborates with a wide range of world-changing people and organizations.
To learn more about working with PlainJoe’s team of down-to-earth specialists, architects, strategists, artists, and problem solvers, visit plainjoestudios.com/getunstuck.
Other Episodes in This Series
- 2 Roles an Executive Pastor Can’t Delegate – Episode 307
- 1 More Role an Executive Pastor Can’t Delegate – Episode 308
- 2 More Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate – Episode 310
Leader Conversation Guide
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We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.
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Welcome to The Unstuck Church Podcast, where each week we are exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. If you’re a senior pastor, you wanna do great things and have a great impact. And great leadership requires delegation. To learn to delegate, though, your first step is a little counterintuitive. You have to identify the things that you can’t delegate to anyone else. On this week’s podcast, Tony and Amy continue our series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills with a conversation on two of the key roles a senior pastor can’t delegate. If you’re brand new to The Unstuck Church Podcast, stop before you listen and go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe to get the episode show notes. When you do, each week you’ll get resources to support that week’s episode, our Leader Conversation guide and access to our podcast resource archive. Again, that’s theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Now, before we get into this week’s conversation, here’s Tony.
PlainJoe: A Storyland Studio partners with churches, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and educational environments to create unforgettable strategic, digital and spatial stories that lift the spirit. Through architecture, branding, interior design, website development, themed environments and more, PlainJoe champions churches as sacred storytellers and collaborates with a wide range of world-changing people and organizations. To learn more about working with PlainJoe’s team of down-to-earth specialist, architects, strategists, artists and problem solvers, visit plainjoestudios.com/getunstuck.
Hey, welcome to all of our listeners. Tony, good to see you. It was kind of fun. We got to serve a church together this past week. That doesn’t happen very often.
It was great. And really, I was just there for the color commentary because it was an opportunity to help a church, great church with staffing and structure. And that, I mean, you kind of created that process. And so it was another opportunity for me to just watch you do your thing and facilitate that conversation. And, Amy, you just, you do a great job with that, helping churches with that, and it was fun to see it firsthand. So, yeah, fun to tag along with you.
You’re so kind. Yeah, it’s always, you know, the road, it sounds fun, but it can be, you know, you’re alone a lot. So to have a colleague there and another mind to think with me was just a joy. So anyways, welcome back, listeners, to part three of our series on Sharpening Your Executive Leadership Skills. In the last two episodes, we discussed the three essential roles that an executive pastor can’t delegate. And in this week’s and next week’s episode, we’ll discuss the four key roles that a senior pastor can’t delegate.
Yeah, that’s right. Over the next two weeks, we’ll dive into four roles: casting vision, being the primary spiritual leader and teacher, leading your leadership team and then being the champion for your church’s culture. And I would just give a word of advice here. If you’re an executive pastor, don’t skip these two episodes. And if you’re a senior pastor, go back and listen to the two episodes we just recorded on executive pastor roles. It’s important that you both understand these roles and get clear understanding so that you, when you work together, you can both stay laser-focused on the roles that only you can do and then learn to delegate the rest. Some of which, you’re gonna kind of delegate to each other.
Yeah. Agreed. All right, Tony. Well, let’s jump right in today. What’s the first role a senior pastor can’t delegate?
Yeah. The, the first role that you can’t delegate to anyone on your team is being the primary owner of helping people buy into your church’s vision. And we like to say a vision without a voice is just a dream. And that’s why vision casting is such a critical responsibility for senior pastors. If you’re the primary voice people here on a regular basis, you really can’t delegate vision casting to anyone else on the team. When it comes to vision casting, the key question you need to answer for people is this: where do you sense God is taking your church in the future?
And, Tony, I feel like before we can really talk about vision casting, we need to talk about finding vision clarity because, obviously, you need to define your vision before you can cast it. But finding clarity on the answer to that question, right? Where do you sense God is taking your church in the future? That takes some work.
Yeah, that’s a great point, Amy. And it’s really an important distinction. As a senior pastor, you are the primary vision caster, but you don’t need to be the only vision creator. You don’t have to develop or define your vision alone. In fact, we encourage you to use a small team of leaders, and usually, it’s only eight to 10 people. And we also encourage you to use a facilitator because it’s general, it generally doesn’t work when a senior pastor tries to both facilitate this vision process and participate in the process.
And so, a dedicated facilitator who isn’t on the team, they can help you manage the process of defining vision without speaking into the vision itself, which will help you make better decisions faster. So here’s the advantage of having multiple voices participate in this process: you’re going to be able to glean perspective and experience from other people on your team who love Jesus, who love your church and have a desire to help you move the mission of the church forward. And it used to be I think a lot of pastors felt the weight of having to bring clear vision for the entire ministry. But when you have multiple people that you trust speaking into what that future vision can look like, it really does add power to the direction that you’re heading as a ministry because you’re not the only one that’s carrying that. Really, you have a team of other leaders that are doing that as well. And, Amy, I’m just recalling; this is several years ago. I was working with a team, kind of facilitating this vision process, but the pastor had just come back from a sabbatical.
And part of that time during the sabbatical, the pastor spent, spent some time actually thinking, dreaming, praying through and writing down some thoughts about what he, he sensed the future vision of the church would look like in the coming years. And what was fun is we got together, like I said, soon after he came back from his sabbatical with the entire team again. There was probably about 10, 10 people in the room. And we spent a good afternoon dreaming together as a team about the future direction of the church. Only the pastor said in this conversation, I just kinda like to sit back and listen to the rest of the team as you’re, as you’re facilitating this process. And so we did that. We went through with everybody but the senior pastor and started to dream about, think about and actually start to document future vision for the church. And at the end, I had everything mapped out on a dry-erase board in front of the entire room. And we just stepped back, and I just asked the senior pastor after, after we had gone through this work, “What do you see? What are you sensing? Does this resonate with you? Are, are we going in the wrong direction?” And he opened up his notebook from the time that he was in sabbatical, and I mean, he started to tear up.
Because where we landed as a team was almost a perfect replication of the things that he had written down while he was away on sabbatical. And it’s just a, a reminder for me that God’s not just speaking to one person in a process like that. Usually, if, if the team is praying and, and, and dreaming and thinking together about this, the Holy Spirit’s gonna work in every leader’s heart and mind. And together, I just think the power of what the team can do together is far stronger than just putting this on the senior pastor’s shoulder. So, all of that to say, you gotta define the vision first, and it’s best to do that with a team before you’re in a position to be able to cast that vision to your church.
And just one thing I’d add, Tony, it’s probably obvious, but when you invite a team into this process, it doesn’t mean that you’re giving away the decision rights in the vision that God’s laid on your heart. Just think of it as people giving you input so that you can make, you know, the final call, the final decisions on vision based on that input and your own, your own leading. So, Tony, I’m wondering as you’re talking, can you dive a little deeper into what vision should look like? I think this is an area we see a lot of churches get confused about it.
Yeah, that’s right. I mean, there’s, and we talk about this often, but I do think there’s a lot of uncertainty about the difference between mission and vision because those words sound so much alike. Mission really is more about who we are, why we exist, what’s our purpose as a ministry. And it’s because of that mission that we do what we do every day. And, and it rare, it rarely changes. Sometimes, the language we use to talk about mission might change, but once, once you establish the reason why you exist as a ministry, that probably is not going to change. Vision, on the other hand, is trying to paint a clear and compelling picture of what the church is sensing God is, is calling the church to do in the future.
And because of that, vision should be bold but realistic. I mean, we’re walking a fine line here. On one hand, if you set the bar so low, you don’t really need God to accomplish your goals, that vision for the future. And that vision won’t compel people. And on the other hand, if the vision is too lofty, people will become demotivated because they won’t believe it’s achievable. So because of that, your vision needs to be specific but not too specific. The right amount of detail, though, provides clarity. But too many specifics can get overwhelming for people, and they’ll get lost in the weeds. And lastly, it’s important that success is clearly defined and measurable. When you reach the end of the vision time, whether it’s a one-year vision, a three-year vision, a five-year vision, you should be able to easily assess whether you’ve accomplished that vision or not. And let me just say, again, to distinguish between mission and vision: vision is trying to paint this clear picture of where we’re sensing God’s taking us in the future. And so because of that, because it’s a picture of where we’re sensing God’s taking the church in the future, we are not there yet. If there’s anything in your vision that you are already doing, that’s good; that’s a good thing. We should have that reflected in our mission, our values and, commonly, our ministry strategies. Those things need to be defined as well. But this is something different. This is, this is something that’s helping everybody on your team, in your congregation, understand, “Okay, we’re here today, but God is taking us to this place in the future.” And when we get that clearly defined and, and, and we can cast that vision clearly, it will hopefully rally your church to invest their prayer, their time and their financial resources.
Got it. All right. So first, the pastor and a small team of leaders, they need to work together to clearly define the vision, and then it’s time for the pastor to cast the vision—one of the roles they can’t delegate. Talk about that, Tony.
Yeah. So once you’ve defined your vision, it’s time to really communicate this to the church and communicate it often. After all, they are the people who will bring this vision to life. It’s gonna be their passion, their talent, their prayers, their behaviors are going to determine whether the church successfully accomplishes the vision or not. They need to understand in strategic terms, in clear terms the church’s future destination and the journey that you’re going to take to get there. And the best way to define strategy is to answer these questions, including, “Where are we going? How are we going to get there? When will we arrive? And what are some of the key milestones we can expect along that journey?” And this again, Amy, we talked about this last, I think it was a week ago, related to the role of the executive pastor. This is where we see the roles of the senior pastor and the executive pastor starting to come together. The senior pastor has to be the primary voice and casting the vision and keeping the destination clear in front of us on a frequent basis. The executive pastor then needs to come alongside and really define how are we going to move forward so that the vision can be accomplished? And that kind of clarity will help people feel that they’re a part of this process. It creates buy-in. And that’s what, what vision casting is really all about. You want to engage and rally people, and that’s why explaining how we’re, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there is essential to your vision actually being accomplished.
Yeah. Those questions are a great first step. And when casting vision, it isn’t enough to only explain: where, how, when, and what. You also, I think, Tony, need to answer two crucial why questions if you wanna fully engage the people in your church. The first one is, why is the vision important for the church? And second, why is the vision important for me? Right?
That’s right. That’s right. Yeah. And that first question, if you are explaining your team’s sense of where God is leading the church, it’s absolutely necessary to explain why vision for the future matters. You need to paint a picture of how your church and maybe even your community will be different and better if you achieve the vision that you’ve set. The second question is less obvious, but the vision has to be personal for everyone in your church. This is where storytelling is really important and, and needs to be a part of your vision-casting process because stories help move people from information to inspiration. Information moves the mind, but inspiration moves the heart. And effective vision casting must move both because when people are engaged in with both the mind and the heart that, that’s when they start to take action. And so just helping people understand why this is important for the church and, and maybe more importantly for the community, but also why is this so important for each person in the congregation as well?
Yeah. We’ve absolutely found, Tony, that the more you can personalize the vision, the easier it will be to engage the church, your church. And the bigger the ask, the more personal the ask needs to be. And if you’re inviting people to make significant investments, like you said, of their prayer, their time and their financial resources, the invitation needs to be personal, too. And if you’re asking someone to lead the way in generosity, you may need to have a one-on-one conversation. You know, that’s how important it is to make this vision personal.
Yeah, absolutely. Amy. And before we jump forward into the second topic, because this is, this vision casting component of, of the roles of the senior pastor is so important to your leadership and to your church, I want to provide an opportunity for reflection in this area. So I’m going to make the assumption that a lot of churches listening already have some sort of vision defined for your future. If your church does, I recommend you perform a health check by working through these questions with your leadership team. Number one, how old is your vision? Is it still fresh and relevant to the focus of your ministry? Secondly, does your congregation know your vision? Does it inspire them? Do they need to be reminded of where God is taking your church into the future? Number three, in what areas is the vision successfully providing guidance and focus for the ministry so that we know what we need to be doing today in order to see that future vision accomplished? And then, lastly, are there any areas currently out of alignment with the vision? If so, what actions would refocus that ministry area for where God’s taking our church into the future? And if your church doesn’t have vision clearly defined, go back to the beginning of the episode and begin to work through that process. And if you need help, that’s an area certainly that The Unstuck Group, our team, would love to help you with.
All right. Well, let’s keep moving then, Tony. Let’s put vision down and pick up the second role that a senior pastor can’t delegate. What’s that?
Well, this one won’t, will not come as a surprise, but what distinguishes senior pastor leadership from senior leadership of other organizations, whether that’s in the marketplace or other nonprofits, is the senior pastor’s responsibility for a spiritual life and teaching. And because this role is at the heart of what a church does and provides for those engaged in the life of the church, it absolutely cannot be delegated. You carry all the responsibility leaders of other large healthy organizations carry, but a significant portion of your time also has to be invested in the teaching in your message. I mean, it really is a unique challenge. And I hate to add to the pressure, but your teaching has to be phenomenal. You can’t wait until Friday and expect to develop, right? Rehearse a great message for delivery on Sunday morning. You need to devote time throughout the week to preparing for Sunday, and your teaching has to be great consistently, week after week.
Yeah. I often talk about it with other leaders, or I tell senior pastors, “Corporate leaders don’t have a final exam every week, but senior pastors teaching pastors, they do. Right?”
And I think it’s critical, as you talk about just devoting this time to it, it’s critical that everybody knows that the senior pastor needs to have time and energy set aside for the teaching process because studying, writing, like you said, rehearsing and that delivery, it’s, it’s time we need to dedicate to each of those areas. And because that can’t be delegated, you have to delegate the things that get in the way of great teaching. And you have to guard your calendar so that you can devote that time.
That’s right. And just to be clear here, just because senior pastors can’t delegate teaching, that doesn’t mean that they can’t use a teaching team. We’re big, big advocates of a teaching team at The Unstuck Group. In other words, not just a teacher, but it’s probably gonna be maybe two, three, four teachers that are regularly presenting the biblical teaching in our Sunday services. And what that means is you need to take leadership, ownership of making sure that that team is consistently offering excellence in the teaching for the church. In fact, in my opinion, the only way senior pastors can deliver consistently great teaching is by recruiting a teaching team. If attendees are going to invite their friends and family to church, you need to have a culture of reliably excellent messages, regardless of who’s teaching on Sunday morning. And that means you not only need to invest time and energy into making your own messages great, you also have to develop a team of teachers and help them make their messages great. And this is the opportunity for senior pastors to go to the next level, thinking beyond their own teaching skills, to raising up other leaders and helping them excel when it comes to delivering great, biblically focused messages as well.
Yeah. Not only does that lead pastor make those other teachers great, but those other teachers actually make the lead pastor even better in a team teaching format. There’s so many benefits when you approach teaching as a team. Couple things come to mind, Tony. First, it adds some nice diversity to the platform and to the actual teaching, which I think makes your church more relatable to a broader segment of people in your congregation. You know, we had, you know, someone in his thirties, in their forties, in their fifties, and just that stage of life alone, having three teachers in different stages of life just made those messages come off the page and reach a broad group. And it also gives each teacher, maybe this is the best punchline, more time to prepare their messages instead of that final exam every week. And when it comes to how you divvy out the weekends, you know, the lead pastor still needs to have the lion’s share of messages, but let’s just say for a minute, we have a teaching team of three: so the lead pastor plus two. You also have to consider how many ups do those other teachers need in order to be getting better and to keep their legs under them as a great communicator. So, you know, somewhere in that range of probably eight to 12 for each teaching pastor. So you can do the math how that weighs out. But, Tony, this is where, maybe, it’s my personal coaching. I think when we get beyond three core teachers, when we get to four to five to six, while it may increase diversity, I think it starts to dilute the quality and the consistency of that teaching. So just something to think of as you, if you don’t have a teaching team today, or if you do have one, some things to consider as you continue to solidify who are the main communicators.
That’s good advice, Amy. And now, at this point, the senior pastors that are listening may be thinking, “Hey, Tony and Amy, I’d love to have more time to prepare my messages. But I, I have a lot of responsibility, and there are only 24 hours in a day.” So hear us out. No one’s saying to you that you aren’t busy. I mean, really busy, we get that. But preparing for the weekend messages is one of the key responsibilities you have as a senior pastor. And if you shortchange it, the entire ministry is going to suffer in the long run. So here are a few words of advice for how you can make more time for this essential role. First, make it your priority focus. Message prep should be the first thing that goes on your calendar each week, and only you can solve your calendar issues. The senior pastor’s schedule and rhythm needs to drive the rest of the church’s schedule and rhythm. So the senior pastor’s schedule shouldn’t be driven by the management schedules of the rest of the team. The rest of the team should adapt to what the senior pastor needs to do in order to teach well. And what I would say related to that is whatever, where you, wherever you have the most energy and focus and creativity and desire in your weekly rhythm, give that time to message preparation.
Use, use your best, use your best hours in any given week to your preparation of your message. Secondly, you need to give leadership responsibility away so that you can focus on what is most important to the overall health of your church, which means, by the way, you need to have some leaders that you trust that you can give those key responsibilities to so that you can stay focused on the things that only you can’t delegate. And then lastly, create a small team to help you work through the development of messages. There’s nothing in scripture that says only the pastor can do all the study, all of the outlining, all of the writing, all of the, the creative brainstorming required in order to deliver a great message. There’s nothing in the Bible that says only one person has to do that. And here’s my suspicion. People in your congregation may think you have the entire week off and that you just show up on Sunday morning and deliver a message to the church. But you know, that’s not true. I know that’s not true. And a great message requires all of that. It requires research, study, brainstorming, storytelling and creativity. And one person isn’t going to be gifted in all aspects of what it takes to deliver a great message. And that’s why having a development team here really does help.
Yeah. And just to get really practical for the pastors out there who this is really a pain point for them. You know, if you’re not currently devoting that time and energy we’re talking about that’s necessary to prepare consistently great messages, here’s a couple things you could do to start towards that goal. Just do this work first. First, write down any tasks that take away time and energy that you could use each week to prepare for Sunday. These should be tasks and responsibilities that you can delegate. So don’t include anything related to casting vision, leading your leadership team or championing your church culture. And just as an example, Tony, I’ve done this with several pastors. One of the things that erodes a lot of their time are meetings with people from their congregation who want their time. And so you can delegate some of those. For those that you can’t, I would just say create a block of time on your calendar. Maybe it’s four hours every two weeks or four hours once a month. And when that time fills up, that time’s filled up. And if someone really wants to meet with you, they’ll have to wait until your time opens up. You can do that. You can guard that calendar. Next, after you have this list of things that take away time and energy from your message, just right next to each of those tasks, write down the name of a potential staff member who would be well suited to take that burden or has the potential to do that. And it’s not concrete yet, right? We’re just brainstorming. So just make your best guess. And then, once you have that list, put some meetings on your calendar. The faster you begin to delegate those, the sooner you’ll have time to devote to message preparation.
Oh, Amy, that’s really good. And that’s probably a good practice for anyone who’s in senior leadership to help them narrow their focus back to doing only the most important things that they need to be taking responsibility for. I love that.
Agreed. Well, Tony, we’ve covered these first two primary roles today, and we’ll discuss the other two next week. But do you have any final thoughts before we wrap up today’s conversation?
Yeah, we, I mean, we spend a lot of time today talking about casting vision for your church. And if this is a felt need for you right now, which is what we’re hearing from a lot of pastors, I invite you to join us for an upcoming webinar on How to Sharpen Your Vision Casting Skills. We’re gonna do that on August 24th, and we’ll be joined by some special guests, who have lived this experience in this area, for a conversation to get you re-energized to clarify your church’s vision and learn how to successfully rally your congregation around it. So you can learn more about that event and register to secure your spot at the link in your show notes.
Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Like Tony mentioned, if you’d like to register to join us on our upcoming webinar on Sharpening Your Vision Casting Skills, you can do that by following the link in your show notes. And if you don’t yet have the show notes, just go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast to subscribe. Next week, we’re back with another new episode in our series. Until then, have a great week.