I get the humbling opportunity to work with scores of churches and pastors every year on their strategic planning and leadership development. It’s fascinating to see the diversity of teams, challenges, personalities, traditions, buildings, and priorities in such a broad sampling.
In addition, I’ve been privileged to learn more about leadership from the church I personally attend than in all my corporate world experience. And from these perspectives, I want to zoom out and ask, “What do I really look for in my pastor? What matters? What makes me drawn to be part of this church?”
Here are 5 Top Qualities I Look For:
1. Living Authentically on Mission.
I want to see the same person off stage and on stage. Do they love their wife, kids, and neighbors? Do they reach out to marginalized, messy people in the community? Do they inspire me to model my own discipline after them even after see them in their 24/7 normal days? Do they admit their own flaws and struggles? Do they buy in, “all in,” to the mission of Christ?
2. Stretching My Vision.
I remember the first time I heard my pastor, Mark Beeson, say, “We are going to be a church of 2,000 by [the year] 2000.”
I got this mini-pit in my stomach and that voice in my head thought, “That’s awesome, but isn’t that a little crazy? Will it really happen?”
Well, God did some amazing things and we blew past that 2,000 mark. Our pastor communicated clearly where the train was going and it stretched my thinking of what could be. It didn’t match what the calculator or even the linear progression might say.
When the goal leans just a tad crazy, that’s awesome, because only God could do it. We don’t always hit our targets, but I believe our leaders should be thinking and swinging big in what God is calling us to in our communities.
3. Credibly Executing.
It’s one thing to talk about a big vision, but the hard work is actually executing it. Vision is easy, but execution is the “golden egg” with God’s blessing.
There are pastors who talk the talk, but I just don’t get the sense they will actually get it done. Sometimes it’s the look in their eyes – like a rookie quarterback coming into the game when the starter goes down. They say the right things but their actions (or lack there of) don’t point to discipline in the church and teams. They lack confidence and display fear when conflicts come, tough conversations need to happen, or stuff just isn’t being done well.
How can we believe we’ll reach our goals and impact our community, when we don’t handle guests well or don’t train any of our volunteers? I want my pastor to have a slightly crazy vision but also the resolve to go after it with excellence.
4. Disrupting the Comfortable.
There’s a broken record in so many churches, a mass of seasoned Christ followers, that complain about church “light,” want more meat (read: “feed me”), and have really made it about themselves (read: not others).
I believe the normal tug in our lives is to make life simple, reduce change, seek comfort/pleasure. I want a pastor that disrupts and challenges me in my leadership and God’s call on my life. It may not be the easy, preferred route, but it’s the route of greater purpose and growth.
The great blessing of having years of experience and learning in a church comes with great responsibility to pour that into others, not to demand another meal. I want a pastor that will challenge me die to myself and live a mission of serving others.
5. Managing a Strong Offensive Line.
The best of the best pastors are just as flawed as the rest of us; however, they recognize the need to build a great team around them. Pastors that act like the quarterback, running back, and wide receiver generally get sacked and make limited to no progress down the field (and, often, never see their church surpass 100-150 people).
I want a pastor who knows his weaknesses and surrounds himself with a great blocking team up front when he’s playing quarterback. I want him to hand the ball off to others and give them ownership in the mission. He should have other coaches speaking into his strategies and offering the best plays to run. He does ministry as a team, sharpening the skills of those already there and drafting new players. I love seeing the humility of a pastor on display by the great team he has prayerfully assembled around him.
What would you add? Where can you grow as a pastor? How can you best be a positive voice in your church to help the team and support your pastor?