April 29, 2020

Pastors: 4 Roles to Prioritize Right Now – Episode 143 | The Unstuck Church Podcast

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Pivoting from Crisis to Collaborative Leadership, Roles You Need to Lean Into, and a FREE Tool to Help You 

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One year ago, we released one of the most popular podcast series we’ve ever done on 4 roles the senior pastor can’t delegate.

None of us could have predicted that our world would look drastically different one year later, but here we are—still called to lead the same church and same community but in unpredictable times.

It’d be erroneous of me to claim we’re on the other side of that uncertainty, but I do feel certain that as we navigate the future of our ministries, leaders need to have clarity on the roles they need to prioritize right now. 

Senior pastors need to see this situation and think about how their leadership needs to change. I think doing so will make you a stronger leader when this virus is over. 

With this episode, we’re releasing our newest eBook—4 Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate. I’m excited to get this in your hands. Read on to learn how you can get it 🙂

In this episode, Amy and I discussed:

  • 4 roles a senior pastor can’t delegate (ever), and why you need to bring them back into focus TODAY, given what our churches have experienced during recent weeks
  • Why it’s time to pivot from your crisis leadership approach to a more collaborative, future-oriented leadership
  • The ministry area pastors hang onto way too long, and why pastors get stuck in their leadership and fail to make the necessary shifts in their roles
  • What it looks like to build a smaller, higher capacity team that makes it possible for you to give away more ministry and focus on what only you can own

Leader Conversation Guide

Want to get the 4 Roles a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate eBook?

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Opt-in here and get the eBook and the Leader Conversation Guide for this episode, as well as access to the archive.

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We use #unstuckchurch on Twitter, and we start a real-time conversation each Wednesday morning when the episode drops. We’d really love to hear from you during this time:

  1. How can we be praying for you as a lead and your church?
  2. What stories can you share of ways churches are responding well during this crisis and focusing on opportunities instead of loss?

You can follow me @tonymorganlive and The Unstuck Group @unstuckgroup. If Facebook is where you spend your time, I’m there, too.

Listen to other episodes in this series:—

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Sean (00:00): Welcome to The Unstuck Church podcast, where each week we’re exploring what it means to be an unstuck church. There’s a lot of change happening in our world and still more change to come in the future. Because of that, the way leaders and pastors are leading their churches will have to change as well. This week on the podcast, Tony and Amy revisit the four roles a senior pastor can’t delegate, as well as share a resource for pastors that you won’t want to miss. Before you listen, make sure you subscribe to get the show notes. You’ll get resources for this week’s conversation along with access to our podcast resource archive. Just go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe. Now let’s join Tony and Amy for today’s conversation on the four rules to senior pastor can’t delegate.

Amy (00:49): Well, before we dive in today’s conversation, this topic about the roles a senior pastor shouldn’t delegate, Tony, it was one of our most popular podcast series from this last year. And we heard from several pastors that the series was transformative for their leadership. And I’m curious just about the timing for this conversation, given what pastors have been through the last couple of months. Why are we revisiting this conversation today?

Tony (01:14): Yeah, it’s actually a four part series that we did last spring. In fact, all of that content is still available. So check out the website theunstuckgroup.com and go to our podcast page and you can go back and listen to those conversations. And you’re right, Amy. It was very well received. And because of that we just decided let’s convert all of that content into a downloadable resource. And so through that we expanded the content, we included things like questions for self assessment, application exercises, and a lot more. And pulled together all that content before the holidays and obviously before the coronavirus hit. And since then, of course, we’ve had to just put this on hold. But in recent days, I went back and looked at that content and I was thinking, you know what? I think senior pastors actually need this content now in light of the coronavirus crisis. Because, really, the four things that we described in that podcast series and now in this downloadable resource, our churches need pastors leading with that focus right now. So we’ve just decided, no, we’re not going to wait. Let’s make this available immediately.

Amy (02:35): I’ve had a chance to actually look at the resource, Tony, and I think it’s going to be incredibly helpful for all the senior pastors who listen to our podcast. And speaking of the folks who listen to our podcast, we have a nice surprise for subscribers that we’ll share at the end of today’s episode. So make sure you stick around for the full conversation. Well, I hope they always stick around for the conversation.

Tony (02:57): Let’s assume they do, Amy.

Amy (02:57): Okay. We’ll assume that. But before we dive deeper, Tony, can you give us an overview of those four roles real quickly that a senior pastor should not delegate?

Tony (03:06): For sure. Yeah. And we’re not going to dive deep in today’s conversation about these four roles because again, you can go listen to those podcasts from last spring and then more specifically now, you can take a look at this new resource we have available. But the four roles that we mentioned that pastors shouldn’t delegate to anyone else include being the vision caster for the church. In other words, this is the first role you can’t delegate to anyone on your team. And this is because you are the primary owner of helping people get buy-in to the vision you believe God’s called your church to. The second role is to be the spiritual leader and teacher for your church. And you know, primarily, that spiritual leadership probably comes out through your teaching. So because of that, this role can’t be delegated to anyone else other than the senior pastor. You really have to be the one person that owns not only the quality and the biblical content of your teaching, but you’re also responsible for making sure any teaching in your church also models that. The third role we talk about is being a leader of leaders. And no matter the size of your church or your staff team, you can’t neglect your leadership role. The fourth role being the culture champion. And the thing we talk about a lot here is you just can’t leave culture up to chance in your organization. And so through this role, you are helping the other team members figure out what it looks like to really live out the behaviors that you believe are going to be helpful for your church to carry out your mission.

Amy (04:53): Yeah. Well, I know we’re not going to impact those, but I do have a couple of questions related to the content that I think would be helpful for our listeners. So let’s start with the fact that there are only four roles. Does that mean that senior pastors should never do anything else?

Tony (05:08): Nothing else, Amy. No, I’m just being sarcastic there.

Amy (05:13):Drop the mic.

Tony (05:13): No, in fact, there are going to be seasons in any time of ministry where we take on other responsibilities. The big idea though here is that as churches shift from small to midsize to large, more and more of the senior pastors role needs to narrow to these four responsibilities, particularly in large churches here. Thinking about before online church, when we were gathering physically, these would be churches of a thousand-ish in attendance, little bit less, a little bit more maybe. In those cases, really every other job responsibility besides these four roles needs to be shifted to another leader on the team. Now, as I mentioned, does that mean we never do anything else? For example, we don’t do any more hospital visits. We don’t do any more counseling. We don’t provide care to anybody in our church. We don’t do any more shepherding. Well of course not. But again, for the senior leader of a large church, more and more of your investment of time and the giftedness God put into you and how you lead needs to be focused in these four areas. And unfortunately, I’ve seen church pastors hold on to some of those responsibilities that I just mentioned for way too long, and the church got way too big for them to be continuing to have those responsibilities. And then what it impacted was the four things we just talked about, the vision casting. It impacted their teaching. It impacted their leadership. And it impacted the culture of the organization, of the ministry. So we have to begin to prioritize these four roles as the church grows. And the other thing I would highlight here is as the church grows, then core functions, core ministries of your church, those day to day responsibilities of leading areas like discipleship, small groups, student ministry, weekend services — and by the way, that seems to be the area I see senior pastors holding onto for way too long — all of those core ministry areas, you have to find other leaders to carry the load in those areas and to lead and really empower them to make those ministry areas happen. So, no, there are other things that we will continue to do from time to time, especially depending on who you’re ministering to in your churches. But as your church grows, more and more of your leadership needs to be focused in these four areas.

Amy (07:56): Well, I have opinions on this next question probably because I work with senior pastors so much in the staffing and structure area. But what do you see Tony, are the barriers. Why do our senior pastors get stuck in their leadership and not make those necessary shifts to the roles you’ve mentioned?

Tony (08:15): Yeah, so I think part of it just goes back to how we were trained and equipped for our roles as pastors. And honestly, not many of us were taught that our leadership would have to change as our churches and as our ministries grew. And, so it’s not like pastors were purposely trying to avoid these four roles. I just think, in many cases, we just weren’t forewarned that leadership would have to change as growth happened in our ministries. Secondly, and I’m going to draw on a Maxwellism here. John Maxwell famously has said, “you have to give up to go up.” And, this is just an acknowledgement that for those of us who lead organizations, as our sphere of influence increases, we have to give up some of the things that we used to do in the past. And honestly, sometimes I have found, I’ve enjoyed doing, but I have to give those things up in order to help my ministry, help my organization see increasing impact going forward. And good example of this, Mark Beeson, who was my senior pastor at Granger Community Church when I was there for quite some time. He used to tell the stories about early on in the church when the church was very small. He would lead worship in the church, and Mark had apparently a 12 string guitar and he would lead the congregation in worship, and he actually kind of enjoyed doing that. Mark has this weird combination of this almost scientific mind and this artistic bent that collided together, and he ended up in ministry. But he was just acknowledging, you know, leading worship, something he enjoyed doing, but that was something he had to give up in order to focus his leadership in other areas so that the church could have increasing impact going forward. And then another thought that comes to mind here, Amy, and this may be the number one reason why I think pastors are maybe sometimes stuck and bringing new focus to these four roles that we’re talking about. It’s this. That the lead team hasn’t been developed and empowered around that senior pastor so that a shift in responsibilities can happen, and some other key aspects of what it is to lead in ministry can be moved off the senior pastor’s plate so that the senior pastor can focus on these four areas. And Amy, I mean, first of all, maybe do you agree with my assessment related to the leadership team or sometimes a lack thereof around the senior pastor and that that may be a key barrier that prevents pastors from giving focus to these four roles?

Amy (11:10): I think that you nailed it. That’s the biggest issue that I see. The church has grown and the senior pastor has just never made any shifts to who the leadership is around him or her. And so it is not unusual at all for me to engage with the church and I cast that vision for the senior pastor on what he or she really needs to focus on, and their eyes just like smile and glaze over. They’re like, if only I could just do that. That’s what I love to do. And then we’ll look at the leaders around the senior pastor. And unfortunately, they haven’t grown as the church has grown. And so we don’t have those smart, strategic equipping pastors. Maybe I shouldn’t say smart. That’s maybe not a good gift as much as the strategic nature of those roles, because there are often great people around the senior pastor. I mean there’s friends on that team that they’ve done ministry with for 20 years, and they’re often great shepherds and they’re often great complements to the senior pastor, it’s why they’ve developed such a great friendship. But unfortunately they don’t have some of the leadership skills that it takes to move things forward. That’s not their gifting. And so now the senior pastor feels stuck and doesn’t know what to do. So we help them navigate those transitions because I would say on the other side of the coin, once you get even one leader who’s being able to operate at a higher level, it is amazing the load lifting that they can do on behalf of the senior pastor.

Tony (12:41): Yeah, Amy, I’ve sat across a desk or table from senior pastors in the past, and you can just see it in their eyes. They’re just, they’re worn out because they’ve carried so much of the ministry themselves. And I start to talk about the team that they need to develop around them and start to do a little vision casting myself for what it could look like if you get some high capacity leaders around you that don’t just execute your ministry strategy. They come alongside you to develop the strategy for how you’re going to see your mission and vision accomplished as a church. And you begin to see their eyes light up when they recognize it doesn’t have to be the way it has been. I can build a team around me. And the crazy thing is sometimes, churches need to have fewer staff people but higher capacity leaders to be able to take more of this weight off of the senior pastor. And we’ve actually seen, Amy, with fewer high capacity leaders, the ministry actually has a greater impact. And so senior pastors, if you’re listening, you can do this. You can build this team around you and that will over time then allow you to make the shift in your leadership so you can get the focus around the four roles that we’re talking about today.

Amy (14:14):

And I’ll add one more thing. It’s not unusual when we make those shifts that some of the people who are at what you maybe would call the senior leadership team level, they are actually a bit relieved because they want to get back to what they really enjoy doing, too. And there’s been an enormous amount of stress in their life when they aren’t gifted to do what they’ve been asked to do. So.

Tony (14:33): Yeah, I remember several years ago, Gary walked into my office one day, and he was just at his end. He was overwhelmed with what was happening because I was asking him to step up into a leadership role that needed to be filled. And Gary, over time, realized that’s not what I’m wired up to do. And he initiated the conversation, which I’m still grateful for to this day, about shifting into a different role that was a better fit for his gifts and then really hiring his future boss. And it worked out well for Gary. It worked out for his new boss. It worked out better for our organization as well. But you’re right, Amy, sometimes that means we just need to reallocate our gifting and wiring to places that better fit how God designed us. And I just think that’s a great picture of how God created the body of Christ. We all have different gifts and when we lean in and those areas where God has gifted us, we feel more fulfilled. But then I think the body of Christ is healthier as well.

Amy (15:44): That’s right. That’s right. All right, well I want to go back to where we started today’s conversation, which was a question, why now? Why focus on these four roles when churches and the pastors who lead them are dealing with a crisis unlike, you know, any of us have really ever faced before?

Tony (16:00): Yeah, well. So let me walk quickly through those four roles again and just express why I think today these roles are so important given what our churches have experienced in recent weeks and months. First of all, that role of vision caster, I think pastors today have to be communicating to the rest of their staff, their other church leaders, their congregations. We are moving towards a new normal and Amy, a couple of weeks ago you highlighted in our webinar, that picture of the pyramid with the foundation and that never changing for our churches. But the middle section you highlighted was about the direction where we’re heading as a church, and it included things like vision and our strategy and our goals that we’re trying to accomplish as ministries. And you highlighted, I thought very effectively, in that conversation that we need to revisit right now the directional elements in that pyramid, which really means we need to revisit, “God, through this what should we be learning and how do we need to change our strategies going forward for the new normal that we’re going to experience?” And to me, again, this is the vision casting role that senior pastors can’t delegate, and you need to be engaging that aspect of your role today. The second area being the spiritual leader and teacher. People all around us are dealing with disruption in their lives right now. I just learned in Georgia, they think now one out of five people in Georgia is unemployed. That’s disruption. It’s creating disruption for individuals. It’s creating disruption for families. And then on top of that, it’s the people that are being directly impacted by the illness. It’s people that are experiencing emotional and mental health challenges because of the isolation that we’re all experiencing in this season. In other words, your church and the people in your community need a spiritual leader in this moment. They need you to help navigate our current reality. And so again, you need to be leaning in today in this role as a senior pastor. The third area is being a leader of leaders. And again, our churches need their pastors to lead strong in the season. We need to be the people that are empowering others around us. And by the way, one of the things I was visiting with a pastor about just in the last week. As you know, when the crisis immediately hits, whether it’s the coronavirus or anything else in the future, when a crisis occurs, the people around the leader expect the leader to lead strong and to really take on more of a directive style of leadership, where they’re defining this is where we stand and this is what needs to happen immediately. And in the immediacy of the crisis, they’re not looking to the senior pastor, in our case, to lead a very collaborative process to figure out future direction. They just want to know where do we stand and what do we need to do immediately? Well, now, Amy, here we are weeks past the immediate crisis. And part of what we need to be doing now as pastors and leaders of leaders is to be going back to more of that collaborative style of leadership and appropriately involving others in decision making and appropriately empowering others around us. So that’s part of how you need to live out that third role of being a leader of leaders. Finally, we talked about being a culture champion and here regarding the leaders in your church, including staff and other people in your church who are playing close attention to your leadership. Of course, they’re listening to what you say in this season, but more importantly, they’re watching how you act. And so if you’re acting out of fear, they’re going to see that and that fear is going to begin to creep into the culture of your ministry. If they’re seeing you unwilling to be nimble and unwilling to pivot in this season, that’s setting the culture for what your church is going to look like, not only in this season, but going forward. Do people see through your actions that you really care about the people in your church, especially those that are hurting in this season? Your actions will say a lot about how people view not only your leadership, but that is certainly going then to shape the culture of the ministry around you as well. So again, Amy, those are just some quick hits in all four areas, but it’s why when I looked at this content again recently, I thought, no, we can’t hold this any longer. Senior pastors really need to see this now and begin to think about how their leadership needs to change in this current season, which I think then, is going to make them stronger leaders once this virus is behind us as well.

Amy (21:28): Yeah, well said. Well, Tony, before we go, I mentioned that we have a surprise for the podcast listeners. So can you share that?

Tony (21:35): Yeah. So anytime we pull together a resource, because we don’t do anything second rate around here at The Unstuck Group. I mean, we pour some resources into the investments we’re making to provide products and resources and coaching and all the different things we do here at The Unstuck Group, and this new resource we have around the four roles that senior pastors can’t delegate, we did the same thing. We invested a chunk of money to help with crafting the content and editing and designing the product. And because of that, we’re going to have to charge some money to recoup our expenses when we release this to the broader public. But I really like our podcast listeners, Amy, and I just couldn’t imagine making our podcast listeners pay for this new resource. So, the other day I just made an executive decision. I didn’t ask your input. I didn’t ask any of the team to tell me, Tony can you do this or not? No, I just made an executive decision. Now pastors, don’t ever do this without your team’s consent, but I did it without my team’s consent. And so here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to let the podcast listeners get this new ebook for free. So if you’d like a copy for yourself and to share with your friend, all you have to do is make sure you are subscribing to the podcast show notes, and you can sign up for those show notes at theunstuckgroup.com/subscribe. So Amy, what do you think? That’s a pretty good gift, I think.

Amy (23:15): It’s a great resource and honestly, I loved what you said. Our senior pastors need to get to that place of health so that they can do what only they can do and release others to do those other things.

Sean (23:28): Well, thanks for joining us on this week’s podcast. Don’t forget to get your free copy of “The Four Rules a Senior Pastor Can’t Delegate” ebook. Go to theunstuckgroup.com/podcast and subscribe. You’ll receive the four roles ebook along with our weekly podcast. If you like what you’re hearing on this podcast, help us get the content out by subscribing on your favorite podcasting platform, telling someone else about the podcast and leaving us a review. Next week, we’re back with another brand new episode. So until then, have a great week.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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