Attention Clergy: Are We Pastors or Are We Leaders?

“When the Pastor becomes a Leader change finally happens.”  Scott Lumsden

The role of pastor and the role of leader are different and we need both – preferably in the same person.

Pastors get to do the good stuff. We are invited into intimate family situations.  We literally stand with brides and grooms, the newly baptized, the grieving.  As a parish pastor, I was shown engagement rings even before the brides saw them.  One couple asked for my blessing upon their engagement because their own parents would not bless them.  I’ve been with mothers during labor when we knew their babies would live for only a few moments.  I’ve been with parishioners before chemotherapy and after surgeries.  I’ve blessed houses and cast demons out.

The truth is that we pastors want to be beloved by our congregations and so we are often conflict averse.  We might not address issues that – left ignored – will hurt or even destroy a congregation.  We want to be everyone’s spiritual friend.

But the Church today needs leaders.  We need spiritual leaders who love their congregants and love them enough to walk them through contentious times.  I know a lot of pastors.  I don’t know a lot of pastors who embrace being leaders.

  • We need leaders who have the guts to help staff members move on when they can no longer do their jobs – even if they are treasured members of the congregation.
  • We need leaders who will say “no” when asked to officiate at a wedding or funeral after they’ve retired.
  • We need leaders who will confront church bullies and hold them accountable when those bullies are sabotaging the ministry and health of the congregation.
  • We need leaders who will ask hard questions (like “Why does our church exist?” and “Who are we – now – as a congregation?” rather than “Who did we used to be?”)
  • We need leaders who know how to engender trust so that people will follow out of faith – not out of fear.
  • We need leaders who know how to affect transformative congregational change in a swiftly changing culture.

And we also need pastors.  If you’re an effective pastor but you fear conflict, or you don’t know how to help a stuck congregation, or you want to keep up with 21st Century practices that replace what worked as 20th Century practices, there are some good training opportunities out there.

I’m attending one this week at the Menucha Center led by Scott Lumsden.  Not only will this kind of training feed your soul but it will also feed your congregation.

The future Church depends first and foremost on the Holy Spirit.  But the Holy Spirit can do even more when we lead God’s people with the right tools.  Yes, we will still mess up and God uses those times too.  But all these cultural changes are great fun to grapple with.  God does amazing work in anxious times and sometimes we get to be a part of it.

Image is Jesus Raising Jairus’ Daughter by Yelena Cherkasova


7 responses to “Attention Clergy: Are We Pastors or Are We Leaders?

  1. Love!!!!

    Sent from my phone, therefore brief and prone to typos


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Amen.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Thursday Thoughts – February 14, 2019 |

  4. and thanks Jan for being a leader of leaders…we need to ask some hard questions about campus ministry of our GA and Presbytery leaders

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you, Jan!


  6. What happens with the pastor is the bully?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Been there. It takes a while for others to see the bullying behavior & even then, they are afraid to report. This requires deep prayer mode: Dear God please protect this congregation & remove this leader/pastor.

      Liked by 1 person

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