Wisdom for Pastors and Spiritual Leaders

First of all let me say that I applaud your decision to seek wisdom so that you may grow as a pastor or spiritual leader. To ask advice from anyone is hard especially when you are in a leadership position. Some in leadership positions do not feel as if they can ask for advice. They feel that in their position they are suppose to be the leader and not appear to be weak by asking how they can do better in their positions. The older I get the more I realize how much I don’t know. Reading through the material you may gain insights to weaknesses that you have that I would have missed. Having said that and knowing that you are very busy I will let you in on the pearls of wisdom that I personally gleaned from these books.

Communication seems to be the key word in chapter seven of Finzels’s book. To communicate effectively one must “never assume that anyone knows anything.” (p. 128.). Lack of communication usually has everyone assuming things that are not true. “When left in the dark, people tend to dream up wild rumors.” (Finzel, p. 127). Don’t let others fill in the blanks that you leave behind. If you do people will fill them in with their own assumptions and what you will get in a skewed version of the truth and uncontrolled rumors. This will be true for both your staff and your congregation. Don’t leave anyone in the dark. Build appropriate lines of communications so people will talk positively and effectively.

Communication can also change with time as your ministry grows. What once worked many not work in the future. You should understand that when changes are made that everyone that is affected be notified right away (Finzel, p. 134). Also as your ministry grows it will mature from oral, informal, and spontaneous to written, formal and planned so that everyone can be on the same page. (Finzel, p. 130). This gives clear direction on where the ministry is going. Do not be afraid to over communicate. This is especially true for new leaders “People need to know what to expect of their new leader. If you are that person, make sure you over-communicate as an obsession.” (Finzel, p. 135). People in ministries who are well informed tend to thrive and understand how they fit in with its purpose and success. (Finzel, p. 131). Both your staff and your congregation will not understand or know how you lead if you do not communicate effectively your own goals and visions. “Declaring the purpose and core values of an organization is one of the essential jobs of a leader.” (Finzel, p. 140). This can be especially true for young ministers, especially when older congregation members think that they know more or have more experience than the pastor. Knowing that you have a clear plan and where they fit into that plan can help stop the rumors and the uncertainty that these members feel.

Communication is a two way street. Getting your message across is great, but the door swings both ways. “Effective listening is active rather than passive.’ (Robbins, p. 132). Robbins goes on to explain that as an active listener requires you to understand what the person is saying, not “what you want to understand.” (Robbins, p. 132). This can be especially difficult between men and women since they tend to use communication for different purposes. Truth 36 states: “Men tend to use talk to emphasize status, while women generally use it to create connection.” (Robbins, p. 140). Truth 34 is about the difference between hearing and listening. It provides eight behaviors that are associated with active listening including making eye contact, nodding your head or other appropriate affirmative actions, avoiding distracting gestures, asking questions, paraphrasing what the other person is saying, not interrupting, and taking turns talking with smooth transitions. (Robbins, pp. 132-133. Listening is a skill that most leaders do not possess or give up thinking that over time they have gained so much knowledge that they do not need to listen to others. (Finzel, p. 136). “The more people you lead, the more you must listen.” (Finzel, p. 136). Leaders tend to live outside what is really happening in the organization and must learn first hand from others who are actually performing the day to day operations of the ministry. Have you ever watched the Undercover Boss TV series? These bosses that go out in the workforce and try to do these jobs get an eye opening look at how their policies are really effecting the job or the people in those jobs. Its also quite funny when they do not understand or can’t even perform the job duties. What is the price of a leaders isolation? A disconnect and a loss of respect from those whom he is leading. Invest in those who follow you. We have started a conversation in our own staff meetings about being able to correct those around us when they need correcting. As one of my co-workers put it can’t we just go back to loving everyone and not confront those issues that need confronting? She was uncomfortable on both sides of the coin, she didn’t want to confront or be confronted. Building relationships with co-workers or those whom you lead is important to that need of confronting in love. When they know that you have their best interests at heart they will not be as defensive. They know your heart and your intentions of making them better people, not criticizing who they are.

Finzel describes four basic areas in which a leader should be clear. The first is to outline the vision and the values of your ministry. The second is to clearly establish a chain of command. Third, make an organizational chart so everyone will know how your ministry is organized and just where they fit into the picture. And lastly, make sure everyone has a job description. This is critical for you to establish your own job duties also so that you can invest in the lives of your congregation and your staff. Make sure everyone knows that they are important.

Finally make sure that your actions line up with your words. Truth 37 talks about when people are forced to choose between what a person does and what he says tend to believe actions over words. “Contradictions between words and actions can be most damaging to a manager’s attempt to build trust with his or her employees.” (Robbins, p. 145). As Christians we should follow the example of Christ so not only are we preaching the Word, but we are doing the Word which will definitely point men to Christ and make disciples which we are all called to do as stated in Matthew 28:19-20: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” But also be forgiving of others and yourself for we are all human and prone to mistakes. No leader will ever be perfect and learning how to treat others when they make mistakes as well as ourselves will also set an example. Just remember we reap what we sow and sowing good seeds will produces good crops in ourselves, our staff and our congregation. I hope you can use some of this advice to help you grow as a leader and as a Christian. May God bless you in all that you do.

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