Memo to Lead Pastors

I’m a lead pastor. I have many friends who are lead pastors. And there’s something I just need to get off my chest.

Here’s an episode from my podcast (with the edited transcription below) “Memo to Lead Pastors.”

Hi this is Daren Wride and welcome to Priority Pastor.

I’ve got today just a quick memo to lead pastors, senior pastors, in some cases that might be executive pastors. It’s anyone who has staff that answers to them in a paid role.

And the memo is simply this. Don’t be a jerk. Just don’t. Don’t Be a Jerk.

Now some of what I’m going to say might make you think I’m talking about you and maybe I am. But I’ve been in a lot of different circumstances as a transitional pastor. I deal with a lot of pastors in different places that I’ve never been. I talk to them find out what’s going on in their worlds- lead pastors, staff pastors, administrative staff. And there are just too many lead pastors who are jerks.

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And the way that jerkiness shows up, it shows up in things like excessive holidays for the lead pastor and subsistence level holidays for the staff. Like in some cases I’ve lead pastors have six hours (should be “six weeks”) of holidays and most of their staff has two or three. And yet the staff are often working far harder than the lead pastor. In some situations it seems like the lead pastor thinks his role is to kind of order the staff around and get them to serve him more than even serving the Lord or serving the church, when in fact as a lead pastor your role is- you are, you are stewarded with the staff they are, they’re followers of Jesus and you’re called to equip them like you’re called to equip anybody else, help them discover their calling and mission and equip them to do that and develop them in that.

I think every lead pastor should tell his staff, “My primary role with you is to help you maximize your gifts and your callings, whether it’s here or somewhere else.” And if that’s our approach then when our staff begins to succeed, when they get better at us in some areas than we are, we’re happy because that’s the job. There are, there are some situations- this is not just in the church and a lot of workplaces where the boss of a department or a company works really hard to make sure he’s better than everybody in that staff, in that company at everything, than they are. Well, all that leads to a very weak team because the fact that there needs to be more than one person means you need to be more than one gift mix and my staff people should always be better than me at several things otherwise really what’s the point of them?

And then there’s just the, you know, the bossy boss attitude of you know “I’m here to order you around” and just dishing out orders from a non-relational context, not getting to know your staff. I was in one situation where one of my first staff meetings I just asked the staff just to tell me their story and out of just a handful of staff two of them after one on one meetings said almost the same thing. They said “Your predecessor never heard that because he never asked.” And I’d been working there for just a few weeks. And the other person have been there for years and years and yet never knew the story of the staff and, not that I’m any great staff manager. I have a long ways to go as a staff manager. But one thing I finally figured out is that I’m to serve those staff and to help them discover again what their gifts and what they’re calling is.

We could talk about compensation issues. You know there’re so many staff I’ve seen who have had the same salary for years while the Lead Pastor salary just goes up like clockwork. And whose job is it to make sure those staff salaries are fair? I don’t care if you’ve got an H.R. committee or some other department. If you’re Lead Pastor you’re responsible.

So, I just want to take a few moments and maybe get something off my chest without getting too specific. But just lead pastors, love your staff. Love your people. Serve them. Work in a way that allows them to excel and to be better than you in so many ways. And take care of them and make sure they are working at a sustainable pace. Challenge them when they work too hard, not just when they work too little. And make sure they can live a healthy family life and personal life and everything else. I think that’s part of what it means to be a pastor.

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You know in a church the people who are on our staff are also part of the church. And we are their pastor too. And we need to shepherd them as faithful under shepherds of Jesus. Enough about that… Have a great day. Thanks for listening. Press on.

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