Transforming Pastoral Leadership: What, Why, and How!
As I said in my first post, these reflections on pastoral ministry will be rolling out piecemeal. With this installment, I am going to hit the pause button. Really, the rewind button and take you back to 1995.
I married Melissa, my wife of nearly twenty-three years now, on July 29, 1995. Within two weeks of our wedding day, we were invited to join a church and serve in a position of Associate Pastor of Youth and Children.
The church was Oak Grove Church of God in Tampa, Fl.
I’ve loved everywhere I’ve served. I’ve even enjoyed the churches that weren’t so loving during the time of my service with them.
But Tampa was special.
Many of the kids who were a part of our first ministry are now grown with families of their own. Some of the most enjoyable correspondence Melissa and I have is with these grown men and women with whom we began our first ministry assignment.
Just a couple of months before starting at Oak Grove, in May of 1995, I graduated from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. As is the case with most seminary graduates, I left with the confident assurance that I was going to show a church how ministry should be done.
Answering Questions No One Is Asking
Also, of course, I was coming with all the answers in hand.
So, I – fresh out of seminary – launched a “thirteen week series” (yes, that used to be a thing) on the “Person and Power of the Holy Spirit.”
I was so excited to share my knowledge! Knowledge – particularly my knowledge – is what every teen needs, I thought.
I also thought that they were excited to listen to a thirty-minute talk based on notes from my seminary professor.
It wasn’t long before I realized that the answers I had in hand were answers to questions no one was asking.
I soon found myself making course corrections.
Course Corrections and Core Convictions
After that very first night that I led our youth group, I realized how little I knew about leading a ministry that could prayerfully, humbly, and faithfully lead others to the Savior. It was a culturally diverse youth group made up of a combination of kids from every walk of life. The one thing they all had in common was that they desperately needed someone with whom they could work out all of the difficulties life was throwing at them.
I came in answering questions they weren’t asking and offering advice they couldn’t use.
Talk about internal disruption!
Over time and through the encouraging love of my wife, the strong leadership and faithful mentoring of my Senior Pastor, and a group of kids who were unbelievably patient with me, I began to discover some pillars of ministry that, it turns out, are essential to any ministry.
These pillars have been (and are being) ‘honed’ in the crucible of ministry these past twenty-plus years.
These pillars are essential to any congregational ministry. I believe, if you study, you can find them throughout the history of God’s gathered people.
Five Pillars of Transforming Pastoral Ministry
- Pastoral and Congregational Calling
- Congregational Care
- Pastoral/Congregational Leadership
- Discipleship and Soul-Care
These five areas, or pillars, are the what of pastoral ministry. By that, I mean that these five areas are the principal areas of concern for pastors serving in ministry. I suggest that they are the what of any ministry; be it senior, children, youth, worship, mission, etc.
In fact, I can pretty much assure you that if you demonstrate some level of competency in three or more of these areas, you will likely have a successful ministry.
Success, however, is not what I am shooting for as I shepherd and lead a congregation. We aim a bit higher at Pillar. We aim for transformation.
Ministry that is praying for a transformative impact will also have to discover the why and how of ministry. The why and how are, in fact, more important than the what.
I learned, through time and trial, that nestled within the what of pastoral ministry, are a host of assumptions and hopes that constitute the why of pastoral ministry. Many of those whys were centered around me appearing successful, knowledgeable, or competent.
These false whys were subtle, but they were ever-lurking beneath the radar of what I was doing and shaping how I was going about what I was doing.
It took over a decade of working the what from a partial and faulty why before I discovered a way of ministry that’s transforming. A way of doing ministry that is not only congregationally transforming but also personally transforming!
I’ve come a long way since the days of my first ministry assignment back in 1995.
I’ve still got a long way to go!
Disrupting to Renew!