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8 Reasons Many Pastors Lack Confidence

I am confident because of who I am in Christ. But if someone expected me to perform open-heart surgery tomorrow, I wouldn’t be confident … even if I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express the previous night. I would be totally lacking in confidence because I would not be equipped to handle the task before me. Indeed, I would be scared to death.

Many pastors and church staff are lacking confidence to do their ministry. While seminaries and Bible colleges do an excellent job in preparing many of them for some of the most important facets of pastoral ministry, too many pastors are still ill equipped to do the daily functions of their work.

As we have spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors and church staff, we have found specific reasons why many of these leaders are lacking in confidence, and are even fearful to carry out their responsibilities. Here are eight of the most common reasons.

1. They are not trained in many of the business-related tasks of leading a church. Some don’t understand church financial statements. Others struggle to lead a church in a building program. Some don’t know how to lead a meeting. While church members should certainly fill these voids, pastors and church staff still need a basic knowledge of these areas.

2. They are not trained or equipped to lead. How much of leadership is natural ability and how much is learned? While no one has conclusively answered this question, we can say that most of us can become better leaders with training. But many of our pastors and church staff have no formal leadership training. A smaller church may have a budget of $150,000, but the pastor has no organizational leadership skills. Can you imagine being tasked to lead a $150,000 small business with no skills to do so?

3. They do not know what to do when the church hits a barrier. Leaders of churches will always hit barriers in attendance, stewardship, leadership development and others. But too many church leaders do not understand some of the basic approaches to overcoming barriers.

4. They have been burned. Countless numbers of church leaders have been burned after they made a decision. Some have been criticized relentlessly. Some have been fired. These leaders are reticent to lead because of the pain they have incurred.

5. There are some church members who should not be in places of leadership at the church. A pastor shared the story about a chairman of the church’s finance committee. That chairman was a constant critic of the pastor, even to the point of trying to oust the pastor. The pastor would later learn the finance committee chairman never gave a penny to the church, and even questioned his own commitment to Christ. Leaders in businesses typically have the authority to move out poor performers. That is not the case for most pastors.

6. They have many “bosses.” Regardless of church polity, many church members think the pastor and church staff work for them. It takes unique leadership skills to deal with this reality.

7. They did not ask the right questions on the front end. Before they accepted the position, many pastors and staff did not have any idea about the realities of the church they now serve. They thus feel ill equipped to lead in their context.

8. They are unable to get support from their churches for ongoing training. Too many churches think training ends at seminary or Bible college for their pastors and staff. Many of these leaders are in desperate need of ongoing training and development.

The purpose of my blog, podcast and (beginning October 1) periscope has been to provide additional training and information for church leaders. I have been so encouraged by the responses to them. We currently have about 8 million annual blog views and about 900,000 annual podcast downloads. Thank you!

We began providing Church Answers a few months ago to help church leaders with these eight issues and more. Church Answers takes the ongoing training to a deeper level at modest cost to the church. Due to the demand, we are opening the monthly subscription to Church Answers for a few days. Consider signing up today. Many of you cannot afford not to have this ongoing leadership development.

Also, let me hear from you about these eight issues I named above.  

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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.