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Pastoral Leadership: 4 Essential Behaviors for Success

behaviors for success

I began serving as Lead Pastor in Canada almost nine years ago at a great church West Park Church. I began to practice four essential behaviors that helped me get a good start and experience some early leadership success. I believe leaders would do well to practice these four behaviors for success.

4 Essential Behaviors for Success

1. Communicate often and well.

  • A new pastor must gain the trust of those he leads. One way to build that trust comes through effective and regular communication. People want to know what’s going on. If they don’t, they will connect dots that don’t exist. Here’s what I did (and do) to maximize communication.
      • I send a short weekly staff report to our board appraising them of our staff’s weekly activities. We answer these three questions each week.
  1. Listen and learn.

    • In my first message when I arrived in Canada I communicated to the church that I had much to learn. I told them that during the first few months I would listen and learn by asking lots of questions. I held listening sessions with over 100 people asking them about the history and the strengths/weaknesses of the church. I asked many of those people these four questions.
      • Would you tell me about yourself?
      • What’s going well here (this parallels one of the above questions)?
      • What’s not going well?
      • If you were in my shoes, what would you focus on?
  2. Wisely manage change.

    • When a new leader or pastor arrives, he or she often falsely assumes that the organization/church expects dramatic and quick change. Sometimes circumstances warrant such change if something is ‘on fire.’ Often, however, a leader must build trust before the church will receive dramatic changes. That doesn’t mean that we don’t bring change, however. It’s important that a new leader secures some early wins which requires some change. That in itself fosters trust. But, whether or not you are a new leader, thoughtfully managed change will bring the greatest lasting change.
  3. Keep healthy margins.

    • I heard someone once say that at the end of each day, the average number of items left to do exceeds 30. This side of heaven we can always find more tasks to fill our time. In my first few months it was difficult to keep consistently healthy margins. When I arrived we were significantly short staffed so I had to take up some of the slack. I realized, though, that I couldn’t maintain the pace I was running. So, to keep myself and my family healthy, I practiced these ‘margin keepers.’
      1. I didn’t say yes to everybody that wanted to meet with me. I learned to politely say no.
      2. I asked the board to handle some of the tasks staff otherwise might have handled.
      3. I made my time more productive. I sometimes took an afternoon or two outside the office where I could minimize interruptions and maximize productivity.

What crucial behaviors for success have helped you?


This article on essential behaviors for success originally appeared here, and is used by permission.

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