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12 ‘How to’s’ Pastors Wish Someone Had Taught Them

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I’ve taught seminary students now for 26 years, and I’ve worked with hundreds of graduates in doctoral programs or local church events. I always want to know what leadership issues pastors wish someone had taught them. Here are twelve I hear often, in no particular order:

  1. How to oversee a budget – Because financial issues often create tension in a church, the battleground is not the best place to learn about budget preparation, proper budget percentages, spending policies, etc.
  2. How to lead a meeting – One reason people don’t like meetings is that they’ve never seen one led well. A poorly conducted meeting is a waste of everyone’s time.
  3. How to interview potential staff – More than one of us have conducted interviews that were incomplete at best, borderline illegal at worst. That happens when no one trains you in recruiting and interviewing.
  4. How to prioritize family while also ministering to the congregation. Trying to find this balance isn’t easy—and most leaders have had to learn it on the fly. They want role models and prayer partners to help them.
  5. How to manage staff and church conflict – For some church leaders, the only remedy they know for addressing deep conflict is to leave the church. Usually, the conflict remains.
  6. How to develop and cast a vision – Knowing the importance of a vision is not the same as knowing how to develop and cast one. Too many visions go nowhere simply because the leader is a poor, untrained vision-caster.
  7. How to evaluate “success” – If numbers are the only way to evaluate success, many church leaders are failures. On the other hand, to ignore numbers is to invite an unhealthy inward focus. Most leaders need help in finding the best way to evaluate “success.”
  8. How to manage personal finances – It’s hard to count the number of pastors I know who simply didn’t know tax laws for clergy, missed the benefit of a housing allowance, or planned poorly for retirement.
  9. How to fire a staff member – Terminating a church staff member is difficult unless he or she has committed some flagrant offense. Many church leaders tolerate mediocrity among staff because no one ever taught them about lovingly helping unproductive staff members move on.
  10. How to counsel without getting overwhelmed – Meeting all the needs of a congregation can quickly become overwhelming, especially if no one has ever taught pastors how to counsel briefly while leaning on other counselors for longer-term help.
  11. How to enlist and motivate workers – The church is essentially a volunteer organization. The problem is that many church leaders have never learned how to enlist and motivate beyond pulpit announcements.
  12. How to know when it’s time to leave. I can’t tell you how many times pastors have asked me this question—usually when they’re already considering that possibility. It’s better to think about this issue before the issue is a hot one.

What would you add to this list?

This article originally appeared here and is used by permission. 

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Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on Twitter @Clawlessjr and on at facebook.com/CLawless.