Renovate Your Leadership

Some people are born to fly. Others are trained to repair the aircraft. I have always wanted to be an innovator but that just isn’t what God has had for me.  I am a self-professed ecclesial renovator. I’m a fixer-upper Pastor.  Every place that the Lord has led me in the ministry has been a place in need of renovation and restoration.
In fact, the first church that I served as Pastor was a little church in the far reaches of Northern Michigan with a crumbling building, an aging and divided congregation, and a once grand barely livable parsonage where I was to dwell with my family. That old two story home needed everything repaired, replaced, or restored. My wife and I spent a bundle of money and even more time repainting, re-draping, re-carpeting, and regretting in that old house than either of us care to consider!
However, God in His providence, allowed us to begin our life serving His people in the pastorate for a reason. We packed in more life and ministry lessons in that little ramshackle Church and in that big old busted house than I would have thought possible. Here are 4 of them:

1. Perform Routine Maintenance.

It is a lot easier to trim a bush than cut down an overgrown mess.  At that little Church I was pastor, counselor, event planner, wedding coordinator, maintenance man, and a one man lawn care company.  With an aging congregation and young people who were “too busy” to help, I spent a significant amount of my time caring for overgrown trees and bushes that had been neglected ever since “old so and so” left the Church because pastor “so and so” offended her with his joke about her flower patterned dress.  I once mowed the grass in a full suit fifteen minutes before worship service on Sunday morning just to see if anyone offered to help or come up with a better plan.  For the record, they did not!

Pay attention to needs for trimming in the church before little weeds become overgrown messes.  Sometimes churches don’t remove a dying tree or cut down a problem bush out of fear of offending the person who donated it to the church or just because they ignore it so long that it becomes part of the landscape. 

 Sometimes a church, especially an older well established church, has to trim back its budget to pay off debt or in some way refocus its efforts now so that in the long run it will be free to do even more for the Lord’s glory.  As a leader, don’t fear trimming back this fall or buy into excuses about why it cannot be done in order to get a better bloom next spring

2. Get help when you need it.

I have often said that nobody calls a pastor when car won’t start.  They call a mechanic!   After many failed attempts at repairing more than one hundred years of do it yourself plumbing and electric jobs in that old house, I became on a first name basis with a local handyman.  He was a great help.

My time at that Church taught me that every church leader and especially those who lead churches through renovation need the support of other church leaders.  During my time in the colds of Northern Michigan I relished every pastor’s prayer meeting that I attended with a few likeminded men of God at a nearby church.  This was years ago and I am still in touch with some of those men.

One of those well seasoned pastors said to me one day, “That church has so much trouble that the problems you wade through every Monday morning are the kinds of problems that I have only dealt with a few times in the last thirty years.”  He then gave me sound advice, encouragement, and listened to my frustrations.  Church leader, get help when you need it and learn to recognize your own limitations so that you know when you to get the help.

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Chris Surber is the Pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk, VA. He is also a religion columnist for the Suffolk News Herald.

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