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Why Are Church Leaders Such Poor Managers?

You would think that we as church leaders would be exceptional at managing people … we’re in the people business, of sorts. 

Our entire jobs revolve around creating worship experiences in which people can connect to God. It’s a relationally charged environment. An extrovert’s heaven—lots of people, all the time. 

The majority of our work as ministry leaders is done by working with and through others.

And yet, ministry environments are where I’ve observed some of the worst people management.

Time and time again, I’ve coached ministry leaders through management maladies. For whatever reason, we flounder when it comes to effectively leading employees.

Here are some reasons why I believe ministry leaders are prone to be poor managers:

1. Seminary doesn’t focus on teaching us to be managers. 

While our training equips us to be good pastors, it rarely teaches us the principles for people management.

2. We’re less comfortable with conversations that require accountability. 

As pastors, we find ourselves coaching and spurring others on to Christ-likeness. As managers, we must hold people accountable to expectations as well as deliver consequences for unmet objectives. 

This feels like it runs in opposition to the grace message we communicate. (It doesn’t, by the way … remember the truth side of the equation.)

3. Ministry teams are lean.

Human resources staff are a luxury, if you’re able to hire them at all. As a result, training and development for managers is nonexistent.

As leaders, we’re responsible for the people under our care. Hebrews 13:17 reminds us that we as leaders will have to “give an account” for how we lead.

We cannot be content with disgruntled employees, underperforming employees, unmet expectations, poor communication, sideways employee/employer relationships. We cannot avoid these conversations.

We cannot allow our ignorance or fear to keep us from leading well.

No employee should be the casualty of our poor leadership.

If an employee is not meeting expectations, it’s your responsibility as the leader to lean in and address it.

Have you found yourself in some difficult management moments? What training do you wish you would have had to better equip you?