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12 Must-Know Tips for Senior Pastors

In 2000, I became a senior pastor for the first time, and it was much harder than I thought it could ever be! Then I enjoyed being on staff at LifeChurch.tv for four years where I led small group ministries. Just over a year ago, I went back to the senior pastorate when I accepted a position at New Life Bible Church in Norman, Okla. I thought to myself, “It’ll be easier this time. I’ve got more experience, and I learned a TON about leadership at LifeChurch.”

Indeed, it’s been a fast and rewarding year. Although God is blessing our church, I’m reminded once again that being a senior pastor is harder than I thought it would be. Over the last year, I’ve been reminded of 12 practices that I must never forget and that I must discipline myself to leverage:

1. Don’t Forget the Personal Touch

It’s important to make sure that I stay rooted by connecting with real people in real time. I must shake hands, write hand-written notes, take volunteers to lunch, return phone calls and value people’s time. There’s no substitute for valuing people and being personal.

2. Do What You Do … Better

I must resist the urge to lead our church to be a “full-service church.” We do better to focus our time, energy and resources on doing what we already do, only better. To a great extent, adding programs is futile when we can make massive improvements to existing ministries and systems.

3. Appreciate Financial Constraints

Financial challenges will always exist in a growing church. I do well to remember that financial constraints force me to think creatively. More importantly, they stretch my faith and make me seek God more earnestly.

4. Think Long-Term

I remind myself daily that I should not overestimate what can be accomplished in a year and underestimate what can be accomplished in a decade. Patience, steadiness and focus will yield great results in time. Impatience and distractibility lead to frustration and stagnation.

5. Do Less

I must do less. This does not mean I work less, but that I do fewer things. I must delegate often. I must delegate responsibility rather than just tasks. When I don’t do these things, I spread myself too thin and show that I don’t trust my team. I must live by my “stop doing list” as much (or more) than my “to do list.” In fact, this is why I haven’t blogged in over a month. I had to put it aside for a while in order to be better at other things for a season.

6. Re-Vision

Re-vision is different from revision. When the people I lead stray from the vision, it is not because the vision needs to be revised. It’s because the vision needs to be revisited. Vision leaks, and people easily lose sight of the goal. I must regularly point our church back to our vision in order to keep us on the path God has laid out before us.