Church leaders are under a lot of pressure. And nobody is perfect, so it’s not surprising there are mistakes church leaders make. Sometimes repeatedly.
Sure, everyone makes mistakes…but those who know better can do better. The purpose of this discussion isn’t to beat anyone up, it’s to shed light on some common pitfalls so you can avoid them!
Leaders are responsible for the spiritual and moral guidance of their congregation, as well as managing day-to-day operations. So some leadership mistakes aren’t just minor blunders; they can be costly to a church’s reputation and success. Here are five church leadership mistakes to avoid and what to do instead.
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Mistakes Church Leaders Can Often Make
We know firsthand what it’s like to be a church leader, specifically a local pastor.
To sum it up: it’s not easy!
We want you to be successful. As a church leader, you have a lot on your plate. And although there are different leadership styles and personalities, we think you’ll agree that these 5 common mistakes church leaders make aren’t good for anybody.
#1 Overcommitting Themselves and Their Teams
Burnout is a hot topic for society in general, but especially in ministry. After all, you have services 52 weekends a year without any weeks off. And on top of that, you’re responsible for responding to life crises that could pop up 24/7.
You have to leave some buffer for the unexpected and also build in time for rest, sabbath, and even sabbatical.
Church leaders are known for having big vision. And while vision is important, you also have to be realistic about your personal capacity and the bandwidth of your team.
You can’t do it all. The only way to keep from burning out and making mistakes is by delegating, saying no, and taking time for rest.
Also, as a church leader, you need to check in on team culture and health. Cultivate an open environment where staff and volunteers can talk honestly about their workload and wellbeing.
#2 Treating Church Members Like a Commodity
Leaders go into the ministry with a desire to serve God and help people. That’s a noble intention, but sometimes priorities get off track. Leaders can start viewing people as a means to an end.
Having a big Bible study, church congregation, or group feeds our ego and sense of purpose.
What unfortunately happens next is that we need people to need US for our personal gratification and sense of purpose.
In addition, the financial realities of running a church can start to create pressure.
All of these factors shift the leader’s focus away from
- serving people
- nourishing people spiritually
- staying curious about people’s needs and perspective
And, instead, a leader starts to view members of the congregation as numbers, not people to serve.
Unfortunately, when people are treated like commodities instead of human beings with unique needs and desires, it can lead to frustration, inner turmoil, and eventually leaving the church.
#3 Failing to Lead Leaders
We guarantee you have experienced leaders in your church. Maybe they’ve been in full-time ministry before. Or perhaps they have business and professional skills.
Members with this kind of leadership experience bring tremendous value to your church!
You may also have younger people or others with tons of leadership potential who haven’t yet had the opportunity to lead.
Unfortunately, many pastors make the mistake of failing to release leadership to high-capacity leaders.
Sometimes the good intention behind this is not wanting to burden or inconvenience busy people.
Other times, the primary leader doesn’t want to surrender control.
Either way, the results are deadly for your church culture. And you put a “lid” on your church’s ability to grow. You have to develop a system that allows people to move up in leadership positions and influence and use their unique skills and gifts.
Remember, Jesus took twelve disciples and sent them out to teach and lead. So don’t fall into the trap of being a micromanager or trying to take responsibility for everything yourself.
Share the vision and mission, make disciples, and develop leaders.
#4 Building a Barrier Between Secular and Spiritual
People tend to fall into the trap of dividing things into spiritual and secular buckets. And this can be detrimental for your leadership.
On one hand, the Bible tells us to pray about everything. As a pastor and church leader, you need to take this truth to heart: pray about EVERYTHING!
Don’t just reserve prayer for things you perceive as spiritual. Seek the Lord for guidance about your budget, your hires, people conflicts, and, of course, your sermons.
And you also need to pray for wisdom and discernment in your leadership. Specifically, what methods to use when it comes to ministry and church growth.
Too often, we dismiss certain techniques or technologies in the world as being “secular” or only for business. Then, we’re afraid to touch them as a church.
(The example we see all the time is churches hesitant to use digital marketing to reach people.)
Remember to be discerning. Not every good thing is a God thing. But as you lead people through the present-day landscape, don’t dismiss modern tools just because you haven’t seen them used in church before.
#5 Judging By Appearance
Scripture says that man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). As church leaders and pastors, we need to remember this!
Many of our metrics and measures of success are based on how things appear externally. But as we focus on leading well, we need to look at the root of the matter.
That starts with the leader’s personal growth and well-being. Are they in a spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthy place? How is their marriage and family life? Appearances can be deceiving!
The same can be true for churches. Although the public appearance is squeaky clean, are people truly healthy and developing? Is the focus on Jesus, sharing the gospel, and building people’s faith? Or is it about pulling off the “perfect” service?
We can also be too quick to judge people in the church. Remember that the quietest person in the back row could have an idea that would transform your organization for the better.
Our world is quick to judge. Whether that’s how a pastor dresses, a social media feed, or the size of a church. But in order to truly succeed in ministry, don’t be swayed by the pressure to keep up appearances.
What Healthy Church Leadership Looks Like
So does it look like to have healthy church leadership? The answer is really only visible in the long haul. But some key elements of successful leadership include caring for people (including), serving others, releasing leaders, and cultivating an open and honest environment.
Ultimately, the one thing that is most important is to be obedient to what God is calling you to do. Set your hope in Christ and let the Holy Spirit guide you.
You’re going to make mistakes as a church leader because you’re human. Nobody is perfect, so give yourself grace! But remember that position doesn’t equal leadership. Focus on staying healthy, growing, and serving others–then you can truly be the leader God has called you to be.