I’m not down on seminary. Really. But it did leave me dramatically underprepared for the actual “work of the ministry!”
Four years in Bible college and three more years of seminary had me well versed in the impeccability of Christ, but not so well-equipped to handle my first deacon’s meeting (and the second, and third, and fortieth, and two-hundredth). I love learning the Scriptures, and I still do, and for that reason I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities I had to learn and grow in school. But when it came to strategy, business organization, volunteer management, vision-casting and leadership development, the real schooling was on the job.
Maybe it should be this way, I don’t know.
But through it all, I’ve learned what not to expect:
- Don’t expect that preaching prowess has any relationship to leadership development.
- Don’t expect that a large congregation means a great strategy is in play.
- Don’t expect that elders, deacons and trustees will arrive at the right answers, if none of them have studied the subject matter.
- Don’t expect a pastor to be a superhero, leading, preaching, counseling, vision-casting, strategizing, accounting, and shepherding well at the same time.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for (and even pay for) outside help. I’m not just saying that because I’m on the Leadership Outreach team, a group that offers consulting and strategic services to church leaders. (But the shoe does fit.) Outside help could be anything from inviting a veteran pastor to look over your strategy, to buying up the leadership book aisle at your local Christian bookstore, to hiring a professional strategic planner to help your organize your game plan for the coming year.
2. If you’re not through with seminary yet, be sure to ask for tracks and classes that include practical management of local church issues. It’s not always the most enjoyable subject matter (I’d rather debate predestination!) but things like team-building and staff management are going to come in more handy for you (unless, I guess, you were predestined to do a poor job at those anyway. In that case, carry on.
3. Don’t be afraid to play the Acts 6:1-8 card (“I need to focus on teaching and prayer, and hand off this administrative stuff to others”), but don’t use that card as an excuse to ignore your calling as a leader. Leadership is about more than preaching. The people of your church need someone to follow even more than they need someone to hear. Take an active interest in answering the question: “Where is this church going, and how will it get there?” When you run into areas beyond your ability or motivation, tap your team. If your team lacks the expertise to get things moving, call in some help.