Thoughts From a Pastoral Team Strategist
When I started my ministry career 18 years ago, I never thought I would ever type the title of this entry: Thoughts from a Pastoral Team Strategist. I definitely wasn’t desiring to fill that role on a pastoral team. I wanted to see my dreams fulfilled in much different ways. I am still convinced that Jesus has called me to something completely different than strategist. I am a worship pastor/worship leader/singer/songwriter/artist. Jesus and I are still arguing about this. Turns out He is just as stubborn as the Son of God should be.
I started falling into the role of systems/strategy guy on pastoral teams because it was a very obvious need on the staffs I was part of. Turns out that a lot of pastors lean towards hiring very talented people with specialized, but limited, skill sets. Administration isn’t sexy…and is hard to put on a visible platform. Many church staffs find themselves comprised of really talented speakers, Bible scholars, personalities, musicians, media gurus and kids' creative types. There is a huge gap in a lot of churches and that gap isn't in the visionary/dreamer category.
Administration isn’t sexy…and is hard to put on a visible platform.
The global church is packed full of people that have the vision and the dream but is lacking on willing people called to set aside their personal dreams to help another pastor make a bigger impact. This is where I come in. I’m sure I have the capacity to be a visionary on some things, but I know I am called to serve my lead pastor. I am called to help him be the healthiest pastor possible and to create environments in which his vision can come to life. I am called to bring a strategy to his vision. I am called to be one of his No. 2’s. I am not called to push my agenda or make the next coolest worship recording that would distract our church from the bigger picture. (Even though we do and will make cool recordings, my heart is to resource the church with stories of what God is doing at my church.)
Being a pastoral team strategist has been an interesting and stretching journey. I have navigated this role for a while now. But only for the last 4 years have I been given the authority to go with the burden. I serve my lead pastor as one of his executive pastors. I am loving this role and, to my surprise, it feels like a good fit. I connect really well with other leaders in this field. I feel fulfilled, for the most part, helping our ministries align with values, culture and best practices. When the team wins, I win. I have grown in my ability to love our pastoral team and respect them. I wasn’t expecting this when I said yes to the position, but when you pray for your team every day, you see people differently. God has been rewiring me from the inside out and that has its joys and pains (more on that later).
When the team wins, I win.
I feel the onus of giving 150% of myself to this role because I think it is the difference maker in a successful organization. There is a delicate balance between vision and strategy. I have made some notes along the way that may help you if you ever find yourself in a systems/strategy rut. I have numerous influences in my life when it comes to organizational leadership and vision/strategy; ( you probably do too)—Rick Lorimer (my pastor), Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley, Chris Sonksen, Dan Reiland, Jim Collins and Henry Cloud. (Just ask me if you’d like a specific resource recommendation.) I am sure most of my musings are not original but maybe my commentary has a different spin on it. Just a few things to chew on:
Vision without strategy is just a good idea.
- This is a personal conviction of mine. I believe God is speaking all the time and that He has anointed and appointed our lead pastors as the CVO’s (chief visionary officer) of our organizations. I have been a part of small and large, Christian and non-Christian organizations that never fell short of having incredible ideas. The problem is, sometimes you can become so enamored about a really great idea that you don’t think about practicality. You can easily forget about the capacity of the team. You can find yourself being so excited, with good intentions, but you accidentally “out punt your coverage.” Some leaders won’t agree with me on this point, but I don’t think it is the lead pastor’s job to carry this burden. I believe the role of the executive pastor is to have an open relationship with the lead pastor to help process his or her vision. Is this vision for now or later? Is it obtainable/ sustainable? Does this complicate anything? Can we pay for it and how? What do we need to change to make this vision happen? Do we say yes to this or do we keep praying? Not every vision or burden is meant to be developed. Just like a songwriter, a visionary must never stop dreaming. For every good song I’ve written, there are ten others I threw away and no one will ever hear them. (Maybe that song was just for Jesus.) It is my job to make sure my lead pastor has the freedom to keep dreaming.
Vision made public invites accountability.
- I remember when I felt God tell me to share that in 2011 we were going to make a worship recording. We didn’t have the talent or experience. I had no idea how this was gong to happen. I closed my eyes and vision cast this in front of our worship department. I was scared to death, but knew I needed accountability if this was going to happen. Strategy came later, but this was an essential move to make sure that I would take the risk and make a bold move. Strategy or no strategy, if you share your vision publicly, people will expect something from you. Use that public share momentum to develop strategy and to shepherd buy-in. You don’t need a strategy in place to share a vision; you just need to be committed to develop one. It is so easy for charismatic (likeable) personalities to get distracted by accusations of manipulation when they don’t have a strategy. But when people hear a great vision, they should ask questions, like, “How can I get involved?” “What’s next?” “What are you asking me to do?” Don’t miss an opportunity to develop onramps to your vision because you haven’t identified a next step. People often allow themselves to feel “satisfied” by just feeling excited or inspired. Our job as pastors is to equip people to do kingdom work. Vision cast to inspire God’s people but commit to developing a strategy, and then empower them to be part of the mission as well.
Strategy or no strategy, if you share your vision publicly, people will expect something from you.
Never allow lack of strategy to kill the vision.
- I believe that God is in the dream and the devil is in the details. Commit to developing a strategy but don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t come right away. Keep working at it and inviting the right people into the conversation. Some of the best, most impacting visions are accompanied by resistance. When it comes to your vision, there is nothing the devil loves more than to discourage you and steal your confidence. If he succeeds at this, then he stops you from dreaming.
Some of the best, most impacting visions are accompanied by resistance.
One of my favorite quotes from John Maxwell is: “He who thinks he leads, but has no followers, is only out for a walk.” Strategy is simply a vehicle to allow people to follow your God-given vision. A simple tweak in your leadership conviction could be the difference between walking alone or leading an army.
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