John Maxwell loves to say, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”
In other words, if a person, event, or organization is incredibly successful you are likely to find great leadership present. Conversely, when we see organizational failures or events that are not quite up to par, we are likely to find poor leadership.
Everything rises and falls on leadership. I believe what Maxwell says is true. In fact, I believe you can apply the same maxim to the church. When it comes to the success of your church, its programs, vision, events, and initiatives, everything rises and falls on leadership (and the leading of the Spirit, of course). And we the pastors must take responsibility of the fact that as pastors, we are ultimately responsible for whether the church is led well or not.
Because of this reality, I have written a series of questions that I read to myself every week, sometimes daily. These questions are aimed at keeping me focused on the tasks that I must be about doing. I keep them saved on a document on my desktop that I can quickly pull up. There may be some questions that you add or change, but for me, these questions keep me on track. They serve as guardrails to prevent drifting into a leadership ditch. Here they are:
1. Have I led myself properly?
To lead myself well means that I have spent time in Scripture for my own devotion. I have experienced fellowship and communion with the Lord in prayer. To lead myself well looks like examining my own heart for traces of sin and repenting when finding it present. If I do not lead myself well, how can I lead others? It is a difficult task to take others where you yourself have not gone. Pastors, in our enthusiasm to lead others, we cannot neglect the simple, yet enormously important fact that we must first lead ourselves. This question keeps you from running on empty.
2. What am I communicating that is moving us forward?
Leadership looks like a lot of things. We lead by example. We lead by organizing. We lead by working through others. But one way that we must lead is by communicating. Leaders are in the business of communicating. We must be communicating vision. We must share values. We have to relay strategy. We must boost morale. We must celebrate and highlight organization wins. Communication is key in leadership. Be it in team meetings, Sunday services, or other settings, take time to plan your words and ideas. As a leader, this question keeps you focused on being intentional about what you say.
3. What are the next challenges we are going to face?
A central aspect of leadership is casting vision and rallying people to make it reality. But along the way, leaders have to foresee what challenges are going to be in the way of that dream. Leaders must look ahead and project what hills await for the people to climb. We must know the hurdles that have to be jumped over. Leaders have to learn to ask the question, “if we achieve this vision, then what, what will be looking at next?” This is something effective leaders must take time to focus on. This question keeps you looking ahead and not at just the current challenges.
4. What is the current momentum and morale on our leadership team and in our congregation?
Leaders usually have an intuitive sense of the morale of the organization and people. This is vital because you have to know when to push and when to hold back. It is important to know how your leaders are doing. Likewise, you must also know the morale of the congregation. It is possible for the leadership team’s morale to be high, while the congregation’s is low, and vice-versa. As the leader, you must have a good pulse on this situation. This question keeps you in tune to how people are feeling about things, which is crucial for a leader.
5. Who am I spending time with that is strategically making us better?
One thing I have learned in over a decade of pastoral ministry is that your schedule will fill up with those who scream the loudest if you don’t learn to direct your calendar to the things which are most vital. In other words, if you don’t decide how to schedule your time, people will decide it for you. For me as a leader, I’m constantly asking myself who I need to be spending time with. My answer usually revolves around: elders, staff, key leaders, and rising leaders. I love to counsel people, but if I’m the only one who can counsel, the church will only reach as many people as I can personally run to—which isn’t many. This question keeps you thinking about where the greatest investment of your time will be.
These are the questions I am constantly asking myself as a leader. I have taught our staff to ask the same questions. Make these something you read regularly, and I believe it will have a great effect on how you lead your church. Everything rises and falls on leadership. So let’s lead well.