Here’s a question sure to cause a little discomfort and defensiveness:
How many tasks are on your to-do list during the week that are non-essential for feeding and leading the flock?
If you are anything like the majority of pastors, your answer is probably more than you want to admit. I get it. I have pastored over eleven years. I know the struggle.
Why do pastors allow their schedules to pile up with non-essential things? For many, especially if the church is smaller, the thought is “I’m paid to do the work at church,” and they want to prove they are earning their pay. In some cases, if the pastor don’t do the work, it doesn’t get done. Other times the expectation from the congregation is the pastor is supposed to do all those things. This leads to pastors with tasks lists like:
- drive the bus to pick kids up for Wednesday Awana
- set up for Wednesday night dinner in the fellowship hall
- open and close the gym for the Upward basketball league
- clean the building during the week
- create and update the church newsletter
- personally disciple every person who asks
- take the offering to the bank every week
- visit every sick person or shut-in
- build PowerPoint presentations for worship services
- plan games for the youth group on Wednesday night
The list could go on and often does.
Am I saying you as a pastor are above doing these kinds of things? By no means. However, there is a price to pay if you try to do them all. You cannot be effective anywhere if you are expected to be everywhere.
If you give chunks of your time to non-essential tasks, you will not have the time necessary for the essential tasks. Every time you say “yes” to something, you are saying “no” to something else. Why does this matter? One day you will stand before Christ, the Chief Shepherd, and give an account for your work. You have been charged to shepherd the flock of God among you (1 Peter 5:2). You have been given the ministry of the Word and prayer (Acts 6:4).
Every pastor has to learn to prioritize your “yes.”
How can you begin removing non-essential tasks from the weekly to-do list and focus on the primary work the pastor is called to?
1. Teach your church the proper role of the pastor.
You must teach your church what the Bible says on this subject. The role of the pastor is to shepherd. Shepherding the flock is a combination of leading and feeding the flock. Leading the flock includes setting direction, vision, developing teams, equipping and training other leaders, and so forth. Feeding the flock includes preaching and teaching of the Word of God, prayer, and making disciples. Ephesians 4:11-12 teaches that leaders in the church are to equip the saints for ministry. This means the pastor’s job is not to do all the ministry, but to equip and empower the body to minister.
When a church expects the pastor to do everything, they are actually ignoring Scripture. When the needs of providing food for widows and orphans grew too large and time consuming for the apostles (Acts 6), they appointed leaders to take their place so the ministry would continue and they could focus on the ministry of the Word and prayer.
Ironically, some churches fight this. While they heavily criticize unchurched people who ignore the Bible’s teaching and embrace what is culturally acceptable, they ignore the Bible’s teaching on pastoral roles and embrace what has become church-culturally acceptable—namely, the pastor is expected to do everything. You must teach your church the biblical role of pastors and lead them towards embracing it.
2. Equip the saints to do the work of ministry.
As you teach about the role of pastors and the participation of the saints in ministry, you must equip them for it. You cannot simply quit all the tasks you are doing. You must decide what can be delegated and what cannot, prioritize development and equipping, and then match people’s gifts to the tasks. A blueprint:
- Teach about the gifts. Lift up the importance of every member as a minister and ask them to step into ministry roles.
- Make a “stop doing” list. Identify the things you need to equip others to do so you can focus on feeding and leading the flock.
- Begin a “handing off” process. Find people who are gifted for tasks you need to delegate. Let them shadow you, then discuss what you are doing. Let them take lead while you shadow, while continuing to give feedback and coaching. Once confident they can do it, hand them the task with both the authority and responsibility of it. Lastly, remove it from you to-do list.
Not every church will make a quick transition. But pastors, you must transition. If not, you will exhaust yourself and neglect your most important work. You will stifle the church’s ability to grow and cap its reaching capacity. Give away all you can and reserve for yourself those things only you can do.
By prioritizing your “yes” you can better fulfill your calling. Both you and your church will be healthier and, in the long run, experience more spiritual growth.
Featured image credit, edited for size.