St. Monica: Recent Past - A Hopeful Future (Leadership, Part 1)

I recently attended a webinar on church and parish leadership. John Lindell was the moderator. John is the Lead Pastor of James River Church in Springfield, Missouri. John has watched hundreds of pastors and other church leaders. They struggle with their churches, their congregations, their parishioners and their own lives. To help, John joined with Dick Hardy to found Leaders.Church. This resource is aimed at pastors and church leaders. John and Dick hope to, first, help pastors to lead better lives. With that in place, pastors can then lead to better churches.

Much of what John has provided relates to the articles that I have written over the past few weeks. Go to his website. You will see that John provides a high-level summary of what we’ve been trying to do from a leadership perspective at St. Monica.

John discusses several “secrets” that he passes on to pastors to be effective church leaders. The first “secret” is the “Law of the Mirror” or the “Leadership Lid.” A church or parish is only as good as the man/woman leading it. A church reflects the pastor, the pastor’s vision, and the pastor’s direction. It reflects the pastor’s fears and the pastor’s mindset. A pastor/leader must have the humility to look into the mirror and have an honest evaluation of what he/she sees. If they don’t do this, they will blame others and look for outside solutions. The problem is that the issue is an “internal” issue. As a result, the church will see minimal results and little fruit.

The pastor needs to change first. This is where a trusted team of parish leaders can be valuable. People wonder how Billy Graham was such an effective pastor for so many years without a hint of scandal. Graham had a core team around him. He met with them regularly. They held him accountable. He followed their advice.

The Second Secret is to focus on what you CAN change. Pastors/leaders need to start with themselves. Where can a pastor/leader devote time, effort, and energy to get the best results? Afterward, you can examine what the church/parish can change. A pastor/leader who models this also encourages an ownership mindset throughout the church/parish.

The Third Secret is “A glass can only spill what it contains.” “Nemo dat, quod non habet,” or, “You cannot give what you do not have.” Leaders/pastors need to steward themselves. If they don’t get this right, they’ll burn out and see few results. They will overtax the people around them who are trying to help them and the church/parish. Do this and you’ll have fun. You’ll be healthy. Pastors/leaders need to give themselves permission to fill the glass.”

The Fourth Secret is Pareto’s Principle or the 80-20 Rule. Where should a pastor/leader be investing their time? Where should they NOT be investing their time? What can a pastor/leader do with their time and workload that can leverage better results? This is the “sharpening the ax principle.” If you have a lot of trees to cut down, don’t just hack away. Spend more time sharpening the ax. Lindell says to ask, “What are the specific areas of challenge in my church/parish?” Ask the Leadership Team. Ask trusted parishioners. They’ll be honest. Then discuss the question, “What small (20%) high-leverage steps can I take to get big (80%) results?” “What results are the most important right now for me, you, and the church?” Delegate! Can someone else do something that you’re doing now? What areas should you focus on where your investment of time and effort will have a greater return?

Above I mentioned Billy Graham and his “accountability team.” This approach also was seen in the Catholic Church. St. Charles Borromeo had several priests around him who fulfilled the same task. St Charles’ family motto was “Humilitas.” This is the John Lindell’s Fifth Secret. Humility is difficult for some pastors/leaders. They find it hard to admit that they don’t know what they don’t know. Pastors need to have an openness to learning. If they don’t know something, how can they find it out? (See Secret #4 above). Other pastors, leaders, churches, and parishes can provide experience and guidance. As Lindell says, “You are not the first pastor/leader to experience this. Are you seeking what works and is proven or are you following your own ideas? If you don’t get this right, you won’t see fruit. You will become discouraged.”


Next week we will continue the discussion on Parish Leadership. We will also outline how St. Monica is implementing some of the suggestions mentioned above.



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