Three Common Mistakes Pastors Make

I was honored to discuss leadership on a panel at the Southern Baptist Pastors Conference with Greg Matte, Rodney Woo, and Jack Graham. People submitted questions beforehand, and one of the questions that Pastor Greg sent my way was “What are the most common mistakes pastors make?” Here are three:

1. NOT OFFERING CLARITY

Marcus Buckingham said, “Clarity is the preoccupation of the effective leader. If you do nothing else as a leader, be clear.” Wise church leaders clarify, guard, and preach the essentials over and over again.

Most importantly, pastors must be clear on the theology that serves as the foundation for the church. Without theological clarity, churches will drift from the faith that was delivered once and for all to the saints (Jude 3). Without continually reminding people of the gospel, a church will no longer stand on the strong foundation of the faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Or as D. A. Carson has stated, “To assume the gospel in one generation is to lose it in the next.”

Pastors must also be continually clear on the ministry philosophy and direction of the church. People long to have a direction painted for them, to see how all that the church does is built on the theology and philosophy of ministry that drives the church. Pastors who fail to offer directional clarity leave a massive vacuum of leadership. Consequently, others will step in with competing visions of what the church should be and do, and the church will move in a plethora of directions, unsure of who she really is.

2. UNDERESTIMATING THE POWER OF CULTURE

By culture, I am not referring to the ethnic or socio-economic mix in the church (though this is important too). I am referring to the shared values and beliefs that undergird all the church does. Peter Drucker is credited for famously saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He was not diminishing the importance of a wise strategy, but he was stating the overpowering strength of culture on an organization.

If a church leader attempts to implement a strategy without first addressing the culture, if the two are in conflict with one another, the strategy is doomed before it even launches. Culture will win. And while the doctrinal confession in a church is absolutely critical, if the culture is in conflict with the confession, the culture will trump the confession.

For example… A church has the doctrinal confession that all believers are priests and ministers because Jesus’ sacrificial death for us tore the veil of separation and His Spirit has empowered all believers. But that same church has a long-standing culture that the “real ministers” are the professional clergy—that whenever a need arises, it lands on a staff member’s plate. Thus, when a tragedy occurs or someone needs counseling, it is the culture that drives the behavior, not the doctrinal confession.

Wise church leaders will continually check the culture and, by God’s grace, seek to bring it into deep alignment with the theology and ministry philosophy of the church.

3. SWITCHING STRATEGIES TOO FREQUENTLY

Many churches never realize the full potential of their plans or strategies because they switch them too frequently. They abandon their direction for a new direction and confuse the people as to where the church is really headed. Switching strategies too frequently is really a symptom of not possessing or providing clarity and not having a culture that is deeply connected to the theology and philosophy of the church. Continually switching strategies will harm the overall effectiveness of the pastor’s leadership.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

jim mcfarland — 03/23/14 7:13 pm

I would also suggest Culture eats Strategy for lunch, dinner and the midnight snack! Unfortunately the emphasis on excellence and quality in ministry execution robs the Eph 4 priesthood of their God directed ministry because staff need to show a competitive product come Sunday. That's what we hired them for and if the unpaid staff fall short, fall off or fall flat, well...ya get what ya pay for!

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What happens when u dont have a meeting place any more. And u was forced out because the buliding wasnt available any more.
 
— Debra
 
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 

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