Thriving as a Senior Church Leader

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Article by Mat Redding

What does it take to thrive as a senior church leader? We see so many leaders who seem so effective for a few years, but get burned out, fail morally or are broken by family breakdown. Leaders are not receiving ministry coaching and needed help. It’s by no means something which only affects the church. It is, however, something which can be largely avoided by precautionary and proactive measures, and building a lifestyle in which we can thrive in christian leadership, in both church or secular areas of ministry. Which principles, habits and boundaries do the most effective and well-balanced leaders have? Those who are successful at home as well as at work. The leaders who outlast their peers.

The first aspect to thrive in as a senior church leader is in one’s own spiritual walk. A good leader doesn’t merely lead by example, but by blazing a trail, taking new ground. More critically you can’t lead people where you haven’t been yourself. Inspiring leadership is pioneering in nature. Take the example of a guide – a good guide knows the land intimately, not just guiding by reading the map. To lead our people into revival we need to be experiencing and stewarding our own revival journey, breaking new ground which they have yet to walk, leading them there by paths, avoiding the pitfalls we have surveyed on their behalf.

Our home life is critical in our leadership capabilities, particularly in the sustainability of our work and ministry. If we place greater significance on ministry than on home or more emphasis on work relationships than on those in marriage and family then we will undermine the values we espouse, the foundations on which our life is built and ultimately the message we are called to embody and live.

A balanced lifestyle is the next building block. It sustains us and gives longevity to our ministry. Self-awareness is critical to this, knowing what makes us come alive mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually and relationally, and proactively planning our lives to ensure an appropriate balance. It’s so important to assess this over longer seasons than merely week by week. In a single week we might be highly unbalanced; this is not a failure of balance but an opportunity for redress over a longer period.

Similarly a balance needs to be struck inside our ministry work. We have a particular set of gifts, talents and attributes, but the jobs we need to do in ministry don’t always match up with these, especially when we start out in ministry. A long term goal should be to steer our work increasingly towards the things which feed us rather than drain us, towards work which is in line with our calling and the vision which God has put in our heart. At the same time there is an opportunity to empower others who feel called and gifted in the areas we are not, rather than ignoring or neglecting those areas in our ministry.

Our mentoring relationships are another critical piece of the puzzle, being aware of how we are inputting into new leaders: reproducing the skills, experience and passions we carry; actively developing and empowering them in leadership in areas beyond our own level or area of expertise; training them to disciple and train others. Additionally we need to actively pursue relationships in which we can gain wisdom from other leaders, and have them speak meaningfully into ours, to ensure that we put ourselves in a position of seeking counsel and to submit our decisions and conduct to others in a meaningful manner.

To learn more about this topic listen to the course ‘How to be a Thriving Senior Leader’ by Michael Brodeur on PastorsCoach.com

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