You have probably heard it said before, “Leaders are readers.” This catchy leadership principle comes from Harry Truman who said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” If you want to be a good leader, than you better start learning how to be a good reader. Reading is essential to effective leadership. I believe everyone who finds themselves in a leadership position knows that, but the question many of us ask is what does it look like to be a good reader? How does a leader become a good reader? What kind of books should I read? How often should I read? These are all great questions and worthy of discussion, but I want to offer up a few thoughts on how leaders can become good readers.
These thoughts will be directed towards those in leadership within local church ministry, but are applicable to anyone in a leadership position outside the local church as well.
Read broad. If your going to be a leader who is a good reader than you must learn to read broad. What I mean by this is don’t get into the rut of reading one type of book or books on one subject. For example, I am a student pastor. It’s easy for me to only read books about student ministry. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To be an effective student pastor I need to read good student ministry books, but that’s should not be the only thing I read. I need to read books on theology, leadership, church ministry, and books that are not even Christian or church related at all! Whatever leadership position you find yourself in, read beyond that specialization. You want to be a well-rounded leader, and to do that you need to be a well-rounded reader. A particular note to others in Christian leadership is needed here. As Christian leader’s, we often only read “Christian books.” But this isn’t always a good thing. Some of the best leadership books, and books in general, are not “Christian.” Read them, but filter what you read through God’s revealed Word. At the end of the day, Scripture is the best leadership manual, so filter what you read through it.
Have a plan. Reading takes time and if you don’t intentionally plan to read you probably won’t. If your going to be a leader who is a good reader than you need to have a plan. If there was a perfect reading plan out there I’d share it with you, but there isn’t. Everyone’s plan will look different and will be based on personal interest and fields of leadership. However, Mike Calhoun shares some of the best information I have ever read on creating a personal reading plan in this blog. In that blog, Mike talks about creating a reading plan that is based on your interest and desired field of learning. I am in the middle of creating my own personal reading plan and would encourage you to do the same. Also, just having a list of books to read over a set time, such as a year or six months, is a good place to start. As an example, check out my friend Josh Evan’s book list for what he is planning on reading this year in this recent blog post.
Read consistently. After you have a personal reading plan, commit to reading consistently. To be a leader who is a good reader it’s not enough to read broad and have a plan, you must commit to reading consistently. I’d suggest reading daily. Have a certain amount of time each day that you set aside to read. It doesn’t have to be a long time, but enough time to read a few pages. If you only read a few pages a day, everyday, you will be surprised at how many books you will make it through. I had a friend in college who read everyday for thirty minutes. It was incredible how many books he would get through by just reading thirty minutes everyday.
Engage with others about what your reading. As a leader, don’t keep what you read to yourself. Engage with other leaders about what you are learning through in your own reading. One of the ways I do this is through my blog. I regularly post book reviews of the books I read. However you do it, make sure to engage with others about what your reading. This will help you think through and digest what you are reading. A good idea might be to read a book along with another leader so you can discuss it as you read it.
These are just some thoughts about how to be a leader who is a good reader. I want to continue to become a better leader through the discipline of good reading. What are some thoughts you would share with other leaders about how to be a good reader?
Gone are the days when a senior pastor is looked at as the “one man show.” There are some churches still operating in that system and the senior pastor does everything, but most of those churches are not growing and the senior pastor is left with the weight of the ministry on his shoulders.
Today churches are embracing a much-needed philosophical change of ministry called team leadership. Churches are embracing leadership models that are defined by words such as “team” and “teamwork.” In his book, Advanced Strategic Planning, Aubrey Malphurs says, “Excellent leaders understand that they can accomplish far more through the wisdom of a gifted and committed strategic team of staff and lay leaders.” The pastor is no longer the “one man show,” but is the lead pastors among other gifted and well-trained leaders.
Some Christians and church goers don’t like this model because it may seem to “corporate” or like a “business” model. But before you make that assumption and write off churches that operate with this team leadership philosophy, take a look at some examples of this team leadership in Scripture. Yes, this idea of team leadership is clearly seen in Scripture.
Moses took the advice of Jethro and formed a team to work with him (Exodus 18:24-26). Jethro saw that Moses couldn’t handle his wilderness ministry on his own. He needed help and he needed a team. You can read about the situation Moses was in and the advice of Jethro in verses 1-23. Moses followed Jethro’s advice and formed a team of able men to help him carry the load of his ministry.
Jesus recruited a team of disciples to be with Him and minister alongside Him (Mark 3:13-14). The fact that Jesus operated with a team leadership philosophy should be enough to motivate you to do the same! In Mark 3:13-14 we see Jesus chose twelve men He could be with and could send out to do His ministry.
Paul understood the significance of a team as he led and ministered through numerous teams (Acts 11:22-30). As you read this passage in Acts, and many other passages as well, it is evident that Paul understood the effectiveness of doing ministry as a team. Because he equipped other leaders to share the load of ministry, he was able to reach more people with the Gospel and minister to many more churches than he could have if he was in it alone.
Please don’t dismiss team leadership because the church has neglected it for so long. This idea if seen in the pages of Scripture. Churches can do more with they are led by a gifted team of staff and lay leaders. God wants to do great things through us and we can accomplish more for His Kingdom if we operate as a team.
Most of the content in this post came from Aubrey Malphurs book “Advanced Strategic Planning.” I would encourage you to check out this book and get a better understanding of team leadership, particularly about how to strategically plan as a team.
Realize you’re on a team. Upgrade your interpersonal skills. You will need to learn how to deal with disagreements and conflict in a healthy manner. Read up on this stuff and don’t assume that you’re great at it.
Learn your place. Be quiet in staff meetings. Spend the first 6 months – 1 year listening. Do not go into ministry thinking that previous programs or successes will transfer to a larger church. Each church has their own personality. Keep quiet about past successes. No one wants to hear about what awesome thing you did last year. They want you to lead in your current condition. This transfers over to staff meetings too. Spend time listening.
Develop a thicker skin. Get ready for input from your team leaders. Be ready for performance reviews. If you do not have thick skin, then get ready for your feelings to be hurt. In larger situations, you’ll have more people who evaluate your ministry and give constructive criticism. Just because a leader sees an area that needs improvement doesn’t mean that they don’t like you. They aren’t out to get you either.
Know you’re place. Communicate directly with your supervisor. If he/she says no, don’t go above his head. Respect the chain of command. Be ready to explain your ideas. Know how what you want to do fits into your current system. Larger churches do not like to do something just for the sake of doing it. Your leader WILL tell you no at some point. When that happens about an idea that you’re passionate about, do not go over their head. This will destroy trust and make you look like a brat.
Be ready to plan ahead. Larger churches like stability. That means you need to start planning out programs and events 6 months – 1 year in advance. Long gone are the days where you can plan a month or two out. You’ll need to know what you’re preaching on, what your small groups are learning, and any events that you’re planning (as well as prices of those events) well in advance. The further you plan out the better you’ll look and less parents will complain.
Get ready for detailed budget planning. Save your receipts and be ready to deal with a financial team. The financial team will have certain requirements of you. You’ll need to keep receipts, put them into budget categories, and prepare statements. Spend wisely and record with a passion.
Get to know the entire staff. Make time to make friends. Staff interaction is VERY important. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but you need to be social with the rest of the team. Those friendships will be important. If you keep to yourself, you’ll look arrogant.
Build a strong volunteer base. Your job is now about building and equipping leaders to do ministry. Delegate. Train. Let go. If you make yourself essential in any area other than leadership, you’ve failed.
Learn the DNA of the church. Don’t create your own mission/vision statements. Adapt the church’s mission and vision for students. This is my personal opinion, but the last thing you want is to segregate yourself from the larger church. Show your leaders and your team that you walk in step with the vision and mission of the leadership.
Familiarize yourself with other ministries. Be ready to answer general questions about ministries you don’t lead. It never fails, someone someplace will ask you about another ministry. Be prepared to give an answer and then direct the person appropriately. If you do not take the time to know what everyone else on your team is doing, you’ll appear as if you don’t care.
Get ready for Executive Pastors. These men and women oversee the administrative duties of the Senior Pastor. They are important people to know and have good relationships with.
Learn to create systems for handling issues instead of dealing them as they come up. Be ready for hotel situations, volunteer expectations, payment plans, benevolence requests, etc. You need to think through this stuff. You need to project and be consistent.
Look at yourself as a “senior pastor” of the youth group instead of a youth pastor. Doing ministry in a larger group context means you won’t have your hands on everything. You’ll also need to learn how to counsel students and parents.
Become an expert at communication. Send bi-monthly volunteer emails (mailchimp.com), get a professional texting service (tatango.com), and publish 3 month calendar (with events, prices, and info).
Be careful what and how you post. Do not post ANYTHING on Facebook/Twitter about politics, arguments, the church, ministry staff, or anything that should stay in your head. Do not respond on Facebook/Twitter to anything students say or do that is questionable. That’s something you should handle in private.
This guest post was written by Nick Farr. Nick is a co-manger of YouthMin.org and website that connects everyday youth pastors. He’s also an Associate Pastor at East Ridge Church. He has been doing freelance graphic/web design for 17 years and provides services at a reasonable price for churches at http://www.nickfarr.me . I asked Nick to write this post because I just came on staff at Christ Community Chapel, a large, multi-site church in Northeast Ohio. I hope this post helps others coming on staff at large churches.
I was a critical Rookie Pastor. Particularly in my first year. Everyone was wrong, no one was listening to me and if they knew what was good for them they should. Then rather abruptly I was given explicit freedom to do it my way and I froze. All that talk was just that, talk. What I was once advocating I couldn’t pull the trigger on. My age wasn’t a liability until I wanted it to be. When others pronounced my age as a liability I fought it with cynicism and a critical spirit.
Don’t fall into this trap.
The temptation is to lead out of your place. We look up and criticize not knowing what it is like to have that responsibility. Our vision is limited to our specific area of concern while those above us, whether they be another pastor or elder, are concerned with the totality of the community. You have to acknowledge your limitations, as difficult as this may be. When the time comes when you do feel freed up to implement the change or shift philosophies own this leadership, you do nothing. Leadership has nothing to do with titles or position or age and everything to do with action. Leaders do. It doesn’t matter how old you are or how much you get paid, it is what you do that matters.
Fear or insecurity will come at you hard while you are stepping into this new leadership opportunity. You’ll also have an opportunity to use your inexperience as an excuse. The fear will tell you that you don’t know what you are doing and that mistakes will be made. The fear is right but that shouldn’t stop you. Get over this pursuit of perfection. No one changes anything by trying to be perfect. Things change when leaders are faithful. Stop waiting on permission or using the lack of it as an excuse for inaction. Quit undermining those above you just because you don’t understand their responsibility. Don’t hesitate and hide behind your inexperience when you should be leading.
This guest post was written by Josh Tandy. Josh has a great blog called Rookie Pastor that is a great resource for young leaders. I encourage you to check his site out and read more of his content there. Also, follow Josh and Rookie Pastor on twitter @Josh_Tandy and @rookiepastor.