10 Key Shifts Intentional Pastors Make (to flourish in life and leadership)

leadership Apr 01, 2024

Meet John. He’s been laboring as a pastor for almost seven years. He has worked at a couple different churches but has run into the same roadblocks at both.

He’s starting to recognize that he needs to make some shifts in the way he operates as a pastor. He wants to lead and serve with more intentionality.

Here are 10 shifts that John can make (and you can make) to become a more intentional pastor (and flourish in life and leadership).

10 Key Shifts Intentional Pastors Make (to flourish in life and leadership)

  1. From controlling to coaching. Whether you have paid staff or you are strictly leading volunteers, things begin to change dramatically when you let go of control. But do this right. What do great coaches do? They make clear expectations for their team and then they coach them toward the win. A controlling leader is just a scared leader. But a leader who coaches is a leader who empowers more to be accomplished.

  2. From visionary to collaborator. If you’re the lead pastor, there is a sense of you being the person to point the team in the direction you sense Him leading the church. However, this is accomplished far better when you include others in the process. When your team can weigh in, they’ll have greater buy-in. It’s not all up to you. And what great news that is. You weren’t meant to carry all that weight. Let others in on the process.

  3. From people pleaser to leader of people. Let’s face it, it’s far more pleasant when everyone lives in harmony. But here’s the kicker: that’s a fantasy. When people are involved, things tend to get messy. And as a pastor, there will be times when you have to have a tough conversation. That’s what a leader does. Remember, if Moses let the people have what they wanted, they would have been dancing around a golden calf while they made their way back to slavery. God called you to faithfully serve and lead people. You take your direction from Him and you lead people toward Him. If you want to be a people pleaser, do something else but don’t do anything that has to do with leadership.

  4. From doing it all to using your gifts. Whether you have paid staff serving alongside you or not, doing it all isn’t a good strategy. In fact, it’s simply a recipe for ineffectiveness and, eventually, burnout. The beautiful biblical picture of the church is a body with many parts, working in concert to move as Christ commands. Maybe you’re a gifted teacher and encourager but you don’t possess any kind of gift in administration or organization. Friend, you shouldn’t be planning the next outreach event on your own. The Lord has provided your church the people and the gifts she needs to be healthy. You may just need to let go of your pride and start empowering others while leveraging your own gifts.

  5. From periodic prayer to practicing the presence of God. Maybe you grew up with the idea of a quiet time with the Lord instilled in you. That’s great. But one thing many of us miss is the beautiful reality that the Spirit of God is indwelling us at all times. Practicing the presence of God—both remaining aware that the Lord is with you and working alongside Him in all things—will help you increase your faith, increase your trust, and decrease your anxiety. We weren’t meant to follow Jesus alone. That’s true in our horizontal relationships with people. But that’s also true in our vertical relationship with the Spirit of God. He’s with us as we follow Christ and glorify the Father.

  6. From anxious to calm, aware, and present. What John is discovering and what you are either abundantly aware of or need to become aware of is that pastoring brings a lot of internal battles. The combination of spiritual warfare and leading people can create a stew of anxiety. Often, the emotional tools needed to lead well aren’t acquired outside of leading people. So it’s a learn-as-you-go endeavor.

    Case in point: reading The Pastor by Eugene Peterson in Bible College didn’t have as much effect on me as it is reading it today, twelve years into pastoral ministry. One person that has been instrumental in helping me in this area is Steve Cuss and his Capable Life membership program as well as his book, Managing Leadership Anxiety. Leading with a high level of anxiety isn’t ideal. But leading as a calm, aware, and present person is not only more effective, it’s more joyful.

  7. From cynicism and despair to Christ-centered realism and hope. If you lead long enough, eventually you’ll hit a wall. And it’s at that point that the drift toward cynicism and despair can increase. As a pastor who is leading real people, you’ll get hurt. You’ll see people you invested your heart in leave (sometimes without even telling you). You’ll see self-professing Christians be used as instruments of the devil. And that kind of thing can make cynicism an easy default. And if you stay cynical long enough, eventually you’ll fall into despair—you’ll see the future containing no possibility for better days. And when you’re cynical and despairing, watch out because you’ll be a prime candidate for Satan to take out.

    Instead, shift to Christ-centered realism and hope. Yes, be a realist. You know people struggle with sin. But you also know the power of God and that’s why you hope. Don’t close your eyes and just wish for things to change. Open your eyes and see what God is doing in your midst. 

  8. From living Sunday-to-Sunday to strategizing three to five years out. Week to week isn’t a strategy. It’s not even maintenance. Because even that requires some forward thinking. Intentional pastors don’t merely look at their week, they ask God for direction over longer stretches of time. They know that God wants to build His kingdom both now and into the future so that generations upon generations know Him. Think about this: what challenges are you facing today because the leaders twenty years earlier didn’t think ahead enough? Don’t do that to the people who will come after you.

  9. From new and shiny to patient and purposeful. Want to see a church that does a good burnout but doesn’t move anywhere? It’s a church led by leaders who have shiny object syndrome toward programs and ministry methodologies. Let’s see if this sounds familiar in regards to adult education: this year, they’re all about deep theology classes, last year they were all about small groups, and the year before that they were raving about Rooted classes.

    And what resulted? Three years of activity, promotion, and implementation with not much to show for it. With each new thing, their congregation’s buy-in decreased because they started to see that this won’t last. And they didn’t give any of the methods enough time to see much fruit. Intentional pastors shift to patient and purposeful. They decide on a model and move forward, realizing that ministry is a marathon. They’re willing to make changes, for sure. But they also realize that meaningful things take time to build and implement.

  10. From burning out to pursuing health. Intentional pastors aren’t merely intentional about their vocation, but they are intentional about their relationships, their inner world, their bodies, and their minds. And here’s what John began to discover as he made this shift: when he’s holistically healthy, he’s a better husband, father, friend, and… pastor. What changes do you need to make in order to pursue holistic health in your life?

Make the Shifts

You can decide today to begin intentionally making these shifts.

It all begins with a choice.

What will you choose?  

[Free Download] The Intentional Pastor's Roadmap

There's a reason 80-85% of churches are either plateaued or declining. One word: leadership. Or to be even more specific: a lack of leadership.

Too many pastors in too many churches are living Sunday to Sunday. They go an entire year without any distinct focus beyond making sure Sundays happen. 

And their leadership team? They provide minimal leadership help.

But that doesn't have to be your church's story.

In this Roadmap, I'm going to show you the path to lead with clarity and direction.

Click here to get your copy of The Intentional Pastor's Roadmap.

**This article contains affiliate links as part of the Amazon Associates Program which means if you click through and make a purchase I get a small commission. I only recommend products I love!**

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