Go ahead and buy that gym membership. Make a New Year’s resolution to lose that weight. But until you actually get off the couch, you will not get into shape.
Growth as a pastor works much the same way. Even with the best of intentions, without a strategic plan, progress won’t occur. Spiritual growth, even for pastors, is not automatic. You must be intentional.
If you want to grow as a pastor, I suggest that you commit to a structured program. Formal education can provide this. Accountability to a book club or study group also works. Decide today to read something every day. Commit to be a life-long learner.
Pastor, listen: If you’re not a lifelong learner, you’re stuck and so are your followers. Stuck is not an option. Recently, I tweeted this: “A leader is only a leader if the group they are leading moves forward. Otherwise, they are a maintainer or a retreater.”
The key is, you must decide that your personal growth is a priority. Otherwise, something will get in the way and distract you, and the group that you lead will suffer. One day turns into a week, which turns into a year. Before long, you realize stagnation and frustration due to a lack of growth.
Decide now to grow as a pastor by being intentional about your growth.
Depending on your personality, you either love or you loathe challenges. Opposition, resistance, push back—whatever you want to call it—having someone not cooperate with your leadership is a pain in the backside of every pastor I know. Add to that the pressure of family and relationships, lack of funds and time, and an overall sense of slow or no progress, and we have concocted a great recipe for frustration and lack of growth.
Here is an important truth about growth: you cannot grow as a pastor without challenges. I heard Malcolm Gladwell say, “Our obstacles and our weaknesses are the opportunities for our greatest achievements.”
Here’s how it works—you face a problem and learn how to navigate through and overcome it. You learn that lesson so that the next time you face a difficult season, you have know-how that you can apply. Each obstacle overcome is not only a victory now, it is preparation for another victory down the road. When we sidestep a challenge, we also miss a great opportunity to advance our leadership skills.
My advice to you is, embrace the challenges. Face them head-on. Come to expect them and anticipate your response ahead of time. Stop waiting for that day when everything works in your favor; it is not logical to expect life, especially leadership, to be easy. If you take hold of your next challenge and control it rather than it controlling you, the results will be much more favorable.
And once you have mastered challenges, you will grow as a leader.
The Apostle Paul accepted the challenge of going into Jerusalem in Acts 20:22-24, assured that it was, at best, a risky move. Peter risked drowning when he stepped out of the boat to attempt water-walking (Matthew 14:22-33). Moses laid it all on the line when he decided to go to Pharaoh to demand the release of God’s children from bondage (Exodus 3-12). The result of these life-endangering risks? God came through and leadership growth occurred!
By its very nature, pastoring is risky business, but many leaders have an aversion to risk. It seems like a gamble. We may appear irresponsible. We are not assured of the outcome. And let’s face it; if we take the wrong risk with our churches—and fail—we may lose everything, including our jobs.
Here is a lesson that I hope we all learn from the example of someone else: Fear based leadership, or trying to avoid getting fired, will get you fired.
I can hear you saying, “But pastors are supposed to be stable!” That’s true, but stability that has stopped taking risks has become stagnation. Fear of a mistake can cause leadership paralysis. George Canning said, “Indecision and delays are the parents of failure.”
Fear that causes you to pause too long can result in defeat. Learn to take healthy risks. When you do, growth will occur.