Your body needs regular exercise to stay in shape. Your mind needs to be stretched and challenged to stay sharp. For leaders to grow, regular workouts are necessary. Pastors lead within a dynamic environment—the church. You may not think of your church as “dynamic,” but it is. A church of fifty people means at least fifty opinions exist on any given decision. Even the most entrenched congregations provide ample opportunities for leadership exercises. The church may not want to change, but you can still change and grow as a leader.
Some daily exercises are obvious, and they are often repeated in books and conferences: Read more, stick to a devotional time, get better sleep, organize your day, and keep a structured calendar. These tips work, but they are not specifically focused on leadership. What are some daily leadership activities that will strengthen your abilities?
- Ask more questions. Dig deeper. When you are talking with church members, don’t assume you know. Ask them to explain a little more. Show a genuine interest in the perspective of others. Often people don’t reveal what they really think until they trust you. It’s hard to build trust when you’re talking all the time. Stop talking. Listen. And when you’re itching to provide your insight, don’t. Ask another question. It’s a great leadership exercise.
- Hit pause before reacting viscerally. Guess what? People in your church will challenge your leadership, your decisions, your vision, your abilities, and even your motives. Leaders are targets because they are front and center. You will make yourself a bigger target when you react viscerally to complaints. The barbs will become more numerous and larger when you pop off every time someone says something less than complimentary. Bite your tongue. Close your mouth, take a deep breath, and think about a funny scene in a movie. It’s just a flesh wound. Visceral reactions rarely produce anything positive. Exercise your pause button. It’s one of the least utilized leadership tools.
- Use a different lens of leadership. Leaders tend to rely on one or two lenses of leadership. We view the church through the lens of power—who has it and who doesn’t? Or we might rely on the lens of inspiration—how can I rally people to a common goal? Or maybe it’s structure—what is the best way to organize this ministry? But there are many other lenses as well. For one, symbols are important. There’s a reason people react to the American flag being burned. It’s a powerful symbol. Your church has these symbols: pulpits, crosses, pews, quilts, plaques, gardens, and parlors. Try to use different leadership lenses often. Take the view of power, then inspiration, then structure, and then symbol. The exercise of different perspectives will grow your leadership.
- Rely on wisdom, not traits. Whenever you hear about “great pastors,” people often gravitate towards their traits. Keller has an intellectual mind. MacArthur has conviction. Chandler has charisma. Warren has strategic insight. Osteen has charm and a gleaming smile. Furtick has energy and muscles. Proverbs 4 says, “Get wisdom,” not “Get another pastor’s traits.” James 1 says God gives wisdom, not traits. Stop working towards someone else’s traits and instead exercise your own daily wisdom from God’s Word.
Much like working out or reading regularly, one day’s practice with these exercises will not make much of a difference. But do these leadership exercises regularly, and you will grow as a leader.