I am not AT ALL an expert on the pastorate. I have been in full-time vocational ministry for seventeen years and have been a lead pastor for four of those. I write this knowing that I have just begun to scratch the surface of what it means to be an effective pastor.
Please don’t read this as me being arrogant or having an “I have arrived” spirit. I have found that when something is fresh on your mind get it out there. I have a ton of fresh lessons I have learned, and many more coming as I serve God and His church.
Here are four:
1. Learn Names
Pastors are in the business of leading people. We are called to shepherd people’s heart toward the Worship of God, toward Growing in his/her understanding of God and His mission, and to see them Go and take the truth of God to the world. When people know you care for them leading them is smoother. Knowing names is a great start. I served on a church staff in Missouri and I would watch the pastor walk through the hallways of the church, calling people by name. At lunch one day he humbly boasted that he had memorized 3000 names! That said a lot about how much he cared for the church, and how he desired to be the best pastor he could be.
2. Walk Through The Room Slowly
Surprise!! This is not an original thought. I have heard pastors say this on numerous occasions. Now that I am a pastor, the importance of this has never been truer. If you pastor a larger church the interaction you have with a good portion of your church is limited to mostly Sunday morning. Being early and leaving late gives you an opportunity to engage more people in the church. It can go along way as you lead. People remember a handshake and a hug as much as they remember distance and unavailability. Make yourself available.
3. Go To The Balcony
One Sunday morning I was walking through the sanctuary before service started and I decided I would go to the balcony to talk with people there. The next day I had several emails from church members thanking me for doing that. One person commented, that in all the years she has attended our church she had never known a pastor to do that. The point isn’t to brag, but to encourage you to go to back rows or balcony and meet people. Believe it or not, it helps to gain trust and allows for more effective leading.
People need to know their pastor is praying for them. We are spiritual leaders before we are anything else. If people know anything about you, make sure they know that you pray for them. I send out letters to people every month giving them the day and time I will be praying for them. I ask them to email me with specific prayer needs. Some do not respond but most do. Most are overwhelmed by the fact that their pastor would set aside a specific time to pray just for them. Their surprise is sad and alarming. Pastor, if you are not praying for the people you lead then you are missing a big part of what it means to be a spiritual leader.
I am aware that context matters. I am not suggesting that the above points are the only ways a pastor can engage the people he pastors and leads. The bigger point here is to not forget that you are a pastor and not a distant super star that thinks he is too busy or big to talk with people. Remember, other pastors may think you are a big deal, but to the people who attend the church you serve, you are just their pastor.