12 “How To’s” Pastors Wish Someone Had Taught Them

"I’ve taught seminary students now for 26 years, and I’ve worked with hundreds of graduates in doctoral programs or local church events. I always want to know what leadership issues pastors wish someone had taught them. Here are twelve I hear often" - Chuck Lawless

1067 reads

There are 22 Comments

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

This is an excellent list, and I'm so encouraged to see that someone involved directly in pastoral training is getting this info. At least 8 of these were things I thought "I wish I had learned more about..." in my first couple years of ministry as a pastor.

Some of these require that profs/schools exert a good bit of energy to recruit guest teachers who are active in ministry. The nuts and bolts are so much more real from guys are are in the arena (pardon the mixed metaphor...  "in the garage"? lol)  A class or two should include a guest series with small groups and Q & A. Panel discussions could help also, again keeping it small and conversational. Along with the experienced pastors doing the speaking, maybe bring in a couple of newish pastors to be in the audience--to seed the discussion and, again, make it more real.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

T Howard's picture

Quote:
6. How to develop and cast a vision – Knowing the importance of a vision is not the same as knowing how to develop and cast one. Too many visions go nowhere simply because the leader is a poor, untrained vision-caster.

I'd love to know when "vision casting" became a thing for churches and why churches feel it is the responsibility of one guy in the church to figure out what God wants the church to do. Sorry, I just don't see "vision casting" anywhere in the NT as a criteria for church leadership or church health.

Don Johnson's picture

What is that exactly? Why is it needed?

 

the rest of the list is good, though, I'm still waiting to be big enough to have a staff person to fire!

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I'm not sure when the buzzword became a thing, but all it really means is long-term goals and long-term plans, kind of with the connotation of pulling them all together into one big picture.

There are some good reasons to do it... avoiding stagnation being one of them. There can be sort of a fine line between stagnation and faithfulness. They can look the same, because we're not really in control of outcomes. But there are important differences too. I wish I had been better at it... In other contexts I still wish I was better at it. 

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

T Howard's picture

Aaron,

If vision casting is just long-term planning, why then is it the responsibility / prerogative of the senior pastor instead of the elder board to come up with the long-term plan for the church?

Why do guys call themselves "vision casters"? They have the spiritual gift of long-term planning?

Hmmm. 

T Howard's picture

This TGC article leaves me scratching my head for multiple reasons, but it's all about vision-casting, written by a "pastor of preaching and vision."

Honestly, the discussion about church "vision-casting" reminds me about all the jargon and buzzwords in my industry like AI, machine learning, deep learning, etc. At the end of the day, you're doing statistical modeling.

Having a 5-year or 10-year plan for your church doesn't make you a "vision-caster," even though that is the sexy title pastors apparently want.

G. N. Barkman's picture

Sounds like the latest fad.  I think we need to discard every fad and stick to Bible terminology and practice.

G. N. Barkman

Dave White's picture

G. N. Barkman wrote:

Sounds like the latest fad.  I think we need to discard every fad and stick to Bible terminology and practice.

  • "Vision Casting" is a business buzz-phrase of recent origin. See Vision Casting in Business: A Skill of Great Leaders And this example: "Personal computers are going to change the world. They will transform how we work, educate, and entertain ourselves. Therefore, we get to take the lead in changing the world. And to do that, we get to Be Different." Steve Jobs
  • For the church - the vision has been cast! (Matthew 28:18-19)
  • What is needed is strategic planning AND tactical planning: Helpful article: Strategy Vs. Tactics: The Main Difference & How to Track Progress Of Both
  • Planning is done with people ... in groups!
Larry's picture

Moderator

This TGC article(link is external) leaves me scratching my head for multiple reasons, but it's all about vision-casting, written by a "pastor of preaching and vision."

What are some of the reasons you dislike the article?

Vision casting is a buzzword for sure, but it is hard as of yet for me to understand the angst here. Doesn't someone need to set the pace, pick the programs or events or Bible studies or what initiatives a church is going to do? Even if it is as simple as picking the passages the preach, the topics for small groups, the idea of attending prayer meetings, or some such, there is a vision that has to be communicated so people know what is going on and why. 

I can be as much a curmudgeon as any but this seems to me a tempest in a teapot, at least as far the word "vision casting" goes.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The article has 1 point about "vision casting."

Guys, this is not a new term. People have been using it for more than two decades (it took less than a minute to find this: https://www.worldcat.org/title/developing-a-vision-casting-statement-by-... )  probably more than three decades.

It is a business term, but it's just a way of saying long term planning tied to an ambitious idea of what we can achieve.

In business there are lots of fads. What happens, though, is that the best ideas cycle under different names. They keep coming back with fresh terminology. It's OK. A good idea is a good idea even when it has a shiny new shirt on.  (maybe "shiny new shoes" works better! Biggrin )

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Don Johnson's picture

The article had a lot of good points, but the reason I took issue with this one point is that I *hate* buzzwords and fads. They really have no place in church life. They often come out of the corporate world and are almost as useless there as they become in churches. 
 

besides, the thesis is "things I wish I'd learned in seminary". How do you actually teach "vision-casting," whatever that is?

it is the one point that doesn't belong on his list. Hence the reaction here

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Larry's picture

Moderator

How do you actually teach "vision-casting,"

By talking about the mission Christ gave us and explaining to people what that should look like your church and community and what part they should play in it. 

I am not a fan of the buzzword but the idea is really solid. If people don't know what it is supposed to be and how to get there and what part they should play in getting there, they likely won't do it.

Don Johnson's picture

Larry wrote:

How do you actually teach "vision-casting,"

By talking about the mission Christ gave us and explaining to people what that should look like your church and community and what part they should play in it. 

Ok, but in the article Kevin Miller sent us to above, Mission isn't vision, it's duty. Vision is something different (and more noble, of course).

Colour me sceptical

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

T Howard's picture

1. It's often a buzzword that a wanna-be hip pastor likes to use to "spiritualize his strategies and blackmail followers into supporting his entrepreneurialism." I've seen this take place numerous times, and it inevitably leads to spiritual abuse.

2. The vision for God's church is not the prerogative of one man. Unless you believe in modern-day apostles and prophets who receive divine insight and mediate God's Word to His people, the vision for the local church should be the responsibility of the elder plurality and not just the "pastor of preaching and vision." 

And, this statement---

Quote:
There is a sense in which it is true that if all you’re giving your people is mission, than all you’re giving them is law.  If you give them vision, you’re giving them gospel, the good news about what we or our church will become.

---is pure nonsense.

T Howard's picture

If you went to business school or worked in any management position for at least 2 years, you'd learn #1, #2, #3, #5, #8, #9, and #11. Learning how to prioritize and manage your time--something you should have already learned in college / seminary---would solve #4 and #10.

As for #12, you don't need to learn how to know when it's time to leave. You need to learn how to be faithful in a difficult ministry context. Too many pastors jump ship when their "vision" gets questioned or challenged. Too many pastors jump ship when they encounter opposition to their leadership or experience hurt in ministry. You want people to respect and follow your leadership? Learn how to be faithful (1 Cor 4:1-2).

Don Johnson's picture

T Howard wrote:

If you went to business school or worked in any management position for at least 2 years, you'd learn #1, #2, #3, #5, #8, #9, and #11. Learning how to prioritize and manage your time--something you should have already learned in college / seminary---would solve #4 and #10.

In defense of the author, though, those things you say one learns at a business school or in management are precisely those things mostly left out of seminary training. I've often thought things like these ought to be taught (somehow) in seminary. In my day, we didn't get this stuff and mostly didn't get much instruction on where to dig it up. It was more learn on the job, and rely on experience outside of seminary, to pick any of it up.

I'm also not so sure prioritizing and time-management are learned by college/seminary graduates by the time they graduate ... though that is probably not the fault of the college/seminary. At least, certainly not by all...

Speaking of time management, I better get back to what I am supposed to be doing!

 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

T Howard's picture

Don,

Seminaries can't be all things to all people. Let's say a seminary does want to add more business-related classes for their students to help combat this list. Which theological / biblical language classes do they cut to make that happen? Many seminaries are already reducing or eliminating their biblical language requirements.

No, my perspective has been and continues to be that if a young man feels called to pastoral ministry, he needs to skip the undergrad bible degree and get a marketable degree (e.g. business, education, engineering, humanities, etc.). He can then attend seminary to get the theological / biblical languages training he needs for pastoral ministry. The undergrad degree, however, will provide a good set of basic tools he can use in service to ministry.

There are some guys who believe their theological degree automatically makes them experts in non-profit accounting and tax law, in HR-related matters, in people leadership, or in counseling. It doesn't. If they don't have resources within their own congregation to help them in these areas, they need to outsource this to other organizations who have expertise in these areas.

As a first step, I would get the church a subscription to resources like Church Law & Tax or reach out to Stewardship Services Foundation. If you have additional questions, find a good non-profit tax attorney or CPA in your area. The money spent with these individuals is a good investment. A couple of the churches I attended in the past believed they could figure out all the tax / accounting issues in-house, and the pastor refused to spend God's money on getting legal and tax advice. As a result, all the f/t associate pastors were given 1099s and treated like independent contractors, and the pastor claimed 100% of his salary as housing allowance. Good luck with that.

As for learning about people management and leadership, I would recommend sitting down with anyone in your congregation who is or was a company executive or people manager. They can usually help you with hiring / firing / hr issues and questions, leading a meeting, and budgeting. Again, the problem I've seen is that a young pastor will come into a congregation and feel he has to prove he is a strong leader. This usually results in being too insecure or proud to admit he needs help or has a weakness in these areas.

One young pastor I know came into his new church and within a few years complained that people weren't following his leadership and left. In speaking with a few of the congregants who happened to be retired company executives, they said the young pastor repeatedly made the same leadership mistakes in how he led the congregation through changes he wanted to implement. When they would go to him and speak to him about his leadership, he was dismissive and accused them of being unwilling to submit.

So, in my mind, it's less about what pastors wished someone had taught them and more about what pastors are willing and humble enough to learn from others.

Larry's picture

Moderator

1. It's often a buzzword that a wanna-be hip pastor likes to use

Often but not always and it doesn't have to be. I am not a fan of buzzwords and prefer not to use them but if a church doesn't know what to do, someone is failing aren't they? I wonder if we too often get angst-y over words and miss the bigger picture. Even if the "vision" is "Let's keep doing what we have done for the past hundred years," it needs to be communicated effectively and consistently or people will forget or misunderstand or try to change because they don't know what the vision is. I can't help but think a lot of churches lost their moorings theologically and philosophically because the vision was not communicated. As a result, the people didn't know the whys and wherefores and started drifting.

2. The vision for God's church is not the prerogative of one man.

It probably is rarely the vision of one man. But God has called one man to lead in many cases, even if there is an elder plurality. All of the talk of elder plurality has always struck me as a little odd. No matter how "plural" you are, the guy who speaks the most is going to be the leader. Even if a church claims equal elders, one will always be a little more equal than another. It's the nature of being an overseer. But even at that, it is probably typical that one person will raise an issue and others will come on board. Then one guy will take responsibility to communicate it. I don't see the biblical basis for objecting to one man doing that.

T Howard's picture

Larry wrote:

1. It's often a buzzword that a wanna-be hip pastor likes to use

Often but not always and it doesn't have to be. I am not a fan of buzzwords and prefer not to use them but if a church doesn't know what to do, someone is failing aren't they? I wonder if we too often get angst-y over words and miss the bigger picture. Even if the "vision" is "Let's keep doing what we have done for the past hundred years," it needs to be communicated effectively and consistently or people will forget or misunderstand or try to change because they don't know what the vision is. I can't help but think a lot of churches lost their moorings theologically and philosophically because the vision was not communicated. As a result, the people didn't know the whys and wherefores and started drifting.

I think you're confusing vision and mission here. The mission of the church should never change if its properly rooted in Scripture. It sets forward what the church does, how it does it, and, sometimes, why it does it. The vision statement describes the future-facing goals and ambitions of your church. The vision statement can change depending on internal or external factors. Adherence to the mission statement is what keeps the church from scope creep or losing its mooring.

Larry wrote:

2. The vision for God's church is not the prerogative of one man.

It probably is rarely the vision of one man. But God has called one man to lead in many cases, even if there is an elder plurality. All of the talk of elder plurality has always struck me as a little odd. No matter how "plural" you are, the guy who speaks the most is going to be the leader. Even if a church claims equal elders, one will always be a little more equal than another. It's the nature of being an overseer. But even at that, it is probably typical that one person will raise an issue and others will come on board. Then one guy will take responsibility to communicate it. I don't see the biblical basis for objecting to one man doing that.

Here is where I would disagree. God has not called just one man to lead the church if he is operating within a biblical plurality. All the elders are called to lead the church. However, for a variety of reasons, many elders within the plurality abdicate their responsibility to lead and are content to establish a ceo / board of advisors model. Biblical elders are not advisors to the "senior pastor"; they are pastors themselves who share equal authority and responsibility to lead God's church.

That said, there is functional, gift-based diversity within the eldership team. Not all elders are equal in giftedness, effectiveness, influence, time availability, experience, verbal skills, leadership ability, or biblical knowledge. Those who are gifted, trained, and experienced in a certain area will naturally stand out among the other elders.

Of course, the teaching elder (or the guy who does most of the preaching) will be seen as having the most influence over the congregation, but that doesn't mean he is the only elder with the prerogative to determine the future plans for the church. That should be discussed and agreed upon amongst the eldership team, and one elder should not try to blackmail the other elders by spiritualizing his "vision."

Don Johnson's picture

To use a buzz word!

As for Tom's last, I'd say I'm mostly in agreement. I realize that seminaries and such aren't set up to teach such things, and probably couldn't be. I guess it might be better to say that once a guy gets into the ministry, if his heart is right, he will want to know these things and will wish he was better at them. 
 

and one thing on Larry's last... In my experience it isn't the one who talks the most who necessarily emerges as the leader. Often it is the one who isn't always talking. I'm with you, though, in opposition to the multiple elder thing. I don't like what I've seen in rule by committee, and wherever it succeeds, it is because one of the committee has the leadership skills that produces results 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

T Howard wrote:

Aaron,

If vision casting is just long-term planning, why then is it the responsibility / prerogative of the senior pastor instead of the elder board to come up with the long-term plan for the church?

Why do guys call themselves "vision casters"? They have the spiritual gift of long-term planning?

Hmmm. 

I really didn't pick up any distinction between pastor and elders in the article. A pastor is an elder, and an elder is a pastor, so I don't know why long-term planning/vision would belong to only one of them--other than, it's very common for the elders of a church to identify one among their number as the leader or one of them as the 'pastor of vision' etc. Which is practical.

But 'vision' is a bit more than long-term planning. It mostly overlaps with that but it's long term planning with an idea of what the church can become. "Vision" has the connotation of a lofty ideal. Maybe one never to be reached but to be continually pursued... but maybe reached. So there's definitely a "bigness" to it, though it wouldn't have to be a headcount sort of bigness.

In my experience, thriving organizations of all kinds benefit greatly from 'vision.' It's a human thing, though, more than a church thing. But I see it has having a "church version" because church also = humans (though also more than humans).

(Worth noting, too, that in many congregations there is only one elder. And even in multiple-elder congregations, there's often a large gap between one elder and all the others in terms of experience, training, and giftedness. He functions as de facto leader even if he isn't the official leader.)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.