We’ve all heard the phrase, “Work smarter, not harder.” Let’s take a look at five ways you can thrive as a pastor by working smarter:
1. Start with “Why.”
Starting by clarifying the “why” in your ministry is smarter because determining why your church exists leads to better decisions regarding what you should do and how you should accomplish it. Your “why” determines your filter and focuses your energy. Dr. Stephen Elliott, National Superintendent of the Wesleyan Church of Canada, believed the church he planted in Kanata Ontario in the 1980’s existed to reach 10% of the community for Christ. He believed this was their “why.” By the time Steve departed, the church had grown to over 1400 people. The “why” determined what to do and helped them determine how to get there.
→ What is the “why” of your church?
2. Work on ministry, not in ministry.
In his groundbreaking book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber presents three categories of workers: technician, manager, and entrepreneur (29). Technicians love implementing the skills in which they are trained. Managers value order and enjoy finding ways to keep everything running efficiently. Entrepreneurs are catalytic dreamers who propel organizations into the future. I re-cast Gerber’s categories as church roles. Technicians become chaplains, managers are administrative ministers, and entrepreneurs missional pastors. Every church needs all three, but if you want to work smart it’s imperative to adopt the mindset of a missional pastor/entrepreneur and work to improve the overall ministry system rather than merely managing current protocols or practicing your specialized ministry skill set. Missional Pastors work “on” their ministries more than they work “in” their ministries.
→ Are you working “on” your ministry more than “in” your ministry?
3. Ask “Who” before you ask “What” or “How.
Two books that emphasize asking “Who” are Jim Collins’ Good to Great and Benjamin Hardy and Dan Sullivan’s Who Not How. Collins recommends that leaders operate with a “first who, then what” mindset (42). Once you know your “why,” it is time to pursue your “who.” When I was pastoring a church with a core of middle-aged and senior adults, we determined if the church was going to continue being relevant in the city, we could only do it with some younger “whos.” I learned this the hard way because I continued to engage experienced older leaders who I thought would appeal to young people. Eventually, we had to sacrifice experience and hire younger leaders. These “whos” led the charge and attracted other young people. Suddenly, we were relevant with the next generation in our community.
→ Are you asking “Who” before “How” or “What” in your church?
4. Understand organizations as starfish and spiders.
The Covid-19 pandemic and advancements in digital technology have launched a phenomenon of church decentralization which we are still attempting to navigate. To work smart as pastors, we must adapt to the strongest method for accomplishing our mission. Centralized organizations are like a spider whose head controls all the legs. Decentralized organizations are like starfish with no central authority. If one section is cut off, a new section grows in its place. Churches and denominations undergo cycles of centralization (spiders) and decentralization (starfish). These concepts, as described in the book, The Starfish and The Spider, are not mutually exclusive. Every organization should recognize which leadership style should prevail to best meet the needs of the season.
→ Do you understand which style, centralization or decentralization, should be emphasized in the next season of your church?
5. Pray and Act in a 5C Cycle.
Entrepreneurial coach Dan Sullivan describes a cycle of action for leaders. He states that leaders whose organizations grow go through a cycle of Commitment, Courage, Competence, and Confidence. To work smart as missional ministry leaders, we need to understand that when we want to see our church or ministry grow, we will pray for these four C’s and appeal to God for guidance through the process. I add a new C of “Calling” on the front end that draws on a biblical perspective. As faith leaders, we understand God calls us to undertake missions by faith, which are impossible to accomplish on our own. Following God’s call, we prayerfully commit our way to the Lord. Thirdly, we ask for courage which is vital during this period when we are most likely plagued by doubt. Think of Joshua immediately following the death of Moses, David being pursued by Saul, or Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. The fourth C stands for competence. In this stage we reach a breakthrough and achieve the objective. In the fifth and final stage we attain confidence in the successful fulfillment of the original calling. After achieving confidence we are ready to listen for the next calling.
→ Do you understand where you are in this 5 C’s cycle in your ministry?