You have an investment opportunity that is as close to a sure thing as it can get. But it’s still a leap of faith. It still requires a sacrifice. Jesus taught about earthly managers being left with money to invest and how different managers handled the task (Matt 25:14-30). As a senior pastor, your position is similar. You have been entrusted with leading and managing a congregation. Are you going to play it safe and bury it in the ground in hopes that nothing damages it? Or are you going to play offense and try to grow it? 

leading and managing for senior pastors

To lead well is to lead well

Many pastors believe the church has nothing in common with secular pursuits such as starting, growing, and managing a business. And it’s certainly true that the church is about much more than being a business. But it should come as no surprise that the same underlying principles apply to both. To lead well is to lead well. To manage well is to manage well. Jesus implied no less in his parable of the talents: When the owner returned, he wanted to know how that money had been managed, invested, and grown. 

In the same way, the churches we oversee are what God has given to us as senior pastors. How will we manage them? Will we sow seed, grow more fruit, multiply the wealth? Or will we hold tightly to what we have and bury it, only to see it rot and diminish? The church is a living body—it does not stay static, but grows or decays, strengthens or atrophies. 

Leading and Managing  

For the purpose of the Senior Pastor Profile, Leading and Managing means guiding people to work toward determined goals and stay on task.

The book of Proverbs takes great pains to demonstrate values like wisdom, good judgment, and careful planning. Consider this picture of a woman leading and managing her household well—for the good of its members and the benefit of everyone in the surrounding community: 

Proverbs 31:13-21

She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands.
14 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar.
15 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
17 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks.
18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
    and her lamp does not go out at night.
19 In her hand she holds the distaff
    and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
20 She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.
21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
    for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

In the same way, a wise and hardworking senior pastor will build the church on a solid foundation so it is not rocked when hard times come, but prepared to stand strong. Doing this well requires a wide range of skills and abilities—one of the reasons not everyone is called to be a senior pastor. 

7 Habits that Demonstrate Leading and Managing  

What does it look like for someone to lead and manage well? Although it’s a bit different for everyone, here are some of the features held in common:  

1. Manages multiple tasks and responsibilities

Even in small or simple churches, there is a lot to do. The best senior pastors stay organized and keep a prioritized view of all they need to accomplish. Pastoring comes with a great deal of responsibility and a varied job description. Sometimes it’s hard to keep track of which area to focus on next: vision-casting, developing leaders, shepherding, etc. Sort the urgent and the important and make time for what’s most deeply needed. 

2. Delegates responsibility and helps others delegate

In fact, there’s some much to do that a senior pastor can’t possibly do it all themselves. Avoid the Moses trap, and learn to delegate to your leaders of hundreds, your leaders of 50s, and your leaders of tens. More people make the load lighter, as well as ensure that more people than just the senior pastor are invested in the ministry. 

3. Shifts focus and style of leadership as necessary 

Depending on what’s going on in the church, a senior pastor must shift and adapt accordingly. For example, process leadership is generally helpful for leading change even though it’s a long-haul process. However, if the building is on fire in the meantime, it’s okay to switch over to being directive and tell people to run to safety now.  After that, you can return to the longer term tasks of getting people on board for change and continuing to cast vision. Different needs call for different styles. 

4. Cultivates ownership and alignment of individuals to ministry needs and opportunities  

The reason senior pastors spend time in process leadership getting people on board with the direction is that it cultivates ownership for when things do get hard. If they are bought in, when the building is on fire, they will care, feel a sense of buy-in, help others, and align with the needs of the moment. Good pastors shift back and forth between the immediate and the long-term, knowing both make a critical difference. 

5. Mobilizes people and teams for effective Kingdom ministry 

Leading well means mobilizing people and teams for effective ministry. Without this skill, a church will not grow beyond what the senior pastor can do themselves. If you want a movement, you need to invest in the kind of mobilization that goes beyond just one person or just a few people. It needs to spread, like yeast through the whole loaf of bread. 

6. Utilizes effective processes for evaluation, planning, goal-setting, and accountability

In the reality of this fallen world, things don’t usually just happen to work out on their own. Rather, success requires careful planning, reflection, and evaluation. Where are you leading people and why? How is it working? What else is needed to move forward? How can you stay on track? Senior pastors need this kind of big picture thinking. 

7. Maintains functional ministry structures  

If you are overseeing multiple ministries, how do you know if they are all doing well? Each ministry must have an intended purpose, and then must be measured against the degree to which it is accomplishing that intended purpose. If a ministry is not functional–if it is not contributing to a clear Kingdom purpose–why does it exist? Should it exist? Focus your efforts on that which is yielding fruit and prune the rest. 

How well are you leading and managing?

If you would like to assess yourself in this area, take some time to reflect on the following questions. Write out your answers for more complete processing, or talk them through with someone if you’re more of a verbal processor. 

  • How have you managed multiple tasks and responsibilities? 
  • When have you delegated responsibility and helped others delegate? 
  • How have you had to shift focus and style of leadership over the course of the ministry? 
  • How have you cultivated ownership and alignment of ministry?   
  • In what ways have you mobilized people and teams for effective Kingdom ministry?  
  • What effective processes have you utilized for evaluation, planning, goal-setting or accountability? 
  • How have you maintained functional ministry structures? 

Leading and Managing is 1 of 12 qualities that have been proven to be essential to successful and healthy senior church leadership. To learn more, read The BEST qualities in a Senior Pastor. Next week, look out for another crucial quality for senior pastors.  


You’ve got the theology down but if leading and managing is not in your wheelhouse, your church is in trouble. The good news is it’s learnable! Start with The Leadership Difference. This book was born out the school of hard knocks and developed and refined through years of practical application. Read it cover-to-cover or use it as a choose-your-own-adventure to address areas that are pressing.

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