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5 Valuable Things Pastors Can Do for Their Leaders

5 Valuable Things Pastors Can Do for Their Leaders

It is a gift and privilege to serve the body of Christ. Romans 12:4-8 outlines several giftings and gives instruction on how to use them. It’s not solely the paid staff’s responsibility to fulfill the ministry in a church. Local churches need lay leaders as well. We are all called to use our various gifts and abilities to minister to the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-13).

The average pastoral turnover is five years, and the average church size is 300 people or less. But it’s the lay leaders that carry a church through changing staff, vision, and mission. Lay leaders need to learn flexibility as they work with their pastors. And, in turn, pastors can demonstrate that they value their volunteer leaders in five critical ways:

1. Foster clear communication that involves listening.

Communication involves listening with an intent to hear. But too often we interpret communication as a transfer of need-to-know information. Lay leaders need their pastors to listen with intention.

It’s easy to give the impression that we’re listening when in reality we’re not. We want to defend our position or we start to wonder how long the conversation is going to take. We question whether we’re going to like what someone has to say, and all the while we’re nodding our heads as though we’re listening.

When a pastor communicates with his leaders, it’s important that he listen and hear the heart behind their words.

Lay leaders need a pastor who’s willing to not only talk to them about the future, but also listen to their concerns and warnings about the past. Pastors gain insight into their leaders when they listen to these concerns.

2. Take time for building friendships, shepherding, and teaching.

Get to know your lay leaders on a personal level. Ask them questions and show interest in their stories. Do you know why the Children’s Ministry Director serves? What led them to working with children? What’s the heart of the Women’s Ministry Leader—why does she care for the hearts of women so much?

Lay leaders need their pastors to know their ‘whys,’ not to incite their pastors to more action, but to help them lead with compassion. 

Shepherding someone’s heart starts with having a servant’s heart. Lay leaders don’t need their pastors to act as a sheepdog, nipping their heels to keep them in line. They need them to look for what’s unsaid between the lines—to shepherd their hearts by caring about their hearts.

Pastors can help lay leaders grow by being a resource for them. Encourage spiritual growth by teaching good Bible study methods to increase Bible literacy. Help lay leaders figure out the ways they learn best: reading, listening, or hands-on experiences.

Wise pastors figure out how their leaders learn. They facilitate growth and then make room for it. 

3. Lead well through sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

Lay leaders appreciate pastors who lead their family, community, and church well, and this is only possible through dependence on the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13-14).

Leadership requires much from a pastor, including a great deal of sensitivity toward others. Without a reliance on the Holy Spirit, a pastor forfeits the opportunity to guide his leaders well. Lay leaders need their pastors to develop a vibrant spiritual life—a life-giving reservoir that effective ministry can flow from. 

Sensitivity to the Spirit gives pastors the wisdom they need to lead well and consider all opinions. Each personality has differing reactions to new ideas or programs. It’s tempting to dismiss the difficult leaders and draw the easy ones close. But there’s value in those that seem to question every idea that the pastor brings to the table. The negative responses are sometimes a cry for understanding rather than a pushback.

An understanding pastor will draw concerns out rather than dismiss them. Lay leaders need their pastors to understand that behind their response is a love for the church. 

4. Do the necessary work to develop influence.

A pastor develops influence in his lay leaders as he moves through the five degrees of leadership. John Maxwell describes these positions in his book, The Five Levels of Leadership.

These levels find their basis in position, relationship, results, reproduction, and reputation.

The amount of influence a pastor has in the lives of his leaders varies based on these levels. Pastors need to not assume they have more influence than they do in their leaders' lives. But it’s also possible for pastors to work their way through the degrees of influence. Lay leaders need their pastors to do the hard work of gaining influence.

5. Cultivate trust by listening, respecting, and being consisten.

Trust levels among lay leaders and pastors vary based on many things such as experiences, interactions, personalities, and track record. In Road Trip LeadershipGeorge Wood talks about the trust bank account that each pastor has. A pastor makes withdrawals from and deposits in the account of trust. But when too many withdrawals are made, distrust takes over.

Lay leaders need their pastors to cultivate trust. And trust involves listening, respecting, and being consistent in communication and actions.

I’ve led various ministries over the last 20 years where I’ve failed and succeeded. I’ve also experienced deep frustration and amazing teamwork through those years. Pastors and lay leaders have much to learn from each other. Each relationship is an opportunity to grow as a person and as a leader. It’s where we find out how the body of Christ works together, each member doing their own part for the glory of God.

Jessica Van Roekel leads worship in her local church and writes at She believes that through Christ our personal histories don’t have to define our present or determine our future and that the abundant life in Christ happens in the middle of mess. Jessica lives in a rural setting surrounded by farmland and her husband and children. You can connect with her on Instagram and Facebook.

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