As a pastor, you are a Christian spiritual leader of others. You know how vital it is to your well-being to maintain an active intellectual life and engage key leadership practices. Here are five suggestions that can help you stay ahead of the curve and position yourself for longevity in ministry. Drawn from Henri Nouwen and Robert Clinton, these suggestions have helped countless pastors throughout their lifespan—they might help you, too!
1. Adopt a learning posture throughout your life. Your parishioners come from all walks of life and represent a wide range of interests. Leaders who thrive have a thirst for more knowledge and personal growth. They have a variety of interests and look forward to broadening and deepening their learning. They also seek to apply new skills to life situations. Do you have a continuing desire to grow in knowledge? Is your knowledge confined to one area or do you have a broad range of interests? Do you seek to apply knowledge or are you only interested in theory?
2. Cultivate other leaders to amplify ministry. Christian leaders who are truly transformed by Christ are not hung up on feeding their egos (see Gal. 2:20; Phil. 2:5-8). They are humble and willing to delegate to others, including lay people. Delegating to others and celebrating their strengths does two things: it helps expand ministry exponentially and contributes to your well-being allowing you to focus on your God-given strengths. How are you at delegating to others? Be honest and ask yourself: Do I have a need to be in control? Am I paying too high a price?
3. Identify your ministry philosophy and keep it in focus. Thriving pastors have a sound biblical and theological platform for doing ministry and stay committed to it. They know what they are about. They avoid following fads since they are grounded in what matters most. Are you blown by the winds of the latest fads or do you have a well-thought out philosophy of ministry that keeps you grounded?
4. Have a strong sense of calling to ministry. Christian leaders have a deep sense of what God has called them to do. They know their purpose in life. Their leadership flows out of who they are in Christ and who they are becoming. Does your leadership flow from your identity in Christ? Do you have an inner assurance of your call to ministry? Do you believe and feel that what you are doing with your life matches well with your God-given gifts and sense of purpose?
5. Engage in key mentoring relationships. Christian leaders meet regularly with someone with whom they can share the highs and lows of ministry. They also are willing to be a friend to others who want to grow spiritually and in leadership. It works both ways: giving and receiving. Have you identified someone who can mentor you in areas where you are challenged? Have you befriended another pastor who needs a word of encouragement that only you can provide?
These ideas for flourishing as spiritual leaders and much more can be found in the following two books:
J. Robert Clinton. (1988). The Making of a Leader: Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Development. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
Henri J.M. Nouwen. (1992). In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership. New York: Crossroads.