Time management can be one of your biggest hurdles as a pastor.
Time management can be one of your biggest hurdles as a pastor. (Lightstock )

Someone recently asked me what my greatest leadership challenges were as a pastor. It took me less than five minutes because they were so familiar to me.

I wrote them in the order you see them now, which is not necessarily a reflection of their level of difficulty. These challenges are not unique to me or any pastor, but sometimes it helps to know you are not alone. You will likely find some of these are no challenge at all to you, which simply means we have different strengths and weaknesses.

1. Me – I believe that the health of a church is intrinsically connected to the health of its pastors. I look back over almost three decades to see that when I was growing, so was my church. The opposite is also true. Any conversation about church revitalization must begin with pastoral revitalization.

2. Time management – Last week I experienced the euphoria of a "zero inbox." I first heard about this Hope Diamond of efficiency when I started serving pastors at LifeWay two years ago. What took me two years to achieve disappeared only moments later when another stinking email showed up! I seem to never get ahead, regardless of the latest IT tools I acquire to assist me.

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I have learned to schedule my priorities, but I have also learned that heaven often laughs at our plans. Efficiency and flexibility are a dual threat against the ever-stressful schedules we keep.

3. Ministry focus – So how do you schedule your priorities if you are not sure what they are? The simple vision of my last church was boiled down to three priorities: worship, grow and go. This vision helped me to determine what my ministry priorities were, as well as my relationship priorities. Worship helped me focus on Jesus; grow focused on discipling believers; and go sharpened my focus on reaching unbelievers. The best instructions are biblical, simple, personal and replicable.

4. Vision drift – Knowing the focus of my vision was not as hard as implementing it. Vision never sticks for long because there are so many disruptions and distractions that pine for our attention. I found that my vision was most vulnerable in the summer, perhaps because I was usually exhausted after the end of a church year. If I didn't intentionally set aside time with the Lord and my staff to ramp up for the fall, I struggled with vision drift once the new church year started.

5. Handling disappointment – I try to help young pastors brace up for their first ministry storm by normalizing it. I remind them that they will be expected to preach the Word in season and out of season, just like Timothy did. I was the typical unsuspecting pastor who found out the hard way how mean church members could be. I also found out that they have been strategically planted in every church so that pastors won't be tempted to waste their time searching for that perfect one. Love the sheep and the goats and it won't escape the notice of your Boss.

6. Pastoral care – Some of you are natural at this. I hate you. Actually, I just envy you, which is hopefully less of a sin. All kidding aside, my leadership skills exceed my pastoral skills, which is often the case for lead pastors. My churches needed to be loved before they were led, so I stopped using my gift mix as an excuse to neglect the people God called me to pastor.

I have more challenges on my list, but I assume you too are short on time and focus. Also, I would be interested to hear what your primary leadership challenges are.

Mark Dance serves as director of LifeWay Pastors. Mark serves pastors by hosting date nights and roundtables, as well as speaking at retreats, conferences and seminars. Prior to LifeWay, Mark pastored churches for 27 years.

For the original article, visit lifeway.com/pastors.

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