The next of the Mistakes Leaders Make is to spend too much time on hurting people and not enough time developing future leaders. Dave Kraft is not the only one to warn of this propensity. It comes up in The Trellis and the Vine.
He isn’t saying churches, and leaders, should not care for the hurting people in the congregation. He is saying that you need to make sure you spend time cultivating future leaders too. The hurting can often demand your time. The hungry usually aren’t calling you to set up appointments.
“If all the leader’s time is devoted to shepherding and counseling hurting people to the exclusion of nurturing hungry future leaders, the ministry cannot continue to grow as God would desire.”
So it can be easy, particularly as a smaller church pastor, to focus too much energy on the hurting.
I suspect some of this has to do with gifting. The more priestly pastors are highly empathetic. They will spend lots of time working with the hurting. They will not place as high a value on the future. They won’t be preparing future leaders as much as a pastor with a strong prophetic or kingly gifting.
In my experience, priestly leaders tend not to pastor large churches. Or they function as Associate Pastors in a larger church setting. What can happen at times is that the Peter Principle (people rising to the level of their incompetence) takes place in the church. The priestly guy who shepherds well is elevated to the place he should not be, where he is expected to lead like a king and preach like a prophet. The church flounders and everyone tends to blame the pastor instead of realizing they placed him in the wrong position.
“… people with very strong mercy gifts don’t function well in visionary leadership. They don’t want to hurt anybody or make decisions that offend or cause conflict.”
So, on a church staff the gifting of the pastor should fit his role. This is quite important. But even the “counseling guy” needs to develop others to help him in the ministry. He needs to invest in lay people who can deal with many of the less severe problems, just as Jethro advised Moses. Recruiting becomes quite important.
In the smaller church, the priestly can’t be allowed to run loose. The pastor needs to develop a healthy balance between caring for the hurting and preparing the hungry. It is not supposed to be an either/or situation.
“The hurting will find you. You will have to find the hungry.”
In his section on principle and practice he develops ideas that I’ve seen lots of people criticize larger church pastors for expressing. This section of the book could be controversial. It requires wisdom to implement and communicate it properly. There are some presuppositions that he doesn’t lay out which are behind this.
First, not every church is for every Christian. There will be differences in doctrine as well as practice and methodology. This doesn’t mean that all methodology, for instance, is acceptable. But often the range of acceptable ways to implement biblical principles is wider than many think it is.
Second, recognizing a member and church aren’t a good fit is a good thing. No church can be shaped to fit the needs, desires or priorities of every member. It is impossible. But some people try to get their leaders to do just that.
Third, submission to church leaders is not a bad thing. It is actually a great thing, and commanded in Scripture (see Hebrews 13 and 1 Peter 5 for instance). What Kraft is calling for is submission to the leadership as long as they are not requiring sin. But there is an out as a church changes direction. People can opt out. Being told they can should be done gently, not in an antagonistic fashion. Not “my way of the highway” but “we’d love for you to join us, but if you can’t we understand.” The clearer a church is about their vision and direction, the more this needs to take place. It’s not personal.
Kraft borrows from the book Good to Great. He says you need to “get the right people on the buss and in the right seats.” Kraft applies this to the leadership team of a church. Getting them on the bus (recruitment) is about character and chemistry. The questions are largely about who they are and do they work well with the existing team.
This is very important. I’ve had Sessions that worked well together, until…. The “wrong” guy can poison the chemistry and ruin a well-functioning team. There have been talented athletes who were just bad teammates. They could destroy a locker room like a stick of dynamite. Leaders should protect the team by being wise about recruitment.
Second, put them in the right seat based on competency and capacity. This is about gifting. Don’t expect a priestly guy to act like a king or a prophet (and vice versa). Don’t go to a visionary leader with your personal troubles. You will get little to no empathy and lots of structural changes you need to make. A gifted guy in the wrong role becomes the wrong guy. It is about wisdom.
As Kraft notes elsewhere in the book, hiring well is much easier than picking up the pieces for not hiring well. Don’t just get good guys, get them in the right place.
My, that took an interesting turn. The mistake revealed a bigger problem that needs to be considered. That isn’t a bad thing.