4 Priorities Every Church Leader Must Set

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The urgent will always outshout the important if we let it. When I was a pastor, I discovered that the "urgent" items on my list would fight, claw, and scream for my constant attention. But the tragedy is while we’re putting out the fires of the urgent, what is truly important is often left in a holding pattern. The important is neither noisy or demanding, it patiently and quietly waits for us to realize its significance. 

Church leaders, I encourage you to forget the urgent for a few moments and ask yourself, “What is really important?" As a leader, there are four priorities we need to make sure are in place at all times, no matter how loud the clammering for the urgent becomes.

1. Be biblical & set a firm foundation.

The most important priority we can cultivate as church leaders is to make Scripture a part of daily life. As I soak up truth in the Bible, God goes to work on me. Having a biblical mentality is the secret to battling the urgent and surviving the aimlessness or stress of our days.

I’m sure there were a constant barrage of urgent needs pounding on Paul’s mind, but he made sure that his life and ministry were fixed on what was important - Christ. He wrote to the Thessalonians, “We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously… but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition” (1 Thess. 2:2). 

2. Be authentic & live vulnerably before others.

Webster defines “authentic” by suggesting three things “authentic” is not:  It is not imaginary, false, or imitation. Paul also stated in the same passage to the Thessalonians, “We never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed – God is our witness… We were not looking for praise from people" (5-6).  Listen to how he talks about himself. He was real and stood vulnerable before God and others.

When a leader is authentic, they are free to question, admit failure, confess wrong, and declare truth. Authentic people enjoy life more than most not taking themselves so seriously. They actually laugh, cry, and think clearly because they have nothing to prove, no image to protect, and no role to play. People want to follow authentic leaders.

3. Be gracious & have a compassionate attitude.

Paul also writes about the value of being gracious: “So we cared for you because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well” (7). He was tolerant, approachable, and more interested in sharing the gospel and his life with people rather than dropping a load of theology and doctrinal data on them. We should take note.

If there’s one prevalent criticism I’ve heard of the church and Christians in general in all my years of ministry, it’s that the church is perceived as lacking compassion. A great life and leadership priority should be to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” and lead a life characterized by grace and mercy. Your church staff will be more trusting and more effective when they know they have a compassionate leader.

4. Understand the times & people around you.

There is a direct link here between your walk and your talk. This is exactly what Jesus did. He met people as they were, not as they ought to have been. He could have blown everyone away with his knowledge and authority, but he intentionally stayed on their level in relevance, teaching them in simply stories and spending time with sinners. Paul encouraged the believers to, “become imitators of God’s churches in Judea which are in Christ Jesus” (14). The men of Issachar “understood the times and knew what to do” (1 Chron. 12:32). Great leaders are intentional about understand the people around them, what motivates them, and the times they are living in.

When you apply these four priorities to life, you will begin to gain credibility as a leader and will display greater integrity. Your focus will be on the most important rather than the urgent, and your time management skills will improve. As Andy Stanley has written, “We don’t drift in good directions. We discipline and prioritize ourselves there.”

What are some other baseline priorities that you set to keep yourself a healthy leader?