Are You Ready To Become A Lead Pastor?
You’ve been a youth pastor, small groups pastor, children’s pastor, or an executive pastor for years, and you're now wondering if maybe you should begin to lead a church – as the lead pastor. So, how do you know if it is time for you to begin to look to become a senior pastor?
Let me give you ten questions to ask yourself. Perhaps they are questions you should process with a trusted mentor, but all of them should be considered before stepping into a new pastoral role.
1. What are your gifts?
It really should start with your giftedness. Has God gifted you with a significant gift of teaching? And just as important, do you have the gift of leadership? In today’s church culture, those two gifts are typical of most senior pastors and seem to make the biggest impact on the most people. It is okay if your gift mix is different, but those are the typical gifts of the best senior pastors that we’ve seen.
2. What is God doing in your heart?
Are you finding an irresistible draw toward leading a church? I was a youth pastor for over 8 years, and I thought I’d be on that staff for the rest of my life. But there was an undeniable passion God was growing in my heart the last three years as a youth pastor.
I finally came to a place where I couldn’t deny that God was drawing my heart toward leading the church. Don’t let someone convince you to become a lead pastor. It needs to be a passion that God has placed on your heart and grown for a significant amount of time.
3. What do you dream about during your free time?
When I was first a youth pastor, I was constantly thinking about new ideas, youth leaders that I could delegate to, teens that I was burdened for. But I discovered that in my last three years, during my days off, I was thinking about what our broader church could do to reach more people.
Instead of thinking of new ideas for the next retreat, I found myself contemplating discipleship models that may work for our church. It wasn’t an intentional shift, but I found myself reading books on overall church strategy and leadership rather than the latest youth pastoring book that was written. I was still fully engaged in youth ministry, but my mind began to be elsewhere during my free time.
4. What are people around you saying?
If you find yourself constantly being encouraged by others to consider being a lead pastor – it is a pretty significant sign. But more importantly, if no one ever suggests it to you (unless you hint at it or ask directly) – I urge you to slow down. Be patient and wait for others to tell you that they see things in you that indicate you could be and even should be a senior pastor.
Of course, as mentioned previously, the advice of others is not the only indication that you should enter the pastorate. It is a promising supplement to your personal desire but shouldn’t justify your entire decision.
5. Do you have churches pursuing you without your initiative?
This doesn’t always happen, but it is a good sign. I’m not suggesting that you need to wait for churches to initiate, but if churches are pursuing you, it may be a good sign that it is time to consider becoming a senior pastor.
6. Are you experiencing success in your ministry?
Here is a reality that you may not often hear: if you aren’t seeing success in your current role, you probably won’t see it as a senior pastor. If your youth ministry hasn’t grown in the last five years, you probably know plenty of reasons for that, but there will always be factors fighting against the growth of your ministry. The best youth pastors will see their ministry grow even if the church isn’t growing. The best small group pastors will see participation in small groups growing at a higher rate than the church overall.
7. Are you running from something or toward something?
Here is an important one: don’t become a senior pastor as a way to avoid the struggles in the church or on the staff where you are presently serving.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Biblically, you need to deal with the relational struggles and ministry hurdles in front of you
- Churches likely won't want to consider someone whose specific ministry is shrinking.
- You need to be running toward a new position not away from a struggling church, ministry, or relationship
8. Are you willing to take a risk?
If you are thinking about becoming a lead pastor, it is probably because things are going well. So be sure to wrestle with this question, "Am I willing to leave a ministry I love and is succeeding for another ministry that may not go well and I may not love as much?"
According to Thom Rainer, only 35% of churches are growing (although that is much better than the commonly held belief of less than 20%). Therefore, statistically, you will likely be leading a church that is currently plateaued or declining. Are you willing to do that?
9. What is the best way for me to make a positive impact on God’s Kingdom?
You have to battle through the question of where you can have the biggest impact for God’s Kingdom. You likely will be going to a church that is smaller than the one you presently serve in. I left a church of 650 to go to a church of 275. But the reality was, I sincerely believed I could have a bigger impact on a church of 275 that was ready to grow than stay in a church of 650 that was stagnant. And I truly believed that the best impact I could make for God’s Kingdom was as a senior pastor. So, in spite of the risks, I couldn’t avoid the move any longer.
10. Are you praying regularly and earnestly for God’s direction?
As a pastor, part of your job description is prayer.
This potential move will be life-changing, so are you praying earnestly, specifically, and regularly for God’s will to be done, for wisdom in the decision, and insight into the timing and process of how to go about this potential change?
Ultimately, by God’s grace, the move worked out well for me. I think there are many that it doesn’t work out well for them or for the church. So perhaps these questions can serve as one filter for knowing if it is time to consider becoming a lead pastor. I would suggest you talk them through with a trusted mentor.
What are some additional questions you've asked about this transition?