5 Common Executive Pastor Pitfalls

“When we insist on being the generator of innovation, we go from being a great leader to an insecure one.”

I’m not a great surfer, but I love surfing. There’s a lot of skill and intuition required to ride a wave. Surfing also requires being able to recognize the right opportunity. Choosing the right day to go out or the right wave to chase is vital to a strong day in the water.

I have learned a lot of the skills required to ride a wave. My biggest struggle remains in recognizing the best waves to ride.

Similarly, my job requires me to be a skilled opportunist. Executive pastors are constantly processing managing staff, mapping out strategies, ministering to people and a dozen other things all simultaneously. At the same time, we have to have intuition to recognize the right opportunities within every context of leadership.

Much like my surfing experience, I find many executive pastors miss some critical opportunities. Here are a few that are common.

1. We trust too little.

Trust is a wide net with us. We struggle to trust both people and God. Why? Because we tend to be control freaks. Our tendency is to only truly trust ourselves. Trust requires surrendering control. We miss opportunities to see God move on our behalf because we operate like we can control the universe better than he can. We miss opportunities to see people flourish and our church grow due to our lack of confidence in them.

2. We feel the need to have our hands in every ministry and project.

Perhaps it is due to knowing just enough about every area of the church, an insecure need to be needed or a genuine belief that we know more than everyone else. But many executive pastors wrestle with accepting others’ work as good enough.

Related: 13 pastor mistakes that hinder growth »

Because of this, we manage products instead of people. This is our greatest missed opportunity, because when we insist on being the generator of innovation, we go from being a great leader to an insecure one.

3. We get bogged down in the details.

Most executive pastors have an administrative gift. To scratch the itch of this giftedness, we will deep-dive into details that should be handled by someone else. Strategically focusing on detail is healthy; doing so on impulse is undisciplined. Our churches need us to have our eyes on the horizon of where we are headed, with intentional glances below. Staying in the weeds prevents the church and leaders on your team from moving forward.

4. We make too many decisions.

There’s a weird leadership bravado that emerges around decision-making. Pastors tend to believe that decision-making power equals power. I disagree. Empowering others to make decisions is where real power lies. When I make quick decisions for the team based on my own impatience or arrogance, I miss opportunities for the team to become better leaders and the church to experience better results.

5. We soft-pedal the truth with our lead pastors.

Telling the truth to my pastor readily and truthfully is a must. When I don’t, I miss the main goal of my job. Keep in mind, truth-telling requires the right motives. I have to tell the truth in a tone that informs and improves rather than a manipulative tone designed to sway my leader’s opinion. My responsibility is not to deliver truth to get my way, but to deliver truth that helps my pastor lead the way.

I will never be a champion surfer. The skills are beyond my abilities, and the intuition baffles me. However, I will keep paddling out. In the same way, I continue to lead through challenging seas of opportunities. Hopefully I will keep learning to seize more than I miss!

Kevin Lloyd is the executive pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia. This article was originally posted on Lloyd’s blog, LeadBravely.org.

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