Simple Leadership: 5 Great Ways to bring simplicity to your leadership

A post for Pastors and Church Leaders

Leadership is notoriously complex. It would be nice if simple leadership was within our grasp. We wrestle with problems, issues, and sometimes people. Not to mention that leaders need to point a clear direction on subjects like vision, mission, and values. Faith based leadership isn’t any easier either. Pastors struggle to lead their churches under a burden of leadership that won’t let up. Often they want to quit. I know, because over the years I’ve wanted to quit as well.

The key to continuing is to make simple leadership your goal.

[clickToTweet tweet=”#Pastor, make simple #leadership your goal.” quote=”Make simple leadership your goal.” theme=”style3″]

Here’s five ways to work towards simple leadership:

1. Don’t take everything so seriously.

When I first began this church leadership journey, there was a pastor who told me to preach every time like it was my last. With all the passion, enthusiasm, and knowledge I have. To be clear, I think his advice is good. Pastors who preach should always preach like everything depends on their message, because God gave them their message and because it might be someone’s last shot at finding Christ. However, it’s also good to keep things in perspective.

Unless you die or Jesus returns, there will be a another Sunday.

If everything hinges on you, or on one church event, or one church ministry, you might as well pack it up now. The church is stronger than you, so stop taking yourself so seriously.

Should we take our work seriously? Sure. But don’t take yourself so serious. Simple leadership demands that I understand the fact that I’m expendable. God has other people who can take my place, and frankly, probably can do a better job than me.

Every situation, event, problem, issue, or question is NOT life and death. Some are. But most aren’t. Taking everything so seriously will add complexity and undue stress to your leadership. So stop.

2. Take time for your family.

God gave you your family. They need you. They don’t just need a part of you. You may be the pastor of a great church with loads of potential, but you are also the pastor of your family, and they deserve to have you around.

Each parent only has their children at home for a little while. What those kids remember is up to you.

Church is important, but so is your family.

[clickToTweet tweet=”#Church is important, but so is your #family. #pastor #faith” quote=”Church is important, but so is your family.” theme=”style3″]

I’ve never served in a large church. They have always been what I would call a normal size church of around 200 people. In a church this size there is a temptation to do too much. And the people who pay for your overwork is your family.

Make a plan to spend a few days together. Take a vacation. Enjoy a movie. If the church is going to fall apart because you aren’t there for a service or two, then you have much bigger problems anyway. However, I doubt your church will crumble if you miss a service to take some time with your family. In the long run, a strong family helps to create a strong church.

3. Focus on the most important things.

What are the top three things that only you can do? To have simple leadership, those are the things you need to focus on.

There’s no way that a pastor can effectively lead everything in a church. Your focus will be divided and eventually you will burn out. It’s just a fact. You can look at any statistic website you want and find that pastors quit at alarmingly high rates.

If you don’t want to end up being a statistic, stop focusing on everything and begin focusing on your top three things. This doesn’t mean you don’t care about everything, because any pastor worth their salt will care. It simply means you cannot give everything equal focus. Your church might not understand at first, but they will thank you in the long run.

My top three are preaching, leading toward our vision, and shepherding people. At this point, these things are not negotiable. Maybe your top three are different. That’s OK. But whatever they are give those things your one hundred percent. The key to simple leadership is focusing on a few things instead of  half-heartedly leading many.

4. Build friendships with people.

There used to be this notion that a pastor or church leader had to separate themselves from those they lead. The idea was, if you get too close to people they won’t respect you as a leader. What a dumb idea!

The closer you get to people, the more vulnerable you allow yourself to be, the more real you actually become. People don’t follow leaders because they appear larger than life, they follow them because they see something of themselves in their leader.

Believe it or not, those you lead want to be close to you. They care about you just like you care about them. Or, they would care about you if you gave them the opportunity to know you and be close to you.

I love the people I have the chance to serve. They are some of my closest friends. I love working with our church board, and count them not only as fellow leaders, but friends. Did it start out this way? Probably not. Friendship takes time, effort, and the willingness to put yourself out there. But you know what? I’m glad I did.

Whenever or if ever I have to leave my current leadership position, I won’t just be leaving a job, but I will have built life-long friendships that I cherish. It makes a pastor’s job much easier when he or she is friends with those they serve. If you want to have simple leadership, start being a real friend to those you serve.

5. Don’t stress over about things outside your control.

This is easier said than done. I get it. But let me ask you a question…

Why would you stress about something you have no possibility of helping? A motto I’ve lived by that serves me well is: Only stress about what you can help.

If I can’t personally fix the problem, or resolve the issue, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about it, I’m just making up my mind not to stress about it. There really is a difference.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Only stress about what you can help. #pastor #church #faith” quote=”Only stress about what you can help.” theme=”style3″]

Simple leadership destroys stress. It does it by making proactive decisions about when and where to use stress. Honestly, stress can be leveraged into a great tool, but only when applied in the right way.

Think about it…almost every hand tool requires stress and pressure to do what they were made to do. A hammer turns stress into action that drives a nail. A screwdriver uses stress to put things together. But you don’t see people using a hammer or screwdriver to paint their wall. Why? All the stress in the world won’t work in that situation.

Pastor, if something is outside of your control, stress isn’t the answer to fix it. Trusting God is.

In conclusion…

At its core, simple leadership revolves around trusting God. Simple leadership learns to recognize that everything cannot revolve around you. You can make the choice to create simple leadership that stands the test of time or you can choose to add layers of complexity to your life and organization. Which are you going to choose?

Question: How do you practice simple leadership?

Further reading:

How to improve your leadership by leading with integrity

How to be a better leader and influence more people

Four limiting beliefs you should stop believing immediately

Giving up on your dream: 25 questions to ask before you do

Larry Shankle is a pastor, author, and blogger. He helps people get clarity and direction in their calling, purpose, dreams, and leadership.

Larry and his wife (Amanda) live in the Arkansas river valley with their two boys (Braxton and Dawson). He has spent almost two decades in active local church ministry serving in multiple leadership roles. Larry has spent the last six and a half years serving as Lead Pastor of GrandviewChurch in Natural Dam, AR.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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One thought on “Simple Leadership: 5 Great Ways to bring simplicity to your leadership

  1. I’d say place a higher priority on your family than the church. When we take care of our personal life (like spending time with family) we will be more effective in our leadership roles. Sadly, I’ve seen many people value the church (their role) more than their family and it only brings harm/damage to everyone. Great post Larry!