Leading with Care

We are in the midst of our first Christmas season in a new pastorate. This week my wife spent an extra day or two buying and arranging decorations for the church. Last night we had our midweek Bible study, and many were glad to see the sanctuary looking so nice.

While I appreciated their joy at the decorations, a comment was relayed that broke my pastoral heart. My wife was told that the church hadn’t looked so beautiful in many years. During one of the decorating days, we heard ladies in the church say that it was so refreshing to have a pastor and wife who cared about how the church looked, because the people were so used to doing it on their own.

Leadership means many things to many people. We lead through vision-casting, administration, calendar setting, ministry creation and development, staff and leadership meetings, facilitation of seminars and workshops, or even assigning a book to read as a team. I know a pastor in his early seventies who told a group of fellow pastors, “I still don’t know what leadership is.”

How many of us think to lead by caring?

If everything rises and falls on leadership (John Maxwell), then caring starts at the top, just as much as strength development, accountability, energy and effort. We must put some of those same strategies to work when it comes to caring.

In larger churches, we tend to delegate and allow those who have the “gift” of church decorating and run with it. It could be a couple of people, or a whole team of those who are energized and fulfilled by decorating the church.

Eventually, though, someone is going to say, “I wonder what the pastor thinks.” Is this because of a culture of having to clear every act or idea in the church past the pastor’s desk? I don’t think so, though you should probably double-check to be on the safe side. People generally want to know that their pastor cares, at least a little bit, about what the church looks like.

The issue at hand comes down to the principle that what people see the pastor caring about, they will care about. If the pastor doesn’t care about something, the people will soon stop caring as well.

Let me give you one more example. In the first church I worked in, the pastor delegated to me, the youth pastor, to facilitate the Saturday evening prayer meeting. Within one month, he stopped attending the meetings. Within another month, everyone else stopped attending as well. If the pastor couldn’t show up for prayer meeting on Saturday night, why would anyone else bother to do so?

As pastors and leaders, it’s time to evaluate our own hearts. Do we care about enough aspects of church life? Don’t get bogged down by your big responsibilities, and don’t leave it to everyone else.

Show up to ministries. Take out the garbage. Put some paint on some unfinished windows. Go buy a wreath and lights, and don’t ask for a reimbursement. If you want church life to be important to your people, show that it is important to you.