The best leaders for the church are those who demonstrate a willingness to serve first. Is servant leadership necessary for every situation? No, but pastors and church leaders should have a default posture of service. If you’re not willing to be a servant leader, then you are not fit to have authority and influence within the body of Christ.
Serve first; lead second. It should be the leadership theme of every pastor. I understand the tension with servant leadership. Serving a church means sacrificing. Putting others first means listening is more important than telling, empathy is more important than progress, and stewardship is more important than accumulation.
Pastors must take the default posture of being a servant leader. What does this posture look like? I’ll share seven ways you can be a better servant leader for your church.
1. Take the initiative. When you know someone is hurting, reach out. Don’t wait on others to ask for help. Instead, make that extra phone call or visit. Send a text of encouragement when you pray for someone.
2. Learn to offer genuine apologies. Most people recognize a fake apology the moment it is offered. Sincere apologies are rare. Servant leaders own their mistakes and genuinely say, “I’m sorry.”
3. Do not speak ill of others publicly. The pulpit is not the place to call out someone, and an insult exchange on social media is juvenile. With social media, smears are magnified. The world can potentially see them. Public put-downs are the tools of recalcitrants, not servant leaders.
4. Seek out real accountability. One of the biggest missing ingredients in church leadership today is a willingness to be held accountable. Servant leaders seek accountability and do not wait for it to be forced upon them. This accountability must come from within the local body. For example, a church governed solely by an outside board only gives the appearance of accountability and does not have a structure that facilitates servant leadership.
5. Give sacrificially to your church. A key part of serving is giving. If you are sacrificing for a particular people, then you will give sacrificially to the body to which they belong.
6. Be the first to give up your personal preferences. Pastors are notorious for casting their personal preferences as vision. How many churches have change thrust upon them because of the lead pastor’s desires? Far too many. Listen first. Give up personal preferences. Create a shared vision. Then move the church in that direction together.
7. Volunteer to do the menial tasks. Pastors and church leaders should carry more plungers and garbage cans. Great purpose and meaning are found in the menial. The highest perspective is often found on the lowest rung.
The church requires servant leadership. Jesus demands servant leadership. God honors servant leadership. Pastors, let’s practice what we preach.