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Pastoral Leadership: It’s Like A Game of Chess

Pastoral Leadership: It’s Like A Game of Chess

Day to day and week to week duties are important, especially in relation to the strategic vision of the church in the present quarter, over the year, and in the years to come. Working on the back end of the details to keep things efficient and working is a gift in and of itself. In the world of board games (is that still a thing?) I liken the role of the Executive Pastor specifically to playing a game of chess because everything is planned one step ahead, and there’s always a plan B. Much like our role with time and budget restraints, strategy, creativity, evaluation, analysis and strategy, and most recently How to Get People to Come to Church After the Pandemic, some lessons can be learned from this (what is thought to be) 6th-century game.

So let’s call this strategy CHECKMATE:

Creativity: we need to come up with new plans, and without being creative, we cannot make new plans.

Hunt for Patterns: when we can take notice of patterns, we are better equipped to predict the next best move and how to deal with them.

Embrace opportunities: if we are given any small or big opportunity, we should not let it pass by. We must pray about it, measure it, weigh the benefits, and if it’s decided to proceed then stick with it. 

Commitment: There are more times than not in our lives when we need to make quick decisions. We are able to do this when we are committed to the cause- the goal is always in mind so whether the decision needs to be a quick one or not, we can proceed with confidence.

Knowledge: how we translate larger visions into concrete details so that the team can evaluate whether the vision, timeframe, and methods are doable and affordable is key. 

Moldability: we may need to change our plans. Things do not always go according to our plan and people surrounding us are unpredictable. Remaining flexible is an invaluable life lesson. The less rigid we are, the better we are able to handle situations thrown our way.

Abandon: Without sacrifice, we may never get what we truly want or what we really need. Sacrifice is a necessary part of life, and we see it exemplified throughout the Bible, so it shouldn’t be a surprise when it’s a decision that we must make for the betterment of the church.

Thinking outside the box: helps us find solutions to problems in ways that others may not think of. Calculating is not a bad thing- it’s needed. If this then this or without this then this. It’s critical thinking, after all. 

Execution: not every plan will be successful or even when it is, there may be a hiccup or two along the way. From Church Events Planning Checklists to stressing the importance of Why Church Volunteers Need Background Checks, we need to give more importance to analyzing the mistakes and learning from them so that next time we can do it differently and more effectively. 

Executive Pastors are ultimately tasked with enabling the church to win the longer, more complicated game of building a lasting and powerful legacy in the community so that other church staff members can focus their concentration on achieving excellence in each of their respective domains of responsibility and expertise. Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren said, “A crowd is not a church, but you can make a crowd into a church… but you have to have a process, a system, and a strategy.” Let’s break out the chessboard and get busy, shall we?

—Hope these blogs geared for Pastors encourage your entire Pastoral team. Whether you’re a Senior Pastor, Executive Pastor, Youth Pastor, Teaching, or Interim Pastor, we want to help you lead with best practices that are known and have proven beneficial for thousands of churches nationwide. Reminder, don’t miss any of our other Church Growth Resources that may help you, and you can easily receive our ministry blog posts straight to your inbox!

Chuck is a clergy member of the Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church.  He has over 30 years of experience in the strategic use of community demographic information, has served as a church planter, and has provided UMC Conference leadership in missional development and ministry advancement.

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