“Has it been 10 weeks already?” “He is on the road back to Lakewood right now?” I asked these questions just a couple weeks ago, as Pastor Jim and his family returned to LC3. He was probably asking the same questions, of course.
We are glad to have Pastor Jim, Jaci, Bethlehem and Tarike back from enjoying a well-earned sabbatical after Jim’s 14th year of ministry at LC3. It was a joy for me to serve as LC3’s Interim Senior Pastor for the 10 weeks they were away.
Now on this side of that 10 week commission, I want to share an inside look from the eyes of a “senior pastor.”
First, a little background. Since 2001, when I moved to Washington State to enter seminary, I have completed numerous pastoral classes; read many pastors books; had several pastoral mentors speak into my life. I have worked closely with Pastor Jim for over a decade. I was even a pastor’s kid my entire childhood!
But, as happens with most things, experience taught me much that cannot be discovered in books and classes. Experiencing is different than knowing.
Here are a few major lessons learned from the teacher of experience.
A senior pastor must constantly work to stay in front of communication
He must proactively schedule astute and thorough communication on every front; contemplating incessantly if there is ANY more communication needed or that would be beneficial.
This includes every type of communication: Vision casting communication, relationship building communication, expectations and planning communication, motivating communication, conflict resolution and reduction communication; any other type of communication he can think of. Constantly. Tirelessly. Regularly asking God to graciously give him the right messages to tell the right people, at the right time. Because if something is missed, someone is let down or uninformed; opportunities are lost; irritation replaces unity.
“Senior pastor” is a unique position of service
The role of senior pastor differs notably from those of associate pastor or ministry leader. As an associate pastor, which I have been for almost nine years, I spend a great deal of time in the trenches of building relationships and equipping leaders, teams, and groups for ministry and mission. As an associate pastor I have more intimate awareness of details, needs, and opportunities, and more time to address them.
The role of senior pastor, however, (at any church larger than 150) requires a broader form of leading, teaching, “visioneering,” and administrating. Though the senior pastor must spend at least some time in relationship building, equipping, counseling, visiting, etc. in order to remain an effective and informed overseer, the majority of his time and energy must be spent on matters of larger perspective. A helpful analogy of this role is moving from the shepherd of a flock to a rancher who directs many shepherds and a much larger flock.
Again, I knew this, but, after these 10 weeks, I have experienced it. Experiencing is different than knowing.
It is different. As an associate pastor, I shepherd more, relationally. In fact, as a small groups/community/discipleship pastor, I have given my life to the relational aspects of the Christian life.
Senior pastors know the necessity of relationships among the Body, but contribute to them by setting vision, modelling relationships with their leadership teams, and then equipping and unleashing these leaders to carry out that work through the church.
I have known this, but experiencing is different than knowing.
Senior pastors carry bigger loads
Senior pastors carry bigger loads of responsibility, pressure, demands, attention, exposure, and of attack from the enemy. Accordingly, the role requires bigger loads of prayer, bigger shoulders, more discipline, more accountability, more humility; more teamwork.
I have known this, too, but experiencing is different than knowing.
It meant a lot when Pastor Jim told me he believed without a doubt that I was ready for this experience. And, by God’s gracious work in my life, I felt ready. But, the load is big, which is clearly why Pastor Jim continually asks the LC3 Family for our prayers, which are for his benefit and ours. This is why Paul instructs the church on behalf of its leaders: “Brothers, pray for us” (1 Thes. 5:25).
Back to Normal…For a Few More Days
Jim’s return means getting my life’s normal craziness back. It is enjoyable to recognize how these experiences are already translating back to my involvement with small groups and adult ministries. Good communication, humble servant-leadership, healthy relationships with my teams, dependence on God; capacity for bigger loads – I am grateful to have grown in these areas…by experience.
And, now? Now it is time for my family’s sabbatical. We leave this Thursday, and will be back at the end of May. I will likely write something about that experience as well, except with many more (and cuter) pictures. Please pray for us as Sarah and I attend a Church Planting conference, as I work on my Doctor of Ministry Dissertation, and as we spend some quality time with our family and longtime friends. I look forward to returning to His service with you all, refreshed and energized.
For His glory and our joy,