4 questionable habits of pastors who don’t ask questions

Nov. 23, 2012 | by Doug Lawrence

Of course we all know that great pastors know how to listen, but, even better, the really great ones know what questions to ask. I hope you’re one of those. Unfortunately, there are too many who haven’t quite figured that out. 

They ignore trends in their own churches 

This happens all the time...a pastor starts an initiative that clearly his church doesn’t need, and can’t/won’t support.  We’ve talked about this before, but this example caught my attention.  

A pastor in the greater Houston area decided to move his congregation of 100 people further out to the West, closer to the little town of Hempstead. His “business plan” included building a 3 service multi-site style church in an area he had personally earmarked for growth. Problem? 

There was no growth there and there wasn’t going to be any soon. Meanwhile the area of Houston he was already serving had a burgeoning Hispanic demographic with a “we’re happy, and we’re staying here” Anglo population already in place.  

He had the opportunity to have a unique multi-lingual church that people were begging for, and he ignored it. He had heard that, “Things like that don’t work.” That just became an affirmation of what he believed to be true. That’s NOT leadership.

They believe church growth gurus blindly 

There’s nothing new here, and I want to be clear. I appreciate the leadership of the Peter Wagners, Donald McGavrans, Win Arns, and Lyle Schallers—I really do. They were pioneers who made a difference and they have been duplicated twice over in the past 20 years by people with an equal passion for growth.  

What they brought to the table was monumental, especially for Evangelicals seeking to become the 29th chapter of Acts (yep, thanks, I already knew there were only 28 chapters).

The problem has always been (and may always be) that the wisdom of these leaders was snapped up “wholesale” by struggling pastors and their congregations. There was little or no discernment process about adapting these new ideas to their own unique cultures. Big mistake.  

For every success story, there have been 100 or more failures due to lack of thoughtful implementation and consideration of the ramifications of taking a “how to” book and trying to turn it into actual growth. 

They hire paid staff when a lay person is begging for the job  

It has always been fascinating to me that churches, while in a major growing phase which allows them greater flexibility in staffing, tend to hire people they don’t actually need. There was a paralyzing example of this that I read about some time ago, where a church suddenly came into a lot of cash and decided to expand their staff.  

The problem was they tended to bring in staff to do jobs that many laypeople had been doing for a number of years. They have yet to recover from their mistake! 

Coincidentally, the same thing happens in churches where there is very little cash. Often a gardener, custodian, secretary, or somebody just to keep the prayer chain going is hired, when the fact is, there are volunteers who would love to be asked to do those jobs. 

Good leaders identify willing and “called” people who are qualified and gifted to do certain tasks. They don’t make blanket requests for volunteers, because that approach will usually fail. 

They blame others for their own failures

How many times have you heard a pastor bemoaning what he inherited from another pastor? Oh, and there’s the generational stuff that we inherit in the church. Stuff that supposedly cripples growth and petrifies leaders. 

One pastor I know only allows new employees to use language like the above for the first week. After that, they’re on their own. They have to take full responsibility when things don’t go well, even if they haven’t done anything particularly wrong. 

One of the signs of a good leader is that they are willing to step up and, like Harry Truman, say, “The buck stops here!”

The best possible technique for overcoming a decision failure is to ask the question, “Where did I go wrong.” People are usually more than willing to tell you, and, just by listening to them, you diffuse most of their negative toxins. 

Not all leaders are created equally, nor need they be. What is required, however, is that they ask more questions than they dispense information and wisdom. We are kidding ourselves if we believe we were born smart. We’re only as smart as the information we gather. 




Topics: Administration , Church Growth , Commentary , Consulting , Evangelism , Fellowship , Leadership , Ministry , Music , Outreach , Preaching , Vision , Worship

Doug Lawrence / Writer, Coach, and Friend to Churches.
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