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6 leadership mistakes most pastors make

| by Margaret Marcuson

Are you making any of these church leadership mistakes? If so, you’re in good company. I’ve made them all, and you probably have too. 

1. You take responsibility for things that aren’t your responsibility.  

Many church leaders do this. It’s called overfunctioning. Pastors and other church leaders do this both on behalf of the congregation as a whole, and for individuals (staff and members). Then they get frustrated because others aren’t responsible enough. Here’s the guideline to remember: those who are under-responsible (underfunctioners) don’t step it up until those who are too responsible (overfunctioners) step it down.  

2. You get caught in triangles. 

This is a variation of number one, in which you take responsibility for other people’s relationships. You can’t change a relationship you aren’t a part of. You can only work on your relationship with each of the other parties. Here’s a post that explains more about relationship triangles in ministry. 

3. You don’t disconnect enough. 

But with today’s technology, it’s harder and harder to find quiet time and space. But constant availability is not good for you – nor for the people you lead. They need to figure things out without you. Take Jesus as your model – if he needed time alone, so do you. Try this: wait at least 30 minutes after you wake up to check your phone. 

4. You think the answer is out there somewhere. 

Sure, there is plenty to be learned from others. But remember to value your own creativity and the ingenuity of your people. What ideas do you have for making a difference in your own situation? No one else knows your ministry setting the way you do. Try this: take a current challenge and generate a list of 20 possible ways to solve it. Pick the top two or three and try them. 

5. You get infected by the anxiety of others. 

People say to you, in effect, “Pastor, you should be upset about this because I am.” It’s easy to take that on. Yet just because someone is anxious doesn’t mean you should try to calm them down (and go away more anxious than you were). This rarely leads to productive thinking. Think it through: is this really your responsibility? Can you take it a little less seriously? Is there some way to push the anxiety back? 

6. You take the short-term view.  

We’d all like a quick fix, and we live in a society that wants instant results. But the things that count take years to develop. And many of the things we worry about don’t matter much in the light of eternity – and won’t even matter in a year, or a month. How can you extend your vision: five, ten, thirty years?  

You can start today to remedy any one of these mistakes. Take a deep breath, find a little space, and prayerfully think through your role, your responsibility and your vision.  

Photo source: istock



Margaret Marcuson

Rev. Margaret Marcuson helps ministers do their work without wearing out or burning out, through ministry coaching, presentations and online resources. Margaret is the author of Leaders Who Last: Sustaining Yourself and Your Ministry and MoneyandYour Ministry: Balance the Books While Keeping Your Balance. She served as a pastor for 15 years.

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