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Five Leadership Decisions Every Pastor Needs to Make

Part of a leader’s job description is to make decisions. 

Of course, there’s more to pastoral leadership than decision-making: as pastors we’re caring for people, preparing and preaching sermons, counseling married couples, visiting senior adults, training leaders, organizing ministry, and much more.

In the midst of that multi-faceted ministry, we’re also responsible to make decisions. Some are relatively small (impacting few people in minor ways), while others are big (affecting many people over the long-term).

Some leaders relish the opportunity to make decisions. For others, it can be overwhelming and result in paralysis and what doctors now call “decision fatigue.”

A key leadership skill is discerning which decisions are most important and need your best attention, discernment, and focus. Since not all decisions are equally important, it’s crucial that you give your best energy to the most important decisions.

And for pastors who want to endure in ministry, few decisions are as important as the decisions you make to lead yourself.

With that in mind, here are five decisions that every pastor should make:

1. Decide to continually find renewal in Jesus.

I once heard a pastor describe how he had become a full-time pastor but a part-time Christian. A younger version of me would have scoffed at him. But, a few decades into ministry, I know the temptation.

Make the decision that, if nothing else, you will linger in the presence of Jesus and take seriously what he said: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NIV)

2. Decide to cheat the church, not your family.

There isn’t enough time to do everything that you’d like to do. Even if you get organized and efficient (which you should), something or someone will always end up feeling like they aren’t getting your very best. They’ll feel cheated.

So decide that, since you have to leave someone feeling cheated, it won’t be your family.

Some pastors foolishly say, “I’ll work on building the church while God takes care of my family.” But that’s the exact opposite of what Scripture commands. In the Bible, Jesus says that he will build his church (Matt 16:18) and commands us to love our families (Eph 5-6).

The church can replace you (and someday they will). But you’re irreplaceable as a spouse, parent, and grandparent. So give your best energy, creativity, and care to your family — and trust God to take care of his church.

3. Decide that you are not God and will not try to be.

The curse of pastoral ministry is feeling like we need to be everywhere-for-all, the know-it-all, and the fix-it-all.

Why is that a curse?

Well, consider the theological words for somebody who is everywhere-for-all (omnipresent), knows-it-all (omniscient), and is able to fix-it-all (omnipotent).

That’s not a description of a pastor — it’s a description of God. Only God can be all those things and only God should try.

As Zack Eswine writes in The Imperfect Pastor:

You and I were never meant to repent for not being everywhere for everybody and all at once. You and I are meant to repent because we’ve tried to be… You were never meant to repent because you don’t know it all. You are meant to repent because you’ve tried… You were never meant to repent because you can’t fix everything. You are meant to repent because you’ve tried. 

4. Decide to give generously (at least a tenth of your income).

It’s interesting that when Jesus describes God’s main rival, he doesn’t describe the devil. Instead, he says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, NIV)

Pastors aren’t immune from getting too attached to money. And, when you consider that most pastors are underpaid and stretched financially, it can be easy for pastors to stop giving and rationalize that “I give with my time.” 

I’ve been stunned over the years how many pastors don’t give at least a tenth of their income to the church. And then they wonder why the church isn’t generous! If you want a generous church, it starts with you.

And for any who want to debate whether a tenth (tithe) is biblical, here’s my favorite quote on it from Randy Alcorn:

I’ve heard Christians argue—often angrily—that tithing is legalism…However, the average American Christian gives 2.5%. Even using 10% as a measure, the Israelites were four times more responsive to the Law of Moses than the average American Christian is to the grace of Christ. When we as New Testament believers, living in a far more affluent society than ancient Israel, give only a fraction of that given by the poorest Old Testament believers, we surely must reevaluate our concept of ‘grace giving.’ And when you consider that we have the indwelling of the Spirit of God and they didn’t, the contrast becomes even more glaring… If you fear legalism, fine, start at 11 or 12 percent. 

5. Decide to cultivate real friendships.

We live in an age of what one author called “crowded loneliness.” 

It’s especially true for pastors, who are often left wondering, “Are we truly friends or am I just their pastor?” The confusion leaves many pastors discouraged and cynical. 

So decide to go a different direction. Decide to cultivate friendships with people who aren’t impressed with you, don’t need you to be important, and would be friends with you if you were no longer their pastor.

It may take a while with trial and error. But it’s worth pursuing.

(Here’s a Twitter thread I wrote about one way that I’m trying to cultivate friendships that will stand the test of time.)


Yes, pastoral ministry is demanding and difficult. But we are not victims of ministry, who helplessly ride the rapids of people’s expectations. If we find ourselves tossed and turned in every which way, it’s because we’ve decided to function that way.

But there’s a better way.

Make these decisions and stick with them. Your life, your family, and your ministry will be better for it.

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