Geary Smith, MEd,> from the Church of Christ, is a teacher in the Mexia Independent School District, serving Mexia and Tehuacana in Texas, United States.

Being “pastor-teachers” (Eph. 4:11, VOICE) is not all about having dynamic personalities, great oral skills, or large congregations. It’s about an observable set of skills and abilities. I have encountered five practices that can promote leadership development in pastor-teachers.1

1. Model the way

The business meeting was becoming quite intense. The topic at hand was church projects with accompanying funding concerns. Two sides were claiming to be right—I knew I had to act. I listened closely and maintained respect for both sides of the discussion. Then I attempted to synergize both parties toward a solution on which both parties could agree.

I recognized that it was not enough simply to teach or preach about effective conflict resolution or healthy interpersonal relations. I had to set an example for others to follow in appearance, thinking, verbal communication, actions, beliefs, and faith. Scripture uplifts Paul as an example for us: “Follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1, MEV).

2. Inspire a vision

During one church meeting, I discussed our vision to build a bigger church sanctuary and dining facility. I explained why we needed them for future generations and to play a larger role in the community. At first, there was a murmur of unbelief in such a big project. I was not dismissive of the doubts. I allowed individuals time and space to express themselves, while remaining positive and upbeat. Over time, people came to accept, embrace, and share the vision. Now, after much hard work and sacrifice, both buildings stand to the glory of God.

Identify and discuss what is most important to others—core values and beliefs—to inspire and create a shared vision. Inspire others to get excited about possibilities for the future.

3. Challenge the process

Be prepared to challenge the way people are used to doing things. That does not translate into stubbornness, it means “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15, NKJV). Look for ways to improve things when faced with tremendous obstacles. Don’t be afraid to take risks or even to make mistakes. Treat failures as learning opportunities to move forward.

Paul faced unprecedented challenges as he sought to build a nascent church. He never lost sight of his goal because he saw it as God’s goal for him. “ ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, / That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth’ ” (Acts 13:47, NKJV).

4. Enable others

I had a very shy and timid brother at church who rarely spoke and did not want to be a part of the worship service. Instead of giving him a big challenge, I just asked him to help with the collection. He is now leading song and prayer service with ease and will, on occasion, participate in Bible class teaching.

Actively involve others, building Spirit-filled teams and congregations by fostering collaboration. Respecting a person’s gifts is what sustains extraordinary efforts. Strive to create an atmosphere of trust and human dignity while recognizing that gifts are not only to be affirmed, but they are also to be developed.

5. Encourage the heart

Be the “glue” that bridges the gaps between differing opinions and helps each side respect the other. To keep hope and determination alive, recognize contributions that each individual makes and tries to accomplish. Encourage and motivate people to feel like heroes. Barnabas was called the son of encouragement. He helped bridge the gaps between the Greek and Jewish cultures. Even when there was a sharp disagreement between Paul and John Mark, Barnabas encouraged them both. Getting to know the members and relating to things they are passionately connected to will always bring about better results.

Whether you are a pastor, chaplain, evangelist, teacher, deacon, or deaconess, develop your leadership abilities. If you pray and ask God for guidance and wisdom, He will give you that ability to lead, using your Holy Spirt-ordained gifts for His plan and purpose.

  1. James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner, Everyday People, Extraordinary Leadership: How to Make a Difference Regardless of Your Title, Role, or Authority (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2021), 11.

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Geary Smith, MEd,> from the Church of Christ, is a teacher in the Mexia Independent School District, serving Mexia and Tehuacana in Texas, United States.

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