Campus Pastor Skill #2: How to Lead Across

Campus pastors don’t need to learn how to lead laterally, but the best ones know how to.

Campus pastors are leaders.

First and foremost, campus pastors need to start by leading themselves well so that they do not disqualify themselves for ministry. Putting yourself up against 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 on a regular basis is a healthy exercise. Reading books like Paul David Tripp’s Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry, John Piper’s Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry, and Ruth Haley Barton’s Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry are necessary to keep our hearts pure, our motives clean, and our skills sharp.

Campus pastors also need to learn how to lead across—the topic of today’s article—as well as down and up, which are the topics of future articles in the coming weeks. If you missed it, take a moment to read the first article in this mini-series on Campus Pastor Skills.

So I like I said earlier, campus pastors are leaders. They are leaders because they need to learn how to lead laterally. They need to learn how to lead those they don’t have any formal authority over. They need to learn the basic skills of influence. Well, actually, let me correct myself and be crystal clear. Campus pastors don’t need to learn how to lead laterally, but the best ones know how to. So if you want to excel at this role that God has called you into, take a look at the following three environments and relationships that you can do this in.

1. Lead fellow campus pastors

Before you take out your job description, read through it, and tell me that this is not your responsibility, stick with me for a bit. Place yourself in one of your other campus pastor’s shoes. If you were struggling with meeting a few metrics, like baptisms, offering, and newcomer assimilation, wouldn’t you rather get some on-the-go coaching from one of your peers, rather than from your supervisor?

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying to be dishonest with your supervisor. In fact, you might have an excellent relationship with him or her. But, before these issues ever become an official issue, the best leaders are constantly tweaking and problem solving, which would include getting on-the-go coaching from others. Click here to read an article that I wrote on Two Ear Active Listening.

Here’s another example. Let’s say a fellow campus pastor isn’t closing their service as they ought to. What do you think would be a better scenario for them? The two of you sharing best practices on how to close services over a coffee, where you could peer coach each other? Or, church members complaining, and better yet, leaving their campus for another, and then this eventually being escalated to the campus pastor’s supervisor after it’s too late?

In this case, I believe it’s the role of the other campus pastors to coach, guide, and teach that campus pastor the more effective way before it’s too late. No, this is not an intervention, and for gods sake, don’t gang up on the poor soul. Instead, share best practices and peer coach one another.

In addition, let’s say a fellow campus pastor is spending the majority of their week—every week—addressing pastoral care issues, rather than with leaders and the lost. Before this becomes an issue of “performance” and not meeting whatever metrics your church has determined for their campuses, I believe it’s the responsibility of other campus pastors to speak up and help. Once again, share best practices for time management with one another, or go to a conference together. You could even try a learning exercise like shadowing one another to see what you can learn from one another.

While these two issues might formally be the responsibility of the campus pastor’s supervisor, the BEST campus pastors will notice and lead across, rather than turning a blind eye and saying, “It’s not my responsibility!” When the best campus pastors see something, they do something—especially when it comes to their peers.

2. Lead peers at central services

One of the benefits of a multisite or multi-congregational model is central services, or shared services, as some like to call it. Typically, finance, operations, HR, communications, and marketing are core. If your multisite church is a bit larger, then you might also have full-time “global” staff that lead evangelism, discipleship, and ministry programming for all campuses. If your church has fewer campuses, then you might have a few individuals who are wearing dual hats where a portion of their job is dedicated to a campus, and the other portion is dedicated to all campuses, or central services.

When it comes to leading peers at central services, I like to divide them into two camps: administrative and ministry staff. This is because the way that you lead both are nuanced differently.

The chip system is the best way to lead administrative central services staff that you don’t have any formal authority over. These staff have their plates full and need to serve the entire church. In their schedule, they will have things that they are doing for you on a regular basis. For example, processing your expense reports, giving you quarterly budget statements, taking care of your facilities, providing you with posters and graphics, etc.

However, there will come a time when you need to lean on them for an extra request, or an urgent one because you forgot to do something. For example, you might need a new A-Frame sign for your campus within the week, even though the regular process to get one takes a month. Or, you might have forgotten to get your numbers in on time, so your campus specific metrics report won’t be ready in time for your next meeting with your supervisor.

In anticipation of these moments, you need to build up chips in your pocket that you can later cash in when the time comes. In other words, spend time in advance building up credibility, relationship, and rapport with them (chips) so that when the time comes, you have chips in your pocket that you can cash in.

Now hear me on this one. Don’t just be friendly so that you can ask someone for a favor. That’s being manipulative and most people can see right through it. Instead, genuinely serve the administrative central services staff as Jesus would. Treat them like your boss, and love them the way Jesus does. If that’s your focus, the chips will inevitably come, and you will grow in influence.

When it comes to leading peer ministry staff at central services, the above example is also a good place to start. The only thing that I would add is to regularly schedule a community of practice with them. In other words, when you meet with the global staff member in charge of discipleship, ask them what they see is and isn’t working at each of the campuses and around the country. Do the same with others.

By virtue of asking someone else a question, you are showing them respect and demonstrating that you appreciate their input and leadership. The more you do this, the more your credibility grows, and at the same time, so does your ability to lead them when the moment comes.

3. Lead staff at other campuses

Lastly, the BEST campus pastors not only lead their fellow campus pastors and peers at central services, but they also lead staff at other campuses. This is not downward leadership since you don’t have any formal authority over them. Nor is this unnecessary, since you probably already have a lot on your plate. More than anything, this is a strategic move.

Let me explain.

Oftentimes, your staff is so busy with what they need to do, especially if they’re part time, that it’s hard for them to feel connected to central and the other campuses. In fact, you are probably the most connected since you have regular meetings with the other campus pastors and see what’s going on at a high level. You’re in meetings with staff from other campuses much more than your staff are.

As a result, let’s say you connect with the worship leader or children’s minister from one of the other campuses in the hallway, or over coffee. As you develop a relationship with them, and learn how they are doing ministry uniquely at their campus, you’re actually exemplifying collaboration to your staff. These are stories that you can share with your team in one of your meetings, or during a one-on-one. Oftentimes, actions speak louder than words, so doing something like this once in a while might have a greater impact than a simple task item, like go and collaborate with your peer children’s director at that other campus.

Be sure to communicate that you’re doing this with the campus pastor over them, so that it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to steal them away to your campus. In fact, do this together with another campus pastor where you are both learning from each other’s staff. Then, meet together and debrief.

Published January 31, 2017

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