In his workshop on Tuesday afternoon at the 2021 GARBC Conference in Schaumburg, Illinois, Knute Larson shared practical advice for pastors as they face the needs and pressures of daily church life. His extensive experience as a pastor and pastoral coach makes him uniquely qualified for this task. Seven facets of ministry were the focus of the workshop: personal, staff, board, love, preaching, groups, and mission.
A pastor’s personal effectiveness will be greatly helped if he can focus on his main tasks. His three key roles are teaching, leading, and shepherding; and the sweet spot at the center of all three is the pulpit. Knute encouraged pastors to develop a master schedule that allows the first priority to be first. Emergencies will always require the plan to be adjusted, but it should be written for an ideal week. With such a schedule, “the week will not attack you; you attack the week,” Knute said. A schedule also helps a pastor’s family receive the time they need, since meaningful time for family should be included in the plan.
The number of staff in a church will vary, but there should be both a point person and a ministry manager for each of the church’s ministries. The point person should be a staff member. In the case of a small church, that means the pastor may be the point person for a plethora of ministries. However, that doesn’t mean he should do everything. “In a small church, you can become the manager of everything,” said Larson. “You shouldn’t.” Instead, the day-to-day management should be given away to volunteers—many of whom would love to fulfil roles if asked. For other things, the pastor should do at least the majority of the task. For example, Larson believes the congregation should hear their pastor pray regularly in public worship.
The third facet of ministry is the church board. According to the soccer field model of ministry advocated by Larson, the board sets the boundaries of church operation—the playing field, in other words. The pastor, staff, and volunteers operate within those boundaries. If boundaries and guidelines are not set for the right way to “play,” confusion is the inevitable result.
Love is the fourth aspect of ministry that Larson emphasized. Communicating love is vitally important yet often neglected. Sometimes a communicator may seem as if he’s angry, when it is crucial for people to see that he cares. “You love them by the way you speak to them . . . [and] by the way you greet them.” While it takes patience to endure a long conversation that takes our time, we shouldn’t act as if we are “looking around for someone more important.” When we give time and show we care, we show Jesus’ love. Of course, we have to have wisdom and boundaries in our culture to avoid situations that could result in accusations of impropriety.
Fifth, preaching needs to receive the emphasis it deserves. While the time invested in preparing sermons will vary, it had better be “enough time that it’s good.” When preparing a sermon, the three main components are what did God mean, the pastor’s heart, and the listener. It is easy to miss the second part, but a sermon won’t have power without having the pastor’s heart. “Does it capture you?” Larson asked. Worship services are an important component of church life. Too many announcements can damage the focus of a worship service, as can standing too long. Here is the main point in preparing one: “Think through what you do.”
The sixth facet is having healthy groups. The size of the church itself is immaterial to this area. But there should also be two levels of smaller groups. On the first level are smaller community groups, which could be Sunday School groups or small groups. The second level is also crucial, which consists of very small groups of three to seven people. Each of these micro groups should be either all males or all females. Such groups help people receive the TLC they need: time, love, and content.
Finally, Larson addressed the church’s mission. There should be definable goals for how to reach outside the church’s walls, both locally and globally. Resources should be allocated to it. One example of a definable goal is “at least 50 percent of those who come on Sunday will be connected to a small group.”
Pastoral ministry has many joys—and it can also be challenging at times. Larson’s wise counsel can help pastors effectively navigate the challenges of these seven concerns.