How Important is the Senior Pastor?

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One of the most frequent questions about small group ministry is “How important is the Senior Pastor?”  Translation:  What if my senior pastor offers encouragement, cheerleads from the sideline, even holds me accountable for the success of the small group ministry…but won’t lead from the pulpit?

Ever ask that question?  It’s a simple answer really.  It’s not that you can’t have an effective small group ministry without the active involvement of your pastor.  It just limits the effectiveness.  Why?  There are several reasons:

  1. The Senior Pastor has the greatest influence.  This may be obvious, but it is important to note.  No other staff member’s influence is comparable.
  2. The Senior Pastor influences the most influential people in the congregation.  What he or she values is caught by the key opinion leaders within the congregation.  If small groups are truly important to the Senior Pastor the key opinion leaders will know it…and follow.
  3. The Senior Pastor sets the direction.  The language the Senior Pastor uses to talk about what’s important speaks volumes.  An effective small group ministry takes time to build.  It’s not an overnight project.  It will take energy, budget, and time to get off the ground.  Keeping it in the air requires a prolonged focus.  A prolonged focus requires the attention of the senior leader.

CAUTIONS: Several cautions come to mind immediately.

  1. You can’t emphasize everything equally.  For small group ministry to succeed it needs prioritization.   Giving every ministry its moment in the sun from the pulpit doesn’t accomplish what you need.  Identifying what is core and promoting that is a different thing.
  2. Some pastors want to delegate leadership to the staff person as a result of a very pure but unfortunate thought process.  “I’ve hired you to lead the small group ministry.  I’ll support you.  But you make the announcements, lead the meetings, etc.”  This guarantees an also-ran feel to the ministry.  Influence can’t be delegated.
  3. You can’t lead to a place you’ve never been.  Becoming a church that connects beyond the core and congregation will require the consistent and constant involvement of the senior pastor.
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