Images-29 What People Want from their Senior Pastor

REVEAL also included research about what people expect from the Senior Pastor (or Senior Minister – SM). People view the Senior Pastor’s responsibilities as:

1. Serving Advocacy. The SM is expected to be the chief promoter and champion of serving opportunities. They identify and encourage the use of people’s gifts and talents. They attract, develop and motivate ministry teams. They promote and create enthusiasm for serving activities. They create a welcoming and friendly environment for this to occur.

2. Spiritual Challenge. The SM is expected to provide sound doctrine that is biblically accurate, to model and reinforce how to grow spiritually, and to challenge the people to grow and take next steps.

3. Pastoral Care. The SM is expected to counsel people facing major life decisions, minister to the sick, dying and bereaved, and provide guidance to individuals about spiritual development.

4. External Focus. The SM is expected to be a recognized voice on important local issues, to be involved in issues of global significance, and to motivate the church to recruit new members. This includes representing the church to other organizations.

5. Preaching and Vision Casting. The SM is expected to preach inspiring sermons and to cast a vision that captures people’s hearts.

6. Unity and Stability. The SM is expected to maintain harmony, handle troublemakers, avert/resolve problems, and help ensure that the church is financially stable. They are to be a stabilizing force  

When studying the influence of each of these responsibilities on church satisfaction, the following insights were made:

1.Preaching and vision casting have the biggest impact on satisfaction with the senior pastor (51%). This is what people want most from their senior pastor. Its influence is three times greater than the next category.

2. Spiritual challenge is a secondary influence on satisfaction with the senior pastor (17%). The SM is expected to be the church’s chief theologian and a spiritual role model.

3. Pastoral care (9%), unity/stability (11%) and serving advocacy (12%) have less impact on satisfaction with the senior pastor than preaching and vision casting. These areas are important but their impact on satisfaction pales in comparison to preaching and vision casting.

4. External focus does not influence satisfaction with the senior pastor. External focus, although something people expect, has no influence on satisfaction with the senior pastor.

5. The drivers of senior pastor satisfaction are the same for everyone – no matter where they are on the spiritual continuum. What people want from their senior pastor does not differ based on spiritual maturity. Every time the senior pastor gets up to preach, they are responsible for speaking one message to a group of people who are at different stages of spiritual growth. Preparing an effective spiritual message for such a diverse crowd is like preparing a math lesson for a group of students with education levels ranging from primary school to university. It is impossible to be equally effective for all of them, yet this is the expectation.

What People Need from their Senior Pastor

The research revealed three key findings:

1. Spiritual challenge is the senior pastor’s most significant driver of spiritual growth. Spiritual challenge has by far the most powerful effect on spiritual growth for all three movements. Great preaching and vision casting is definitely what people want from the senior pastor but it is not, by itself, particularly influential on spiritual growth. On the other hand, spiritual challenge, delivered through teaching, counseling or leading the church – is clearly what people need from the senior pastor in order to grow. The SM must challenge people at all stages of spiritual growth to take the next step.

2. The most spiritually mature people need more from the senior pastor to help them grow than those at earlier stages of spiritual development. As people mature, they need more from the senior pastor. The most mature, need serving advocacy, unity and stability and external focus.

3. Pastoral care does not contribute to spiritual growth. Pastoral care is needed at particular times – for example, during a life crisis – but it is not something needed to spur on spiritual growth.

In conclusion, people want great preaching and vision casting from their senior pastor but people need spiritual challenge in order to grow. The ability to deliver spiritual challenge is the senior pastor’s most influential driver of spiritual growth.

What do people want from Preaching and Vision Casting?

The research revealed four insights:

1. Spiritual challenge is what people want from preaching and vision casting. People are hungry for spiritual challenge.

2. Sound doctrine and modeling influence everyone on the spiritual continuum. Everyone strongly desires biblical teaching and a senior pastor who models growth.

3. Challenge and next steps are important for all believers.

 4. Serving is significant for those in earlier segments of spiritual growth.

Other Insights

The senior pastors’ leadership role (80%) had four times the impact on satisfaction with the church’s role in spiritual growth compared to the role of teaching (20%). In other words, the senior pastor’s leadership of the church – which means making and executing the kinds of decisions that create an environment of spiritual challenge and spiritual guidance in all ministries – drives satisfaction with the church’s role in spiritual growth by a margin of four to one. Day-to-day decisions   about how to lead the church – specifically the decisions that deliver spiritual guidance to the church – have an even greater impact than the very best sermon.

The spiritual growth of a congregation depends on having a senior pastor who does two things: (1) delivers spiritual challenge through both teaching and leading; (2) demonstrates through daily decisions and behaviors that the role of leadership is the one deserving the senior pastor’s greatest time, energy and attention. Being a great leader is more important than being a great teacher, when it comes to the long-term spiritual growth and viability of a congregation.

A concluding statement from Greg Hawkins on the research: “as church leaders, we need to give people a place to belong and a pathway that guides them on their journey toward intimacy with Christ. We catalyze their spiritual growth by helping them understand the Bible in great depth, by challenging them to apply the Scripture with specific next steps and by modeling how we are taking those steps ourselves.”

The above material has been summarized from the book FOCUS: The Top Ten Things People Want and Need from You and Your Church by Greg L. Hawkins and Cally Parkinson (Willow Creek Resources: Barrington, IL, 2009). 

6 thoughts on “FOCUS: What People Need from their Pastor

  1. What an astonishing statement from research- that pastoral care does not contribute to peoples’ spiritual growth- did they ask anyone who received pastoral care when their beloved child had died, or when domestic violence from their spouse was threatening their lives and those of their children, whether pastoral care made any difference to their spiritual growth?!
    Does becoming a vastly more compassionate and wise person as a result of suffering in your life count as spiritual growth? Does the type of care you receive during the major crisis points in your life make a difference in your spiritual journey- you bet it does!
    Just goes to show you how useless research can be- just like our recent election- I’m not sure who the labour party were listening to, but the level of dissatisfaction at street level in this state was palpable.

  2. yes, I was surprised by that too, Helen … I think the research showed the importance of pastoral care but didn’t rate it that high as a catalyst for spiritual growth in an individuals life. No doubt when an individual goes thru difficult times, care and support is essential … but it may be the experience itself that is the potential catalyst for growth more than the support given? Anyway, as you said, research is just one window I to reality – but not the only one 🙂

  3. Mark, thanks for being such a great pastor for us. I came on to this blog, not even knowing the topic of this page, just wanting to tell you this; I still haven’t read it (though I’ve just scanned the gist of it just now). I think there must be a lot of expectation put on you, and probably a lot of knit pickers too (I’ve been one of them at times, to my shame) but some of the little things/verses you have written in your weekly emails God has used to really speak to me in strong clear ways. Exhortation to “continually invest in our personal relationship with him” and to “make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight” have influenced my thinking at critical moments, and just so in the last 24 hours, hence why I am writing.
    Thanks again.

  4. Mark, I thank God for your inspiring leadership at CityLife. I also want to thank you for your rich blogs that help us have greater insight of who you are… It’s like having a personal visit from you multiple times every week (what a privilege!!).
    You definitely model what a faithful Senior Minister ought to be. Reading 1 Timothy 4:13-16 shows how you have applied Paul’s instructions in every way:
    – You do devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.
    – You do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
    -You are diligent in these matters and do give yourself wholly to them. As a result everyone does see your progress.
    – You do watch your life and doctrine closely, and you persevere in them… No wonder our church is growing, both in quality and quantity!
    May the Lord continue to anoint you with His wisdom and power as you lead us into becoming more fervent followers of Jesus Christ, that truly reach out and impact communities, cities and nations for the Kingdom of God!
    We love you Mark!!!

  5. Commenting on the relationship between Pastoral Care and Spiritual Growth initiated by Helen, I am interested to find out what Randy Frazee has to say in his Christian Life Profile Assessment Tool. I totally agree with all of you that Mark is a our spiritual role model.

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