(This explanation was prepared by Randall Neighbour, the author of the assessment. This assessment can also be found in The Naked Truth About Small Group Ministry)
Question 1: Many lead pastors find themselves so entrenched in their role as the one in charge that they’ve forgotten to fulfill their role as a mentor and disciple-maker. One of the most powerful things you will ever do for the kingdom of God is to pour yourself into individuals the way Jesus did when he walked the earth. Sure, he preached and spoke to larger groups, but he also relationally developed Peter, James, and John and invested additional time into the other disciples as well. Prayerfully ask the Lord who he has put in your life to disciple and then begin to pray for them every day. When you hear God’s leading to approach them, ask them if there is an area in their life in which they want to grow and get started.
Questions 2 & 3: To truly disciple someone, you must know them intimately and they must know you intimately. Don’t assume you know your disciples deeply. More importantly, don’t assume they know you deeply. Talk about transparency and intimacy with each of them privately, and ask questions such as, “Do you think I know you as well as anyone on earth?” and, “Do you feel that I have shared deeply and honestly with you to a point where you feel I am being very transparent at all times?”
Questions 4 & 5: It’s easy to fall into non-relational work and life patterns. It’s just so much easier, and one can gain a solid level of accomplishment by completing tasks. However, relationships are always changing (for the good and bad) and they’re far more challenging to focus on over the long haul. Regardless of your personality type (introvert, extrovert) there’s no excuse for putting sermon preparation and church office work ahead of relationships. The longer you maintain a non-relational role, the greater the likelihood that you will burn out and experience attack from the enemy. Plus, you will be modeling a non-relational ministry for others near you (your family, staff, elders, deacons, and lay leaders).
Question 6: Very few pastors do this, but it’s a great suggestion “to keep the main thing the main thing.”
Question 7: Workaholism is rampant among lead pastors, and it has nothing to do with a lack of volunteerism in the church. Force yourself to take a Sabbath one day a week and relax!
Questions 8 & 9: A Barna study a few years ago indicated that the typical lead pastor in America prayed less than 30 minutes per day. M. Scott Boren, author of an excellent resource entitled The Relational Way recommends that lead pastors request that time in prayer be included in their written job description so those who hold the pastor accountable have the freedom to ask him if he is praying and what God is telling him.
Question 10: If you don’t know how to specifically pray for your core leaders, you don’t know them well enough! This isn’t hard to correct. Just spend time with each of them and ask them what they’re hopes, dreams, fears, and concerns might be at the moment. By routinely visiting with them and then actually praying for them with specific, known issues, you will hear the voice of God for the purpose of edification. Plus, when you know all about your key leaders, it’s easy to pray each day for them and you’ll always have a lot of things to pray about. Praying more and longer will not be a problem, I assure you.
Questions 11: Once or twice a year, you should take your staff, key leaders, and their spouses away for a weekend and focus on relational development and ministry to one another. If you must to do some training (you know, so no one will criticize you and say you used church money for a free vacation for everyone) schedule something short and sweet here and there. Retreats like this go a long way toward making the work you do along side them far more powerful because they know you love them enough to spend down time with them.
Questions 12: Most lead pastors don’t prioritize relational development for staff members. If you don’t ask, they will become complacent about relational ministry.
Questions 13-15: Younger lead pastors today are doing a much better job of balancing relational family time with ministry, but it’s never a bad idea to ask your spouse and children if they enjoy enough of your company to feel good about your relationship. Don’t take anything for granted in this area, because if you do Satan will get busy and stay busy.
Question 16: Maintaining a hobby reduces stress and forces a person to use a different part of their brain, which sharpens every area of life and work. If you have a hobby or seemingly “non-spiritual” interest, you can leverage it to deepen relationships with your spouse, your children, your staff members, other leaders in your church, and unchurched friends and neighbors.
Question 17: Many lead pastors push small groups at their church but don’t fully participate in one—and by “fully participate” I mean the pastor actually relates to fellow group members between meetings and works along side other members of the group for outreach and service in addition to showing up for group meetings. If you cannot preach out of the abundance of your life in biblical community, your small group ministry will always be far less than it could be because members follow your lead in every single area of your life.
Question 18: Many lead pastors do not have an accountability partner. Moreover, those that do have one do not use the relationship to move forward in life with personal goal setting. If you do not have an accountability partner with whom you meet regularly to voluntarily share areas of weakness and goals for the future and more importantly—how you plan to achieve those goals, you’re overdue for this kind of relationship.
Question 19: Notice this question doesn’t ask you if you have friends who are unchurched or unbelievers. Most pastors would say they have this, but if you were to ask the unchurched or unbelieving person, they would not indicate that the pastor was a genuine friend, but a casual acquaintance. (If you think you have genuine friendships with unchurched or unsaved persons, ask them if they consider you a “real” friend or not, and what you could do to deepen the relationship so it’s meaningful and important to them.) Maintaining relationships with unchurched and the lost is paramount to a lead pastor's ministry. Without it, he will be completely out of touch with the world around him and how to lead his congregation into relational evangelism.
— Randall Neighbour is an author and the President of TOUCH Outreach Ministries and a personal coach to numerous lead pastors who desire to lead the way as a relational pastor. If you desire this kind of relationship, contact him at 800-735-5865 for details or send him message through this page.