How to Prepare for Your Next Church Leadership Position

Posted by Aaron Buer on November 11, 2021

I was a student pastor for about 15 years.

During the last five years of that time, I remember a scary thought that would pop into my head: Youth pastors have a shelf life.

At some point I will no longer be cool or relevant. If my bedtime is 8:30 PM, my youth pastor days are likely winding down.

The question I struggled with was this: What’s next?  

Maybe for you this is a terrifying question.

Or, maybe it is an exhilarating question. Maybe you’re excited about what might be next for you, especially if that change involves more leadership and influence.  

Here’s a question: How do you prepare for your next leadership role? How do you get ready? How do you make sure the decision makers of your church notice you, your work, and the potential you have for more leadership and influence?  

As someone who’s been promoted through multiple roles the last few years, and regularly promotes leaders within teams and departments I lead, I have five strategies I’d like to share with you.

1.) Understand Your Strengths and Weaknesses

A requirement for effective leadership is knowing what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t.  

When I’m evaluating individuals for a possible promotion, I always want to see that they are aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

A person who isn’t aware of their weaknesses is a dangerous leader.

Also, leaders who lean into their strengths and delegate or support their weaknesses are far more effective.  

The question for you is this: Where are you gifted and where are you not? Are you aware? Are you honest about it? How are you supporting your weaknesses?  

In my experience, good self-awareness in these areas is absolutely necessary if you want to step into the next level of leadership in your church.

2.) Implement and Maintain Healthy Boundaries Now

How are you doing with boundaries?

I’m talking about boundaries between work and home. I’m talking about time. I’m talking about boundaries with people. 

The challenge is increased leadership requires increased boundaries.

There’s always going to be more work than you can accomplish.

There are always going to be difficult people.

To make matters worse, if you are the type of person who is energized by the idea of being promoted into greater leadership and influence, you probably love work.

So, work/home balance is already a challenge. 

Here’s the deal: You need to implement and maintain boundaries now.

Don’t wait until you’re drowning. Don’t wait until your anxiety is out of control.  

When I need to fill a leadership position on one of my teams, I consider boundaries because I know that greater responsibility requires stronger boundaries.

3.) Master Your Craft

So, wait…how do you get noticed for a promotion?  

I’ll give you a hint: It’s not by telling everyone that you want the job.

That can be more than a little off-putting.  

The way you get noticed for a promotion is by crushing it in your current role.

In other words, master your craft.

Get really good at what you do and trust that your performance will get you noticed because trust me, it will.  

Be dependable. Invest in your team and volunteers.

Be responsible. Show you are fully engaged with the church as a whole.

Crush your goals and measurables.

If you want to get ready for what’s next, get really good at what you do right now.

4.) Pursue a Mentor

Mentors are a huge part of leadership development because they have experience you don’t have and see things in you that you don’t see.  

Bottom line: You need mentors in your life.  

Now, here’s something I hear a lot of:  

  • “I need someone to mentor me.”
  • “Would you find me a mentor?”  
  • “There’s no one to mentor me.”  

Here’s what leaders do—they don’t ask for mentors.

Instead, they go hang out with people they want to be like.  

A sure-fire way to NOT get a mentor is to ask someone you don’t really know if they would mentor you.

Leaders are busy and mentoring someone feels like more of a time commitment than is manageable.

The way you find a mentor is by asking people you admire and respect if they would meet with you one time.

If they agree, ask them lots of questions and really listen.  

What sometimes happens is a relationship develops.

If a relationship develops, that’s the time to ask for a more formal mentoring relationship.  

With that said, there is another way to get started with mentoring.

If you're in high level leadership at your church and want to fast-track mentoring, I would suggest setting up a formal mentoring program where you connect younger leaders with older mentors.  

Bottom line: If you are someone hoping to step into greater leadership, seek out people you want to be like and ask to spend time with them.

Do that enough times and you’ll likely find a great long-term mentor.

5.) Invest in a Successor

Alright, here’s the hidden gem in this blog post.

You might have the skills, the leadership, the experience, and the drive to be promoted, but if I’m your boss and there’s no one who is ready to step into the role you leave behind, I’m going to choose someone else who has a clear successor behind them.  

Higher level leaders have their eye on the entire organization. “If we move her here, then who takes her place?”

If the answer is unclear, it feels like you’re putting more of the organization at risk.

If there is a clear successor, it’s much easier.  

If you’re interested in stepping into more leadership and responsibility, one of the smartest things you can do is invest in the people around you and below you on the org-chart.

You should always be preparing someone to take over your job.

This is practical but also incredibly impressive to the leaders above you.  

One of the first questions I was asked when I was being considered for a promotion was this: “If you were to get hit by a beer truck tonight on the way home from work, who from your team would take over your job?”  

My first response was, “A beer truck?!?” My second response was, “Luke. He’s the obvious choice.”  

If you want to demonstrate you’re ready for the next level of leadership, invest in people to take your place.

That person could be an existing church staff member or even a highly invested volunteer who could run the ministry for a few months in your absence.  

How do you know you’re ready for this?

Ask yourself this question: If I took a month-long vacation right now, who would lead and how would it go?

If you have good answers, you’re in good shape.

If you break into a sweat just thinking about it…you have work to do.

Wrap Up

If you want to get ready for what’s next, understand who you are, what you should be doing and what you shouldn’t be doing.

Establish and maintain healthy boundaries now. Don’t wait!

Become incredibly good at what you do.

Seek out mentors and invest in people who could take over the leadership of your church ministry right now.

I hope these tips have been helpful!

Topics: Advice

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