Pastoring and Leading with a Tender and Gracious Heart

What is your leadership style? How do you get things done? How do you lead and manage those around you and continually push them to strive for excellence even though the majority of them are over-worked and underpaid (if they are paid at all). This question is often ignored and we are rarely taught how to be effective leaders and managers of those who enable us to do our jobs effectively.

Ask yourself… how do I lead others?

  • Are you a micro-manager? Do you have to be at the wheel on every miniscule task? Do you struggle to trust others as much as you trust yourself to do the jobs at hand? If something has to get done are you the only one that you can trust even if others are more than able and equipped to handle it?
  • Are you passive in most, if not all, areas? Do you allow those around you to do “their own thing” and lead from the sidelines just cheering on your team? Do you work beside others to get the job done or do you watch as they perform ALL the duties?
  • Are you a commander and chief? Does your quest for excellence cause you to lead with a firm hand and stern words that strike fear into the hearts of those under and around you? Do you DEMAND respect from others in an unhealthy way? I hope not… and although that is exaggerated you would be surprised how guilty of this behavior most of us are daily.
  • Do you nurture growth in all areas through the things that you say and do? How about, do you nurture growth through the things you DON’T say and DON’T do? Are you a gracious leader who leads by example and works beside their team to accomplish the tasks at hand with excellence and faithfulness?

Did any of those descriptions of leadership styles “hit the nail on the head” when describing you and your style? I bet one of them struck a chord…

As pastors and ministers I believe we should challenge ourselves to lead with grace and tenderness to nurture and improve those around us in all areas. That description would best fit under our fourth option or style described. Let me explain why…

Often, speaking for myself here, we get so caught up in the weekly tasks that we tend to ignore those doing them and only acknowledge the tasks themselves instead of acknowledging the one(s) who actually DID the task. We can let time pass without giving things a single thought until we notice something that has been done unsatisfactory or not “up-to-par.” How do we break that cycle? How do we lead and improve/ grow people in the things that they do while showing grace?

The Pastor that I serve under, Herb Williams, has influenced me greatly by leading with a tender and graceful spirit, and by doing so he has grown me and enabled me to do my job more effectively. He has a saying that will forever impact my life and I think it is useful to all of us when put in a leadership position. He says, “I would rather make the mistake of showing too much grace, than make the mistake of being too quick to be harsh.”

An attitude of grace and tenderness grows people and nurtures relationships. Harshness easily turns away and causes dissention or discord.

You may be agreeing with everything I have said but are wondering, “What does this look like, and how do I do it?” Below I have listed several ideas or thoughts on how to develop others by leading with a gracious and tender heart.

  • Show Grace with your Words

Our words mean more than most of us would acknowledge. The way we speak to people can build up and make people comfortable when serving alongside us, or it can tear down and put people on edge and prohibit them from doing their job effectively. Gentleness is something that I personally struggle with. The one who knows this the best is my Fiancé Alaina. Sometimes I have to be intentional when speaking and dealing with her to be gentle. I would dare to say that it is never the problem that we have a desire to be harsh to others… for some of us harshness just comes naturally and that is something we must work on and deal with. When speaking with people we should strive to use words that are kind and gentle… words that build a nurturing and effective working environment.

In other words, be careful what you say and how you express yourself! Do you have some words in your vocabulary that shouldn’t be there? You may react to that question quickly with a resounding, “NO!” But hear me out… there may be some words that we say to express ourselves that aren’t “bad” or “curse” words, but they also aren’t helping us out when we are trying to connect and nurture others. Some things just come across as more tense, harsh, or dividing than others. The old sayings, “Think before you speak” and, “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all” ring loud and true and are very helpful here. After all, there are ways of saying constructive and difficult things nicely…

Love those around you. Grow them. Pour into them and allow them to pour into you. Nobody is damaged beyond repair, or inadequate. We all deserve to be shown respect, so let the cycle start with YOU.

  • Correct and Guide with Grace

Obviously there are times we need to correct other people, but there is a way to do that in a way that develops a constructive environment with the ultimate goal of doing things with an excellence that points people to none other than Christ. Our critiques and corrections never have to be done in a hateful or mean-spirited way. Instead I have found that providing tips and bringing to light areas to focus and improve upon gets the job done while also providing a teaching and learning opportunity for all parties involved. It may take longer to approach things in this manner, but overall it teaches and conveys things in a way that makes them “stick” through experience more so than a “quick-fix” method. In the end, we are here to pastor and minister and we have to accept the fact that all changes aren’t made overnight. A challenge that we all need to accept is to find ways to gently say what needs to be said and to promote unity and growth through our constructive guidance and/ or criticism.

  • Get YOUR Hands Dirty

 This point may seem like it doesn’t belong… but I assure you that it absolutely does. Every good and gracious leader divides up tasks and places trust in people, but they also lead by example. NEVER give another person a task that you aren’t willing to do yourself.

Do you think that you are too good for particular tasks? Are you willing to:

Sweep the floors?

Clean the toilets?

Sanitize after a disastrous vomit experience?

Make those hard home or hospital visits?

Run the Soundboard or projectors?

If you are above any of these tasks then get out now… You can’t expect another staff member or volunteer to do something that you haven’t, or aren’t willing to do yourself. Be gracious by making life easier for those around you. Part of any pastor or ministers job is to care for and equip those around them. Equipping someone may mean showing them grace and guiding them through a task… and I hate to break it to you, but that isn’t always a quick endeavor!

Are you caring for and equipping people or setting them up for failure?

  • Show those Around you that they are Appreciated

Think to a time when you felt under-appreciated or taken for granted. It’s awful isn’t it? Was it harder to stay motivated and to pursue excellence in the tasks that you are in charge of? I bet it was. Simple acknowledgements of appreciation go a long way in nurturing a positive working environment. We all hopefully have the same interest and passion: working for the Lord’s glory… but we have different avenues and ways of going about accomplishing that task. Support each other and provide recognition when people are exceling in their particular areas. Take time to say “thank you.” It doesn’t cost anything, but it can be the exact encouragement someone needs to press on.

On the same note, part of leading with a tender and gracious heart is to be able to acknowledge and intentionally apologize when we fail. We must swallow our pride, humble ourselves, and admit that we were wrong or that we came up short. We won’t do everything right and those around us know that… stop the act and admit it. If we are gracious in the ways that we lead others then I bet they will be when the roles are reversed. If you are tender and gracious in your leading then I bet you will have many people wanting to support you and pick you back up when you fall.

Be a gracious leader by rejoicing with others in their victories and successes and by supporting people through their shortcomings.

This list or collection of ideas obviously isn’t comprehensive, and I’m sure many of you could add great insight into this post. That being said, I hope you have taken something from this because I know I sure have. We all have work to do… none of us are perfect leaders, but we should always be willing to adapt and improve. I will leave you with the words of Ephesians 4:32:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

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