What Effective Pastoral Leadership Looks Like

Date Published

December 14, 2022

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Published by Calvin Seminary

What Effective Pastoral Leadership Looks Like

What Is Pastoral Leadership?

Pastoral leadership is the overarching term for the marks of effective pastors,
encompassing Christian teaching, discipleship, and congregational guidance.

Types of Pastoral Leadership

There are many different frameworks that characterize pastoral leadership, but some areas
of pastoral leadership that appear consistently across frameworks are:

  • Preaching and teaching: Preaching and teaching are the ways in which leaders
    preach the good news of God’s story to all, and instruct and guide believers. These
    roles are a crucial part of the pastoral leadership of a church.
  • Pastoral care: Pastoral care is the shepherding function of church leadership.
    Exercising excellent pastoral care requires us to listen, advise, stand with, pray with,
    and together bear the burdens of a congregation and community.
  • Evangelism and outreach: The Gospel message is good news-both to those
    unreached by the message, and to those who have heard the message before but
    their hearts are now ready to receive it. Evangelism bears witness to Christ’s
    redemptive power and invites others into God’s great story. Outreach can include
    evangelism, but is rooted in meeting the basic needs of individuals, families, and
    communities through Christ’s love. This may include providing food, shelter,
    clothing, childcare, education, and a sense of belonging.
  • Discipleship: Whether one-on-one or with small groups, pastors often take on a
    discipleship role in their congregation. In larger churches, pastors may not be
    responsible for discipling individual members but may live out their work of
    discipleship through the spiritual mentoring of other staff and leaders.
  • Vision casting: Effective pastoral leaders seek wisdom and guidance from God
    alongside other believers. In sensing where the Holy Spirit is leading, pastors and
    other church leaders can cast a vision for their congregation and their next venture
    in ministry.
  • Organization: Pastoral leadership can also come in the form of organization. An
    organized church with clear communication and reliable administrative services can
    better foster engagement with congregants and the community.
  • Seeking justice: Effective pastoral leadership speaks truth and leads congregations
    in promoting not merely a social gospel, but transformative, Christ-centered action
    for promoting justice and working toward renewal in all areas of life.

Leadership Qualities of a Pastor

As the body of Christ, we all need each other. It is important to note that one church may
not reasonably find all of these qualities fully developed in one leader. However, these are
common characteristics of pastors, esteemed in scripture. You will likely possess one or
more of these strengths as a pastor, while you will continue to grow in others:

  • Preparedness: 2 Timothy 4:2 instructs: Preach the word; be prepared in season and
    out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage-with great patience and careful
  • Shepherding: Acts 20:28 reminds us: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of
    which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which
    he bought with his own blood.
  • Encouragement/edification: In Ephesians 4:11-13 we are reminded: So Christ
    himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to
    equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we
    all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become
    mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
  • Self control: Titus 1:8 speaks to a church leader being a lover of good, self-controlled,
    upright, holy, and disciplined.

How to Become an Effective Pastoral Leader

1. Prioritize Your Relationship with God

To lead effectively in God’s kingdom, a pastor must be in fellowship with God. This involves
a personal relationship of prayer and scripture reading, and also participation in a
community of believers seeking and discerning God’s heart together.

2. Study Scripture

In order to lead others in the truth of God’s Word, a pastor must know God’s Word – and
continually strive to know it more deeply. Through intentional study and meditation, the
Bible will come alive as the Holy Spirit leads and guides pastors (as well as all believers).

3. Listen and Learn from Others

Calvin Theological Seminary’s programs offer many opportunities to learn from others,
from walking with a cohort of people from diverse backgrounds to being paired with a
mentor in a relevant ministry. Here you will be encouraged to listen and learn from those
who are different from you, and to share your own unique voice in the conversation.

4. Rest and Care for Yourself Well

It is important for pastors to remember God’s heart for them. God has designed rest for
creation, including humans, His image bearers. Though we are bound to grow tired, waiting
on the Lord is the way our strength is renewed (Isaiah 40:30-31).

5. Recognize Your Limits

Pastors need to hold the humility and self-awareness to know where their weaknesses and
limits are. While spiritual growth is part of sanctification, we can also realize our
shortcomings. As the body of Christ, Christ followers recognize that God has given us a
body of believers to work together. Lean into the strengths of others on your ministry
team, as you freely give your own gifts for the kingdom.

6. Reach Out

Pastors should look for ways to make participation in the local church more accessible to
all members of their community. Calvin’s contextual ministry internship grows leaders in
the areas of outreach, evangelism, hospitality, church accessibility, and more.

7. Pursue a Pastoral Leadership Degree

The full range of degrees and programs at Calvin Theological Seminary are designed with
ministry leadership in mind. This includes a Master of Arts in Christian Leadership with a
concentration in pastoral leadership, as well as a Certificate in Pastoral Leadership.

What You’ll Learn with a Pastoral Leadership Degree

How to Preach

Through the Preaching Theory and Methods course in Calvin’s MA in Christian Leadership
program, you’ll be introduced to the practice of preaching through engaging coursework
and examples. Explore topics such as the theology of preaching, storytelling techniques,
writing for the ear, pastoral issues in the pulpit, and more.

How to Offer Pastoral Care

Through the Foundations for Pastoral Care course in Calvin’s MA in Christian Leadership
program, you will engage and understand pastoral theology and the theory of pastoral
practice. Explore what it means to bring someone into awareness of the presence of God in
the midst of their personal circumstances.

How to Disciple and Teach

Through the Discipleship and Teaching course in Calvin’s MA in Christian Leadership
program, you will be formed in the teaching ministry of the church. Grow through biblical
and theological foundations, and through developing a teaching-learning strategy that is
best for your context.

How to Lead Worship

Through the Forming Worshiping Communities course in Calvin’s MA in Christian Leadership
program, you will develop proficiency in the principles and practices of vital and faithful
worship leadership. Use biblical and historical perspectives to understand worship
practices, including those of the Reformed tradition, and gain worship planning and leading

Take the Next Step in Pastoral Leadership with Calvin

Are you interested in spiritual formation, leadership development, and theological
education that grows your effectiveness as a Christian leader? Use the form below to
request more information about our leadership programs and degrees.


Visit Calvin Theological Seminary’s Campus

We can’t wait to host you on campus! Schedule your visit today, or, if you need more time to find a date that works for you, please request information so we can continue the conversation about supporting your calling!