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The 5 Pastor-Driven Obstacles to Growing a Church

November 1, 2009
Dick Hardy
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Need help removing obstacles? E-mail or call Dick 417-576-5492
Scripture is clear; the church is a living organism. As such it is true that living organisms naturally grow unless obstacles are placed in their way. Life comes as growth abounds. Death comes when growth ceases.

Pastoral staff members play a significant role in the growth of the church. The decisions they make are critical to the direction the church takes and its potential for growth. When the senior pastor or any of the staff pastors are not ministering at the level God designed for them to minister, the church is faced with obstacles to growth too numerous to count. 

The articulation of these obstacles is difficult as it can bring out the worst in insecurities all of us face. At the same time, to ignore these issues is to forfeit any chance we may have to remove them and see the church move forward in reaching lost people with the Gospel.

  1. The Lack of Growth in the Leader – The church will only grow to the level of the senior pastor. When the senior leader of the church finds himself in positions of stagnation the church is in dire straits. If you find yourself in a rut and cannot find your way out, you must stop. God did not design your leadership around the “rut.” As a leader you cannot expect the Body of believers under your care to move past where you are on the spiritual continuum. 

Action Steps: 

·         Be honest with yourself. Look in the mirror and acknowledge that you have lost your edge with God.

·         Pray as long as it takes to reignite your flame for God. Doing other self-help things are fine, but without prayer, they will be short-lived or for naught.

·         Stay very tight with your personal dryness. Do not go public with your stagnation. This creates fear, instability and uncertainty in the Body. You must talk with a very select few people about this issue. I recommend two or three people who are deeply devoted to you and understand absolute confidentiality.

·         Exercise all of the spiritual disciplines whether you feel like it or not.

  1. The Unwillingness to Lose People – If you are going to lead you are going to lose people. There are people in your congregation who will leave when the church grows. Are you willing to lose them? Are you willing to forfeit their tithes in order to reach new levels of growth? The leader must position his thinking to be willing to lose people. It is the price of leadership.  You do not go into your leadership with an intention to do things to chase people off. However, at the same time, you do move forward knowing that while you reach to the unbeliever you may offend or tick off a long-term member. Likely you will encroach on a deeply held tradition or conviction of one of the saints. Please know you are not leading your church to maintain tradition. You are there to remove obstacles to growth and let people who are far from God come close to him.

Action Steps: 

·         Spend time in the presence of God to know and understand the purpose for the church you serve.

·         Be willing to go the distance with what you hear from God.

·         Prepare the church’s budget for a potential loss in income. By the way, do not go to the staff or board and say something like, “We’re going to move this church forward, tick off a bunch of people, have them leave and lose a bunch of tithes.” Just be smart and do not put the church at risk while you are making tough decisions.

  1. The Senior Pastor Always Sees Greener Grass – Let’s set the record straight. No matter how crummy your lack of green grass is, it will not be greener at the next place because you are the person tending the grass. A friend created a vivid picture for me when he termed this issue “short-term fatherhood in the church.” When a mom keeps changing husbands every few years, the kids become stunted in their ability to grow, trust and understand the role of a leader in the home. The dad is here today and gone tomorrow. The same thing is true in the church. Pastor is here today and gone tomorrow. How can the church grow when a new dad is at the helm every few years? When long-term senior pastors continue to nurture, teach and demonstrate commitment to the Body, the obstacle of insecurity is erased.

Action Steps: 

·         Stay put.

·         Work and pray hard.

·         If necessary, reinvent the way you lead. If you need help with this one contact me at

·         Quit telling yourself the grass is greener.

  1. Quality of Hires – I am amazed at how frequently I find very weak staff members in what used to be very strong churches. The senior pastor must always take serious the issue of staffing. Never allow yourself to get in a position of just plugging holes when a staff member leaves. You should always plan to make a hire that will be with you for a very long time. That does not mean you always find lifers but you should look for the very best in all your hires. Along with this come issues of spiritual sensitivity, entrepreneurial giftings, and drive. I recommend you plan to compensate the high quality staff member at the 75 percentile level of that position’s value, regionally or nationally. In other words, my guess is you are not looking to find an average staff member so why fall prey to the thinking that you will pay in the middle of that position’s range. You get what you pay for.

Action Steps: 

·         Hire slow and fire fast.

·         Make sure chemistry, competence and character are all part of the picture.

·         Pay at the 75 percentile level. Contact me at if you need help with that issue.

·         Communicate to the governing board the importance of taking care of people, financially and otherwise. Get good people and keep them.

  1. Constant Turnover of Staff – In far too many churches, a staff revolving door sits at the entrance to the building. All a person has to do is to examine the staff tenure of growing churches and you will see that people stay put at those places; not everyone but most do. It is critical that the senior pastor understand that his bread is buttered with the quality of staff they hire and the length of time the staff stay with the church.  Realistically some staff members are keepers and some are seasonal role players. Not every staff member who takes you to the dance will dance the night away with you. At most flat or declining churches, staff members can stay far longer than they do. In too many cases, however, the senior pastor does not validate the role of the staff person. They are just a workman in the senior pastor’s eyes, someone you pay to do a job. That is not to say the senior pastor has to cater to the staff member but it is to say that staff have value and the senior pastor is the one to express that value.

Action Steps: 

·         Hire right.

·         Give sincere, verbal expressions of appreciation at timely intervals to all valued staff members.

·         Maintain your senior leadership role. You are not necessarily to be everybody’s best buddy.

·         Lift staff members in the eyes of the congregation.

In the final analysis you as the senior leader must take responsibility for all components of your own leadership development and that of your team. I cannot overemphasize the importance of you praying to the end of God’s direction in lifting you and the team He has entrusted to you to the highest level of leadership possible.

*Special thanks go to Pastors Jerry Brooks, Larry Burton, Rob Carlson, Bobby Davis, Rod Loy and Rick Ross for their valued contribution to portions of this article.


Dick Hardy is the Founder and President of The Hardy Group, an Executive Consulting firm for senior pastors of churches. Everything but preaching is his theme. Dealing with the stuff that keeps you up at night is his focus.

Dick brings a wealth of experience to the table for pastors when dealing with the tough issues of the church relative to growth, organization, leadership, administration, and change. His service as Administrative Pastor at two mega churches and as Vice President at a flagship denominational Bible college makes him a resource your church will want to retain. Dick is also available to serve as a speaker on this subject and many more.

Copyright © 2009 by Dick Hardy. Permission is granted for the free redistribution of this article. You may contact Dick at or visit the website


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