7 Characteristics of Pastoral Leaders Who Don’t Give Up Easily

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I spent a few minutes recently with a pastor who’s led his church for 25+ years. Seeing him made me think about the leaders I know who’ve persisted through decades of strong ministry in the same place. Here are some of the characteristics that mark these leaders:

  1. They have no question of their original call to that ministry. They can usually describe it in vivid terms because it was—and is still—so real to them. Until God just as clearly releases them from that calling, they’re invested where they are.
  2. They lead from their knees. Almost without exception in my experience, these leaders are people of prayer. They’ve learned they can’t stay focused and committed for the long haul unless they daily give the day to God.
  3. They’ve determined what battles to fight. What I’ve most observed in these leaders is not the battles they do fight; it’s the potential battles they choose not to fight. They don’t get stressed about matters that are likely to resolve themselves over time. They simply don’t worry about the little things that would make me worry.
  4. They prioritize their marriage and their parenting. These leaders view their first ministry in their home, and they do it all well. I’ve learned from them that a happy home can help you push through all kinds of stuff in the church.
  5. They’ve developed a strong, loyal team around them. They make work fun. They affirm their staff. They spend time with other leaders, listening to them even if they disagree. It’s not unusual, in fact, for a long-term pastor to have long-term staff on the team, too.
  6. They’re unafraid to say, “I was wrong” and “I’m sorry.” They exude personal humility even as they clearly and definitively lead. If they need to admit wrong, they do so without fear of losing their credibility; their years of faithfulness have gained them some grace.
  7. Increasingly, they’re considering a succession plan. I say “increasingly” because I’m not sure I would have included this characteristic 10 years ago. Now, however, I’m seeing more long-term leaders pave the way for their successor.

If you want to hear characteristics of leaders who do give up too easily, you might check out this post. What other characteristics, though, have you seen in healthy long-term ministries?


Editor’s note: This post was originally published at chucklawless.com

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MDiv Preaching and Pastoral Ministry

The Preaching and Pastoral Ministry track prepares students for pastoral ministry in the local church with a special emphasis on expository preaching.



  • Endurance
  • Leadership
  • Pastoral Ministry
  • Pastors
Chuck Lawless

Director of the Center for Preaching and Pastoral Leadership

Dr. Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions, Dean of Doctoral Studies, and Vice-President for Spiritual Formation and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary, in addition to serving as Team Leader for Theological Education Strategists for the International Mission Board. He previously served as a Vice-President for Global Theological Advance for the IMB. Prior to that, he was dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, where he also served as Vice President for Academic Programming and the Director of Professional Doctoral Studies. He received a B.S. degree from Cumberland College and M.Div. and Ph.D. degrees from Southern Seminary. He is the author of eight works, including “Membership Matters,” and “Spiritual Warfare,” and has contributed numerous articles to denominational periodicals. He and his wife Pam have been married for over 25 years and reside here in Wake Forest, NC.

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