Monthly Archives: August 2016

Six Core Competencies of Pastors 03: Communication

If I could change one thing about pastors and church folk it would be that they would give each other the best possible interpretation of every action. For example…

You forgot to return my email? You were busy, not negligent.

You didn’t talk to me at coffee hour? You were dealing with an emergency not snubbing me.

You forgot my name in the list of ushers who served last year? That kind of thing happens to me too – I know you weren’t discounting my service.

That kind of thing…

But since I don’t have that ability I will put forward Communication as my third Core Competency.

Communication is huge for pastors. Ministries and churches live and die on the communication skills of pastors, staff and leaders.

Communication falls into two big buckets for pastors. Personal Communication, which is that one-on-one or small group communication – that day-in-and-day-out work of leading, encouraging and doing ministry. And Public Communication, which is worship leadership on Sunday morning, newsletters, websites, social media and other public communications. Both matter as Core Competencies.

Communication like all Core Competencies is something that we can develop – not only at the start of our ministry but throughout. Yet, because this competency can feel so personal, so central to our identity as pastors (and people) we often ignore the signs that our preaching and leading is falling on deaf ears.

Ever been told your preaching isn’t great? Most of us have. But what we do with that comment matters.  This leads me back to why Professionalism is the first Core Competency because Professionalism offers us a growth mindset– this is very different from blaming (its them, not me), discounting (my last church loved my preaching) or ignoring (who do they think they are?). Professionalism helps us think through our initial defensiveness.

Two communication priorities strike me as I visit churches: excellent preaching and communicating a welcome to newcomers. A recent article reminded us once more that when people are looking for a church (mostly when regular church goers move into a new community) they look for a church where the preaching is great and the people communicate friendliness. How good the sermon is on Sunday matters and how we communicate welcome is key.

One last thing, a plea of sorts. Please do a quarterly survey on how you are doing as a communicator. A simple survey can give you feedback about preaching, leadership, and other areas where insight on how it is going is gold to pastoral growth. We often fool ourselves here and we need the wisdom of others. Survey Monkey is a great tool and is easy to use for any pastor. So do it. Because communication matters.

Missed Part 2? Missed Part 1? 

The Six Core Competency of Pastors: Focus (Part 02)

I am a high-energy person who thrives on new ideas so the Core Competency of Focus was a challenge for me.

But a couple of things happened that got me thinking…

  • Leading house churches gave me a new perspective on what mattered in growing faith.
  • Working in New Ministries showed me many declining churches being busy but not fruitful.
  • My own development made a sharp climb when focus moved to the center.

And, all got me thinking about why focus matters so much. Especially today.

When Focus is not a core competency:

  1. Pastors waste their time and energy (energy is a huge issue here).
  2. Pastors feel scattered and ministry feels unsatisfying.
  3. Pastors experience doubt, fear, vocational turmoil and even burnout.
  4. Ministry potential (vitality and growth of churches) is not realized.

A couple of tools help in thinking through what focus looks like:

  • Jesus – his life and ministry is clear and focused. Read it from this context and look for these lessons.
  • Essentialism” by Greg McKeown. This is a great read to get you thinking about what focus might look like. I loved the audio book and the author is always on podcasts .

Focus looks very practical in my life –

  1. I figured out where I want to go. (Note: this is ongoing.)
  2. I align how I spend my time with the results I desire.
  3. I am honest with what I can do and commit to it.
  4. I admit what I cannot do and get help.
  5. I simplify everything so it is light weight and low maintenance (hence the title of my blog).
  6. I reflect on how I am doing and make adjustments.

I started my 6 Core Competencies with Professionalism. Professionalism gives a foundation from which the other competencies grow and without it some of the Core Companies aren’t fully realized. This second competency is an example because without Professionalism, Focus could become a justification for pastors to do what comes naturally instead of what is necessary.  Professionalism grounds us as we make the choice to focus on the essential, on the important.

One more thing on figuring out where you want to go (#1 above).  I wonder if the times in which we live (social media, always connected) stop us from doing the deep work of figuring out where we’d actually like to go? Everything is so instant and it is natural for us to focus on today.  Focus as a Core Competency can reacquaint us with this important (bigger picture) work.

What is your second core competency?

The 6 Core Competencies of Pastors (Part 01)

What six core competencies does a pastor need? I would imagine you could ask ONE hundred pastors and laity and get FIVE hundred answers. 🙂

Here are my thoughts. I share them not because I KNOW what the six core competencies are (that would take a lot more work and insight than I have) but so that you might also do some work and wrestling with this too. My sense is that it matters.  It matters what we believe is core to our work as pastors and the make necessary changes to focus there.

Where does my list come from? My list comes from my experience.

First is my experience in the local church where I have been blessed to serve churches that have taught me what I have needed to pastor successfully. (And yes, this has certainly looked different in different churches!)

Second is my experience as a lifelong learner. I love to read, attend trainings, try things out, make adjustments, reflect and discuss to learn what works in today’s world.  Learning and teaching has always been (and will probably always be) my passion.

And third is my experience as Director of New Ministries in Cal-Pac where I have the privilege of working with a wide variety of pastors who show me what matters in ministry and what (may) not.

join us forSo let’s begin with my #1.

Professionalism – For me professionalism includes:

  • Continuous Learning:
    •  Ongoing systematic retooling of (especially) preaching and leading. (Because what worked in your last church doesn’t necessarily work in the next one.)
    •  Learning about new methods & new generations.
    •  Learning how to work with community partners.
    • Learning from those within the faith community (earlier generations included).
    • Sharing, experimenting and building on learning with others (so the learning circle widens).
  • A Strong Work Ethic:
    • Making and keeping commitments.
    • Returning calls and emails.
    • Being faithful in administrative work.
    • Putting in the hours to make it happen.
    • Organizing my schedule for high impact and not for comfort.
    • Being ethical, honest and having the courage to make the tough choices.
  • Personal Credibility:
    •  Living my faith daily through spiritual practices – which includes prayer, Bible study, service, worship, etc.
    • Living in relationship with others in a way that honors differences, keeps confidences and respects boundaries.
    •  Tithing my income & using our financial resources in such a way that if they were public I would not uncomfortable.
    • Ongoing accountability to a small trustworthy group of people who know my BS and will call me on it.
  •         Flexibility:
    • Having an appropriate sense of give and take with others.
    • Being able and willing to change and adapt to people who see the world differently than I do.
    • Having a sense of humor & not taking myself too seriously which includes knowing when to move on and doing so without anger or regret.
  • A Deep Love for Christ’s Bride (the Church):
    • A deep and abiding belief that the church is one of God’s key tools for the redemption of the world.
    • A love, compassion and care for the people in the church and a desire to serve them and to build community among and with them.
    • A commitment to sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with the world which includes meeting, building community and working with people outside the church.
  • Self-awareness:
    • Working to know myself through assessment and other tools.
    • Reflecting daily – look for patterns, noticing where I am frustrated and where I feel most alive.
    • Setting goals and working to complete them (using a coach when needed).
    • Excellent self-care with includes morning and evening rituals.
    • Asking for and receiving feedback from my accountability group and from others in my field.

What is your #1 Core Competency?  I’ll share my #2 shortly –


The Six Core Competencies of Pastors (Part 0)

core_competencies_imageMy husband, Dr. Jeff Luther,  is the director of a medical residency program.  That means he trains new medical school grads on how to be amazing Family Physicians. He has done this for over 20 years.

I like his world.  I like hanging out with those who run the larger hospital and hearing how they focus their people, assets, and knowledge to make a difference for patients and for their community.

Last year we were in Kansas City at the bar of the historic Rieger Hotel and Jeff was talking to me about the “six core competencies” for physicians.  These are the core behaviors in which they train new physicians so when their three-year residency ends, they are ready for the world in which they will serve.

The core competencies for physicians from the ACGME are:

Professionalism– Carrying out professional responsibilities, including acting ethnically & caring for a diverse population.

Patient Care– Providing care that is compassionate, appropriate and effective.

Medical Knowledge– Having strong medical knowledge and applying this knowledge to patient care.

Communication– Effective communication with the patients,  families, other providers (nurses, doctors, etc) and the larger system.

Practiced Based Learning and Improvement– Embracing an ongoing commitment to evaluate care in light of new and evolving evidence through lifelong, self-generated learning.

System Based Practice- Connection with and commitment to the larger healthcare and community systems and the use of their resources with a focus on providing excellent value.

I have thought about what he shared since then and it has me thinking…what are the core competencies for pastors in today’s world?

Coming up with core competencies (CC) is nothing new.  Just google it.

Here were a couple lists I liked:

Core competences of future global leaders: Creative Direction, Inspiring Commitment, Effective Decision Making, Empowering Others, Continuous Self-Development.

CC for leaders: Social Intelligence, Interpersonal Skills, Emotional Intelligence, Prudence, Courage, Conflict Management, Decision Making, Political Skills, Influence Skills, Area Expertise.

Over the next couple weeks I will share what I see as the six core competencies for pastors. I invite you to come up with your own list and share your thoughts too.