12 Tough Church Leadership Lessons I’ve Had to Learn

For another assignment, I’ve been writing about leaders. Having spent some time thinking about my own leadership, here are 12 tough leadership lessons I’ve had to learn . . . at least up to now. I’m sure I have more to learn. 

  1. I’m replaceable. Like, before I ever walk out the door.
  2. Organizations go on without me. In fact, they might even be stronger after I’m gone.
  3. It can be lonely. Especially when you lose friends because of leadership decisions you’ve made.
  4. I can’t fix everything. Only Jesus can do that.
  5. People will misjudge you. It’s almost unavoidable when you know more details than they do (and usually can’t divulge them), but they judge you on the basis of what they think they know.
  6. It can cost you sleep even if no one else is worried about whatever bothers you. You may be the only one awake, but that’s part of leadership.
  7. You can’t always be confidential. When lives or safety are at stake, you have to make hard choices.
  8. The underbelly of organizations is not always pretty. What looks so cool on the outside isn’t always so great on the inside.
  9. Your family might get caught in the tough moments of leading. No matter how hard you try to shield them, the arrows sometimes still hit them.
  10. Your absolute best won’t be good enough for some people. That’s just the way it is, I’m afraid.
  11. You can’t outrun your calling. If God’s called you to lead, you can’t ignore it.
  12. All the “stuff” you have to deal with is worth it when one life is changed. It might take a few changed lives to understand that lesson, but it’s right.

What tough church leadership lessons have you learned?


  • Bill Pitcher says:

    Ouch, ouch and ouch! You hit me squarely on that one. As the old commercial said, “Thanks, I needed that!”

  • GARY says:

    Absolutely agree! We are an instrument and tool that God wants to use. Let’s just make sure we are useable.

  • Brian says:

    #6 and #10 have always been hard for me. It is easy to forget that not everyone eats, sleeps and breathes church work like we do. I have a tendency to try and fix everything (which points me to #4!) and when I can’t do that I feel that I have let people down. God has had to remind me over and over again of Galatians 1:10.

  • Skip Cook says:

    I was told once by a wise older man. Boy take your foot out of that bucket of water and see how big a hole you leave. That has helped me.

  • Mike Miller says:

    Sometimes poorly delivered criticism (by people who just don’t like you) is also valid criticism. People can be mean, but they might still be speaking truth. It’s hard to hear criticism from a friend and even harder from an enemy, but we need to learn to evaluate the criticism objectively.

    Alternately, not all criticism is valid. Sometimes people will tell you what you’re doing wrong, but the truth is that they are wrong. Again, we need to evaluate criticism or else we can end up trying to fix problems that don’t exist.

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