Much has been made of the difference between management and leadership in the past 40 years of business literature. A few of the typical thoughts include:

“Managers do things right but leaders do the right things.” – Warren Bennis

“When you’re a manager, you work for your company. When you’re a leader, your company works for you.” – Stan Slap

“Leaders are change agents, managers maintain the status quo.” – William Arruda

The recent culture of developing leadership in pastors and church staff has been healthy for the church. Some have argued that pastors should fulfill the role of shepherd apart from a “worldly” focus on leadership. But leadership is a spiritual gift for the edification of the body (Rom. 12:8). Just as we want skillful musicians leading our music, we want skilfull leaders, pastors and elders, leading our church.

But in separating leadership and management, there has been an unhealthy bent towards seeing managers as less than leaders. If there is something employees dislike, it’s management. If there is something that sounds brilliant, it’s leadership. The Tarzan summary is; “Leadership good. Management bad.”

In truth, all leaders manage and all managers lead.

Leadership is a description of a future oriented role that helps people align to a direction and move ahead. Management is a description of a present oriented role that, helps people align with vision and keep moving. If there is a nuance, it’s that leaders focus on the horizon and managers focus on people moving toward that horizon.

Any leader without management often ends up leading very few people. Any manager without leadership can end up rearranging the deck chairs on a sinking ship. 

Biblical Terminology

In a church, you need a unifying vision and direction to align your efforts around. The main unifier is the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20) along with the Great Commandments (Mt. 22:37-40). The church is to take the gospel to the ends of the earth while loving God and our neighbor fully. Some might call that vision the “Leadership” of the church, and it comes from Jesus. How each church does that (outreach, service, discipleship, missions, church planting, reproduction, etc) is in effect, a management decision. A biblical term for management is stewardship (Luke 12:42).

But casting vision and setting direction for an individual church’s mission is the unique challenge for each lead pastor. Yet, if a pastor doesn’t manage/steward the resources of the church well, particularly the people, they can find few people willing to follow a great vision. People are God’s primary resource to accomplish His mission in the world. 

As well, few remain inspired to serve zealously over a long period of time for a caring manager exclusively focused on doing things right. Being efficient and cared for isn’t enough to sustain our focus through difficulty, suffering or failure. 

Effective churches require good leadership and good management. The two go hand in hand. Just as teachers need learners to teach, leaders need followers and shepherds need sheep. Denigrating one over the other undermines the mission of the church. Jesus advocated leading the body and loving the body. Both are essential.

So if you want to be a pastor, you need to lead and manage well. To denigrate either would be like, well, an eye telling the ear it is useless because it cannot see. I think I read that somewhere.   


This post was written by Dave Patchin, Lead Navigator of Church Accomplished. With decades leading large churches and non-profits, Dave has designed ministries, built systems, launched locations and developed teams that achieve their goals. Sign up for his newsletter and grab this ebook delivered straight to your inbox. Just click the image and it’s yours! 

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