Fireman to Engineer: Pastor Transitions To Overseer

At times, pastors lead small.  They begin with grand hopes, but because they are called upon to wear so many hats in smaller settings, they have trouble shedding those hats as they transition to larger ministry settings.

Example:  As a pastor is starting out, it’s probably a one man show – with the exception of an office staff person or when the pastor is on staff for a larger congregation.  The pastor prepares for Sunday, does the publications, leads the meetings, deals with finances, knows the church calendar, gets things off the ground, invites people, networks the computer system, shepherds people, deals with the building, does the visiting, and much more.

As the church grows and staff expands (or as the pastor is given charge over larger congregations and ministries) the transition to overseer is not easy.  The pastor now has to instantly remove himself from many of the day to day tasks and focus only on vision, staff leadership, Sundays, expectations, etc.

Without an intentional plan for transitioning, the day to day issues will always take precedence.

A long while back I had a post on the fireman’s seat vs the engineers seat on old steam engine trains. There are a few things I have learned from visiting the Transportation Museum in St. Louis, MO.  One of them is the importance of the Firemen.

In the old steam engines, there were two clearly defined roles – the engineer and the fireman.  Almost all engineers had at one point been a fireman.  But they had transitioned to a new role.  The job for the engineer became setting the pace and course for the entire train and supervising the firemen.The firemen kept the fire burning – which was a big job.  Sort of the like the day to day stuff we deal with in ministry and church administration.

If the pastor isn’t careful, as he moves into the engineer role (which the church so desperately needs) he will also hang onto the fireman role – keeping the day to day issues that move things forward. Neither will be effective and the church won’t grow.

Here are some questions to ask:

Who are your firemen?

How are you counting on them for the day to day deatils of the church ministry?

How are you delegating and configuring staff so that you are able to more full move into the engineer seat for the sake of the church?

I heard it put quite succinctly the other day when someone mentioned “sometimes leaders spend too much time working in the church and not enough time working on the church.”

Pastors need to transition – become the overseer.  Find ways to surround yourself with people in the fireman’s seat keeping on top of the tasks to move forward in the mission with momentum.


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