Should Lead Pastors Love Their Staff?

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Rick Howerton: "I pray that, if you have a staff member that you don’t love at present, you will allow the Holy Spirit to bring love alive in you."

On multiple occasions, while in conversation with a senior pastor about a staff member, I’ve been told, “You don’t have to love the people you work with.” Sometimes, the declaration was, “You don’t have to love the people who work for you.” These statements tend to follow a lengthy conversation concerning how the senior pastor is angry with a staff member or is at odds with a staff member after some situation played out. I wonder…Does a senior pastor have to love the staff they lead, or are the staff they lead simply co-workers, underlings on the flow chart with a job to do and so the responsibility of the senior pastor is simply to make sure these employees get their work done? With this mindset, there is no relational responsibility.

The New Testament is pretty straight up when it comes to this loving one another thing.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. John 13:34

By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Romans 12:10

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. Romans 13:8

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13

Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Ephesians 4:2

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. 1 Peter 1:22

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. 1 Peter 3:8

Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. 1 Peter 5:14

This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 1 John 3:11

And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 1 John 3:23

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 1 John 4:7

Rick Howerton Rick has one passion… To see “a biblical small group within walking distance of every person on the planet making disciples that make disciples.” He is presently pursuing this passion as the Small Group and Discipleship Specialist at LifeWay Church Resources. Rick has authored or co-authored multiple books, studies, and leader training resources including A Different Kind of Tribe: Embracing the New Small Group Dynamic, Destination Community: Small Group Ministry Manual, The Gospel and the Truth: Living the Message of Jesus, Small Group Life Ministry Manual: A New Approach to Small Groups, Redeeming the Tears: a Journey Through Grief and Loss, Small Group Life: Kingdom, Small Group Kickoff Retreat: Experiential Training for Small Group Leaders, and Great Beginnings: Your First Small Group Study, Disciples Path: A Practical Guide to Disciple Making. Rick’s varied ministry experiences as an collegiate minister, small group pastor, teaching pastor, elder, full-time trainer and church consultant, as well as having been a successful church planter gives him a perspective of church life that is all-encompassing and multi-dimensional. Rick is a highly sought after communicator and trainer.

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  • Brian Ives

    Good info, I have been with two different leaders. The first one said to “never be friends with the people who work for you.” I never once even had a meal with that Pastor. The next Pastor said he “wanted to ministry with his best friends.” It is amazing to think, that a Pastor could love and spend time with all the other people in the congregation, but not spend time with the other Christians; the ones who hold a position.

  • Michael Constantine

    Right now, in the country where I serve, there is a poignant, yet lively, conversation that relates to this issue. If a senior pastor loves his staff, (and how can he not if he has read John 13) , should he do what he can to make sure that they receive adequate compensation for their work? It seems vital, yet it is an often overlooked expression of practical love.


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