Coaching Helps Pastors Discover Their Leadership Values

In the ever-changing landscape of leadership, it will be essential for leaders to know themselves and their core values. Modern culture is constantly in flux and influences the church both positively and negatively. Contemporary Christian leadership will require men and women to be secure in their values and exercise their leadership from them. As Delores Ambrose believes, beginning from this position will allow these persons to “choose to have an extraordinary impact on the situations in which they find themselves.”[1]  Every successful ministry includes a clear mission. What helped clarify my mission and purpose? Let me walk you through the same tool I used. Spend time reflecting on these questions and keep at them until you reach a point of certainty.

The Pastor’s Rocking Chair

Getting Clear on Your Mission

Do you ever wonder what your clear purpose is? This exercise helps you see your vision for your life and ministry. Allow yourself 20 minutes of quiet time to think and write your answer in the space below! This is about you, so let your imagination go, write a story and paint a picture of your life with words. Take a moment to imagine you are blissfully happy and healthy and ninety years old. You’re sitting in your rocking chair and looking back over your life and ministry. Answer these questions as fully as you can.

1. Who are you as a person? What is it about you that people value?

2. What have you achieved? What are you proud of? What gives you a sense of fulfillment?

3. Consider how your life unfolded in the following areas; Family, Friends, Career, Health, Home, what you did for Fun and Leisure, what you learned about, and what you did in Service, Leadership, or your Community.

4. Finally, what shows you are truly happy?

Each of these questions communicates something about your mission and purpose. If you need more help, add these questions to the mix.

What most excites you in the world?

What most angers you in the world?

If you could teach three things to others about what excites you in the world, what would you teach?

Your Line in the Sand

Determine Your Core Values

Core values are your fixed position. The consistent and reliable way you respond time after time. They are your north star. Whether or not you are aware of them, core values will always show up in your actions and decisions. You need a line in the sand.

When I was younger and starting ministry, I didn’t have a line in the sand. I was too busy trying to impress my superintendent, fellow pastors, and the people I served. I would do whatever they wanted. My mission was squashed day after day. I was miserable. I felt like I could not say “no.” And I really couldn’t. I didn’t know what I stood for. I didn’t know my line in the sand.

One of my favorite presidents and historical leaders is John Adams. He was the philosopher and idea man behind the American Revolution. After becoming the second president of the United States, Adams revealed the values he used as guide rails. He wrote, “I must study politics and war, so my sons may have the liberty to study painting and poetry, mathematics and philosophy.”[2] Adams knew why he did what he did. He was grounded in his daily decisions. When his back was against the wall, he knew the response he would make time and time again. You and I need lines in the sand. Core values are lines in the sand.

Core values are your fixed position. The consistent and reliable way you respond time after time. They are your north star. Whether or not you are aware of them, core values will always show up in your actions and decisions. When I got serious about my mission, I knew I needed to discern my values. Here’s what flowed out of me.

I value…





These values guide my decisions and actions – no matter what. These show me when to say “yes” and, more importantly, when to say ”no.” You might be asking, how do I discern my values? Make a list. Here’s the way to start. Find a comfortable place, get a notepad, and start writing words that you believe describe you. Some words might be “courageous, stubborn, helpful, loving, compassionate, driven, faith, excellence, commitment….” Spend time with this and write what comes to mind.

You may even want to think about positive words others have used to describe you. Once you have your list, highlight three to five words that resonate deeply with you. These are words that warm your heart and put fire in your belly. Only choose three to five words. You will live by these characteristics and habits when your back is against the wall. These values will need to be your line in the sand. You’ve got to ask yourself, “Will these things I’ve chosen to guide my decisions last when it gets hard? Or will I respond oppositely?” If your core values don’t work when you have to make a hard decision, they are not values but wishes. You will know if your values are right the first time you must say “no” to someone.

Create Habits to Support Your Mission

            Wasn’t it great getting clarity on your life purpose? You have a purpose statement now that can be honed and modified over time. It’s a working document. But every good life purpose statement needs a path or a course. Your purpose propels you forward into action. This requires discipline and good habits.

“In reading the lives of great men, I found that the first victory they won was over themselves… self-discipline with all of them came first.”– Harry S. Truman

Self-discipline determines success. It is the magic bullet to unlock your potential and finally move forward with your life. Self-discipline is the ability to put off what you want at the moment for what you want in the long run. It is a habit of self-regulation for the sake of improvement. Some have said it’s the ability to do the things you don’t want to do. Are you familiar with the marshmallow experiment? Four-year-old children were each given one marshmallow. They could either eat the marshmallow immediately or, if they waited 15 minutes, could receive another marshmallow. The kids who could wait generally became successful and well-adjusted adults.

In contrast, the kids who quickly ate the first marshmallow had more trouble dealing with stress, frustration, and impulse control. Everyone wants a shortcut on how to be more disciplined. But there isn’t one. It is simply a matter of training. It is saying “No!” to the things that waste your life and your time and saying “Yes!” to habits that draw you closer to success. Replacing your old habits and lifestyle with new ones is crucial. There are consequences to your actions. If you want new results and positive consequences, change your actions.

Design a New Routine

            You will only succeed in your leadership values when you learn to say “no” to the old habits. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. Be consistent with what you’re walking away from, and you will see change. You’ll feel a lot better about yourself. Use the following questions to reconsider your new routines and priorities in leadership and life.

My Top 3 PRIORITIES in leadership right now are:

1. _______________________      

2. _______________________        

3. _______________________

My Top 3 STRESSORS in leadership right now are:           

1. _______________________        

2. _______________________        

3. _______________________

What supportive daily habits or specific daily actions could you introduce? Write up to 5 actions that best support your leadership decisions. They must be specific and measurable, so you know exactly what to do and can clearly say you have completed the step!


–   Have 15 minutes of silence or alone time each day

–   Drink 8 glasses of water a day

–   Be at my desk by 8:00 am / leave by 6:00 pm every day

–   Be in bed by 10:30 pm

–   Do at least 30 mins exercise/activity every day    

–  Make all my calls in the first hour of the day

–  Write my top 3 priorities for the day out every morning before starting work

–   Connect daily with my spouse (5 mins listening)

–   Write all appointments down – in one place

Habit                                                                                       Benefit to me

1.         _____________                           __________________

2.         _____________                           __________________

3.         _____________                           __________________

4.         _____________                           __________________

5.         _____________                           __________________

Which of these habits will I commit to and when?

I will start _______________________________________

I will start _______________________________________

I will start _______________________________________    

Final Thoughts

You need a companion on your journey. It would be best to have a team around you cheering, encouraging, and supporting you. Who is holding you accountable? Accountability is not a word we like, but we need it. Name that one person whom you trust and who can legitimately hold you accountable for the plan you’ve just been laying out. If the only name you came up with is your own, that will be a problem. We cannot be our own accountability partner. Using these practical techniques will assist with your leadership development as a pastor. Whether in the Franklin District or other ministry settings, the more you are self-aware, the more impactful your leadership will become.

[1] Delorese Ambrose, Leadership: The Journey Inward (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, 1995), 13.

[2] New England Historical Society, “John Adams Writes to Abigail: “I Must Study Politicks and War,” 2017,

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