Secrets of Successful Pastors: 4 Strategies That Help Them Win

Every pastor I know wants to be a great leader. Every pastor I know works hard. Every pastor I know wants to grow their church. Every pastor I know wants to “win.”

Having worked in a diocesan role, serving numerous diverse parishes, I’ve had the opportunity to see both thriving and floundering churches.

Although there are many elements that affect a thriving or a floundering parish, I’ve discovered that the leadership of the pastor is a key element. Having worked with hundreds of churches over the years, I have noticed some common strategies that many successful pastors employ.

Embracing these 4 strategies will help you in your role as the pastoral leader of your church.

1. Communicate the vision… over and over and over again.

When I say something once, I often assume that everyone gets it. The fact is that they don’t. As a pastor, you need to have a compelling vision for your church. What is your church all about? Why would anyone want to get involved in your church? You need to figure that out.

Once you do, you need to communicate that exciting vision again and again. My rule of thumb is this: by the time you are tired of saying it, people will just be hearing and understanding it. Do these three things:

  • Write down your vision. Writing it down allows you to articulate it well. It’s been said that you don’t truly understand something until you try to write it out.
  • Communicate your vision.
  • Communicate your vision again. Repeat.

2. Get the right people in the right spot.

When you take on a new church as pastor, you inherit a team of staff and volunteers. Just because you inherited them, doesn’t mean you have to keep them. I know this might be hard for you to hear, but if you have ineffective people on your team, whether they are volunteers or staff, it is your job as a pastor to transition them. If they are effective, by all means, keep them!

The successful pastors I know have spent a lot of time recruiting the right leaders to be in key roles on staff, on pastoral councils, on finance councils, and on liturgy councils. As a pastor, it is your job to actively look for and invite potential leaders to join you on your team to serve your church. And that does mean transitioning people off that do not help you fulfill the mission of the church. (Let’s be honest. “Transitioning” is code word for “firing.”)

3. Embrace change.

Change is inevitable. If your church is to continue to be relevant in the eyes of the faith community, then you need to embrace change as a regular and recurring reality of your leadership. What worked 10 years ago doesn’t work today. Yet, you know plenty of churches that are still employing strategies from 30 years ago. I know change is hard. If you are serious about your pastorship, then embracing and leading change is an essential strategy.

4. Help your team know what success means.

Leaders in ministry can define success differently. That’s fine. But until you tell your team what success means for you, they will have a hard time meeting your expectations. You have to measure your success. Once you can define success for you and your team, talk about it at every staff meeting and one on one. Include it has part of their performance evaluation. It is easier to finish the race when you know where the finish line is. That’s true for you and your team.

Question: As a pastor, what strategies have you used to help you “win”?

For more practical advice about being a pastor, read 5 Things A Ministry Leader Needs to Hear Their Pastor Say.

Not a pastor? Please forward this to all the pastors you know.

John Rinaldo

As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.


John Rinaldo


As the Business Manager at St. Catherine Catholic Church in Morgan Hill, CA, Dr. John Rinaldo serves as the administrator over operations and finances for the parish in support of all parish ministries. Previously, John served as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of San Jose, empowering parish communities to minister to the needs of youth and young adults. John is also an adjunct professor at Santa Clara University teaching pastoral ministry courses to graduate students.



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