Focusing on Ministry Priorities: Life-giving Conversations

I believe there are some vital and life-giving conversations that need to take place in a congregation. Dealing with pastoral expectations is the first of many such conversations I will write about.  This is adapted from The Pastor and the People, 1986, by Lyle Schaller, Abingdon Press, pg 52-53. 


If you are a pastoral staff member, Pastor or Minister, have you ever wanted to know what your leaders expect of you and so where to place your focus and energy? Do their expectations of you meet with your calling and gifting?

If you are a lay leader, have you ever wanted to talk about what you expect from your pastoral staff member, Pastor or Minister? Do you wish to know how the Pastor or Minster spends their time to manage this irretrievable resource wisely?

This has been a useful tool to assist ministers and pastors in knowing what they need to be their focus and how to allocate time in a way that is discerned with the leaders.

Setting the Scene:

Plan a gathering for an hour set aside for this particular purpose with the key leaders and clergy person present. Pray over the discerning process.

Clarity on Purpose: What should the pastoral staff member or clergy person’s priorities and time allocations be in this context?

Photocopy the page below. Cut each page into the sections and put them in packs.


Distribute the set of cards to each participant. Ask them to sort the cards into their choice of priorities for the pastor, discarding the lowest three, and then sorting the rest with the top one being the first priority of importance, and so on to the lowest. Give ten minutes for this exercise.


Have each write the number “1” on the top priority one and place it in the centre. Let each person offer one sentence as to why they made that choice. A helpful thing may to be to let the clergy be the last to share each time. Gather these priority “1” cards into one pile. Do the same for the next selected priority and have them write “2” on it. Do this until all the cards have numbers and are in separate piles, “1” to “9”. Take a moment to reflect on what the Holy Spirit may be saying, the differing expectations and trends that may appear.


Sort the piles into the various roles and add all the amounts for each role to give a total for that role. For example, “Visiting” may have three “1’s” and three “2’s” and three “3’s”, totalling 18, while “Evangelism” may have 9 “1’s” totalling “9”, so is of a higher priority. Then prioritise all the roles with the one with the smallest total being the top priority. Compile the priorities into a list for all to note. This is the collective discernment for the top role priorities for the clergy person. Reflect again on what is observed of what the Holy Spirit is saying.


Let the clergy person or staff member speak about the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given them and then relate to these gifts to the discerned priorities in order to find the common ground. Let a discussion evolve.


Take the list and discuss an allocated time for each one. For example, “Preaching” (preparation of material, planning the order of service and the actual events) is possibly allocated 12 hours a week. Do the same for each of the priorities. Discuss and agree on the recognised allocation of time per week (say 50 hours) the clergy person should work and see how this matches the priorities. Those priorities that exceed the weekly time allocation will need to be passed on to another person in the team, staff or lay, but this will need to be a further discussion.



Serving as the leaders in the congregation – the one who has the visions, initiates new ideas, to one people turn to for ideas and guidance in all areas.


The visitation of people on their ‘turf’, in their homes or work places in a systematic way and for pastoral reasons.


Offering counselling to individuals and couples on relational (e.g. marriage), trauma, guidance, and spiritual matters.


Preparing messages, planning series and conducting worship events with others who participate in the leading of corporate worship.


Volunteering as a leader in the community making a better world that honours all God’s people who live in it.


Assisting people to hear God’s unique call on their lives in order to enable them to serve God.


Preparing for and teaching classes on the Christian life, Bible knowledge , membership preparation, training small group leaders, etc.


Initiating and building relationships with folk outside of a relationship with God, bearing witness to Jesus, inviting people into a relationship with Jesus, and training lay folk as evangelists.


Takes on a portion of the denominational and ecumenical responsibilities, as well as bringing materials from such sources to the local church. 


Is seen as one of the key leaders, with other staff and lay folk, each using their unique gifts and abilities, and all contributing to initiate new ideas and implementation plans.


Following, researching and compiling materials for disciplined devotional study, continued education and spiritual growth for others.  


Serving as the “executive secretary” within the congregation involving all communications as well as committees for financial planning, strategic development programmes and implementation of the vision.