10 Secrets to Supporting Teaching Pastors

As I reflect on my almost 20 years of ministry experience, one of the things that I’m proudest of is serving a handful of amazing communicators. I’ve played that “second seat” role to support great teaching pastors as they use their gifts and skills to communicate the message of Jesus. Here are some reflections on what I’ve learned from working with these people over the years:

  • Teaching Leads // Dynamic and growing churches are led by great teaching. It needs to be at the core of what a church “does.” The support for teaching should be well-funded, with time dedicated to make it great. 
  • Take It Personally // Great preaching is an art form and like any art it’s highly personal. Part of the support role is to understand the preparation preferences of the pastor and build a system around them.
  • Great Teaching Comes from Personal Life Change // As I’ve watched these communicators up close, I’ve been struck by how much their personal spiritual lives come out through the teaching. The moment a teaching pastor stops growing and being stretched … is the moment that church starts a long and slow decline process.
  • Lead with Yes // Part of this role is being on the receiving end of requests from the teaching pastor. Some of them are straightforward, such as ensuring the band is ready with a response song. Other requests can be downright strange, like the time we researched how to mail-order a dove or when we searched magic shops all over the state for “flash paper” to illustrate a point. Say “yes” … and then figure out how you can do it.
  • Encourage Extending Influence // One of the great ironies that I’ve seen time and time again with teaching pastors is that their humility can hold back their ability to reach more people. They don’t want to draw attention to themselves … which is a noble and good … but it can limit their ability to make a broader impact. Part of a support role is to help them see the potential of initiatives that will reach more people — multisite churches and book writing are just a couple examples.
  • Be a Time Advocate // There is time pressure on teaching pastors to weigh in on a wide variety of church issues. Part of the support role is to help churches (and teaching pastors) understand that the best thing they can do is to nail the message this coming weekend.
  • It’s Lonely // Teaching pastors don’t have peers on the team. Churches aren’t usually filled with people who have the gift of teaching, so these people may find themselves developing their gifts on their own. Often the process is isolating. The support role can be a friendly companion along this lonely path. Reaching out during a preparation crunch, just to let them know that you are with them, goes a long way!
  • David Always Beats Goliath // The core text never changes but teaching pastors have the job of coming up with new approaches and applications to what it says. We can feed new ideas about world issues to these leaders to help them develop their teaching.
  • Designers Don’t Get It // Graphics people want more time to produce series designs and teaching pastors want maximum flexibility in finalizing what they are doing. My role is to navigate the tension between these two needs … gently moving teaching pastors toward preparing farther in advance and calming the nerves of graphic design folks.
  • Repeat Core Messages Repeatedly // Teaching pastors often have core messages they are passionate about and for which they have insight. Finding ways to circle back to this content consistently is a win for everyone. Part of our role is to help them see the content that is resonating with the community and find new ways to present those themes.

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.