7 Ways Pastors Get to Lead By Example

By Brandon Cox

We’re all probably familiar with the old adage, “values are more caught than taught.” And no doubt, if you’re in ministry, you are guided by Peter’s words to undershepherds –

“Care for the flock of God entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly – not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God. Don’t lord it over the people assigned to your care, but lead them by your good example.” (1 Peter 5:2-3 NLT, italics added)

Sometimes, even knowing the power of example, we’re tempted to rely on our words alone to teach and lead the flock. We are, after all, wordsmiths by trade. But there are certain areas of your personal life that will speak volumes to those watching –

1. In your quiet time and prayer life.

It’s not that people literally get to observe you in your quiet time; it’s simply that your walk with God shows. The anointing of power we so desperately need in the pulpit is absolutely dependent on a consistent quiet time. In other words, our private time with God has an effect on our public walk before people.

When God’s people pray, huge things happen. So inspire them to prayer action by your example.

2. In your study and knowledge of Scripture.

Paul told young Timothy to “rightly divide” the Word, to give attention to public reading of Scripture, and to let no man despise his youthfulness. In other words, without boasting, let your knowledge of Scripture be a part of what people experience of you. No matter what changes come in our culture, people will always be searching for an answer from God to their hurts, hang ups, and problems. You can show up with answers, but only if you’re studied up.

3. In your wise thinking in decision-making.

When you assume the leadership of a flock, you begin with a certain amount of leadership trust equity. People will trust you, to some degree, because you’re the leader. But every decision you make either earns you more trust or costs you trust. And leaders learn from the wise decision-making patterns of other leaders.

4. In your marriage and family life.

Be careful not to force your family to live as though they’re on display, but do realize that men will learn how to treat their wives by watching you as a husband. They’ll see the boundaries you give your kids, as well as your love and affection for them.

5. In the stewardship of your resources.

How you use the resources God gives you, particularly money, is a personal matter between you and God, but people will learn from the values you represent when it comes to extravagance and moderation. Your testimony is strengthened and your teaching on stewardship bolstered when you model biblical values in the area of finances and resources.

6. In your rhythm between work and rest.

Pastors get to model two major values here: hard work and appropriate rest. We are tempted to show off our busyness, but can sometimes contribute to the tendencies of the workaholics in our midst when doing so, so work hard, but rest. Remember that Jesus told us to “come apart” so that we don’t come apart.

7. In your ethical standards.

From paying all the taxes you owe to setting specific boundaries in your interactions with the opposite gender, people under your leadership will often rise up to your level of ethical standards. By all means, avoid legalistic, performance-based living, but don’t be afraid to live by high standards. Your example is meaningful.

The bottom line is, it matters how a leader lives. We lead not only with our words, but with our lives, and being watched by others comes with the territory. So listen to Peter’s words and use every opportunity to model before others the values you want them to integrate into their own lives.

Brandon Cox

Brandon Cox has been a Pastor for fifteen years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as Editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.