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Leadership reflections: Be accessible

Leadership Reflections 009

Over the last few years we have all heard and processed news of leaders who have fallen short of the high standards that are laid out in the Bible. For many of us these instances have been upsetting, painful and heartbreaking. We share those feelings of pain at the abuse, ill treatment and hurt that has been experienced around the Church.

It’s caused Debby and me to reflect again, with some of our team, on the leadership lessons we can learn in this moment; lessons for our own churches and those across the wider Vineyard family here in the UK and Ireland. 

This series of Leadership Reflections contains some teaching and lessons which we have shared with Vineyard Senior Pastors over the last few years.  As we continue to listen and learn from this season, we wanted to open these resources up to anyone who would find them helpful by publishing them publicly.

Our prayer is that you might find these helpful and by the grace of God, together we can create churches that are safe, Kingdom-centred communities for us all to call home.    

John & Debby Wright

National Directors

Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland


Pope Francis, in an address in 2013, talked about pastoral ministry. He talked about priests putting their own skin and their own heart on the line, and said: “This is what I am asking you, be shepherds with the smell of sheep”, or as we might say: Be accessible to the last, the least and the lost.

That doesn’t mean – especially if you are leading a large church – that everyone can book an appointment to meet with you. But be as accessible as you can realistically be, especially on Sundays. Some churches have a room where the Pastor goes before and after services, often referred to as the “green room”. While it would be useful to have a place to put our coat and bag in a place it’s unlikely to be stolen, we deliberately didn’t create a green room at Trent Vineyard because we want Pastors to be milling among the people. 

Be approachable 

The half hour before and after a service is such an important opportunity for Pastors to hang out with their people. It’s a prime place to be accessible. Some people hold back from approaching the Pastor, because they perceive that he or she has more important people to speak to. I try to find them.

Some people hold back from approaching the Pastor, because they perceive that he or she has more important people to speak to. I try to find them.

There have been occasions when I’m just wandering through the crowd and feel prompted to approach someone. This is easier for me than it might be for them. As I walked round the back one Sunday evening I felt prompted to speak to a guy I hadn’t talked with in years sitting near the back, and when I did he said: “I felt the Lord say that you would come over and talk to me tonight, and here you are”. As we spoke I was able to encourage him in what was a challenging season.

Be interruptible 

On one occasion I had forgotten to put my head mic on before worship and was about to preach, so I went to the sound desk to get it  As I was on my way back to my seat to continue worshipping I walked past a guy who attends occasionally and who I knew a bit, who many might not naturally approach. 

A few steps later I felt I should turn back and ask him how he was doing. He said “Fine, thanks”, and I could have left it there. But I sensed something was wrong and I said “You’re not fine are you?”

Tears sprang to his eyes, and I said, “Let’s go into the corridor to talk”. A couple of hours before the service he had received a text with some devastating news about an accident in his family.

He said, “I just knew I had to come to church”.

I talked with him and prayed with him, and we walked back in just before I got on the stage to preach. He later heard that the news was not as bad as it had at first been reported.

That was a divine encounter. The Lord orchestrated events so that I would pass him, he prompted me to stop, and gave me the nudge that he wasn’t OK. 

Our interaction was so helpful to him and it could so easily not have happened. Be accessible, and be interruptible.

Don’t have an inner circle

In some church cultures I have seen, there is an unhealthy in-crowd, out-crowd dynamic, where people have access to the leader because they are the ones being productive for them. If you are not in that inner circle, there can be excessive pressure to perform to earn your way in, and I’ve seen that cause a lot of hurt, and also people doing things to gain favour with the leader which are sometimes thoroughly unhealthy.

Be aware of whether this dynamic, or even the perception of this dynamic, in your area of ministry.

Whatever area you are leading in, find ways to make yourself accessible. Whether it is arriving early or staying late to talk to people, or your body language and tone, let’s be shepherds that smell of our sheep. 

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