My wife and I are building a house for the first time. It’s the 2nd home we’ve owned, and instead of buying an existing house, we decided to build. People told us we were stupid for doing this. We were moving cities, changing churches, changing jobs, and starting all new relationships. And building meant we’d be living with my in-laws for a season throughout all of this change. (let it be known…my in-laws are saints for putting up with us for this long!)

This has been a fun journey, building our house. And I have learned a few leadership principles along the way. (if you’re a pastor, before you’re critical of me for devaluing theology to leadership, read my thoughts on what I wish seminary had taught me. The Gospel needs to be proclaimed, and its sustainability rests well on the back of good, solid, God-honoring leadership.)

7 Leadership Lessons Pastors Can Learn from Building a House

1. Trust, but don’t abandon.

I trust my builder to do the job right…but that doesn’t mean I just abandon him. I check in, almost daily. Not because I want to micromanage, but to make sure that we’re tracking in the same direction. To make sure that the extra plug we wanted has been put in. To make sure that the trim work was done up to par. The builder is great, but he’s just one person, and we’re in on this project together. Two eyes are better than one.

Pastoral leadership trust doesn’t mean you don’t give accountability, oversight, and direction. Management is essential in leadership.

2. Keep a constant stream of communication.

Working on our house, we have a developer, a builder, electricians, roofers, landscapers, other subcontractors, and various paid laborers. On top of that, we’re working on securing our loan, and there are 3 different people I’m working with there. Lots of streams of work are happening. Without a constant dripping of communication from me, things would quickly get off track, off schedule, and way out of whack.

Good leadership keeps open, active lines of communication moving. When communication seems to dry up, leaders drip water back in.

3. Document where you were so you can celebrate where you’ve been.

Along the way, we’ve taken pictures. We’ve got pictures of our empty lot, the slab, the frame, the guys on the roof, a skid-steer moving dirt in our front yard, and the concrete guys pouring our driveway.

Good pastors help people see where they, and the church as a whole, has been…and where you’re headed. It’s hard to celebrate what you don’t remember.

4. Always keep the end in mind.

Along the way, we’ve had to continually remind ourselves that this process will end in us moving into our home. If we didn’t have that end in mind, I’d go crazy. All of the checking in, the communication, and the pickiness would be worthless if we weren’t actually going to move in one day. I need that reminder!

Leaders help others see what the end goal is. In your church, that may be an increased community engagement, more small groups, an upcoming event, a new building, or student camp. Paint a picture and point people to it often.

5. Be picky when the goal isn’t exactly what you wanted.

Most of the time, the builder has hit exactly the mark we want. But on occasion, he’s missed it. Just the other day, I had to make a correction in our bathroom because something was out of place.

Don’t settle for less-than-perfect when it comes to your overall goal. There will be compromises that you have to make along the way, but at the end of the day, make sure you actually do accomplish the goal you set out for. 

6. A little incentive never hurt.

I dropped the workers a little cash, and they helped me out with a little project in my garage. Happily.

As a leader, celebrate with people! Celebrate steps of faith. Celebrate God’s work in their lives. Because what you celebrate gets replicated. Thank, encourage, and…buy people a gift every once-in-a-while.

7. Don’t give up before the project’s done.

It would have been easy at times to just throw our hands up in the air because this project was taking too long, was too detail-intensive, and was too frustrating. With us being this close to the finish line, I’m thrilled we didn’t give up.

There may be times when you need to give up on certain portions of a project or an event, certain timings, and certain details along the way. But seeing a project to completion is the only real way you can learn what needs to be done better next time.