Pastors' Forum


Beyond the Pulpit

We all know that pastors regularly teach and minister to others from the pulpit. How do I, as a pastor, more effectively mentor, coach, instruct, and disciple others when I’m outside of the pulpit? I’ve heard of others who regularly use all kinds of occasions as “teaching moments” when working with staff, leaders, volunteers, and others. What does this look like, how can I become better at this, and how do other pastors better “grow” others outside of the pulpit?


Pastor Dennis Cummins – Puyallup, WA

Mentoring, coaching, and leading comes back to investment. If I as a leader wish to make a withdrawal from my staff and leadership team (that is, expectations, loyalty, and commitment to the vision), I first have to make numerous deposits in their life. I need to invest in the relationship so they know that we truly love and care for them. Then, after my investment in them starts to mature, I can start making demands on that account for the vision of the church. This goes back to using to the church to build people and not people to build the church. This takes more time and energy, but I have seen it be such a blessing and produce incredible loyalty.

I believe teachable moments always surround us, but I believe the teachable environment is more one on one; helping to navigate younger staff members through areas that are unfamiliar with them. Yes, it takes more time, but by teaching them to fish, and the principles of our culture and values, they can soon know how to fish themselves.

Another area I am developing is learning that what I thought I communicated and taught, is not what they heard. So having them reiterate it back to me helps me to miss potential landmines. Also, verbal communication is great, so long as you can have a few notes written down and emailed to those involved.

Also, each individual is unique in how they learn and perceive things. It’s important to identify how their brain works to better hit their cortex.

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Covina, CA

You have to grow your leaders and your team intentionally. It won’t just happen by itself. Here are six things we do to make this happen:

  1. Monthly meetings. I have a monthly leadership meeting where I teach leadership and mentor our church leaders. People whom we have identified as future leaders are also invited. This meeting is held in my home and dinner is provided. It is also a time for communication among the various leaders and a time to pray together.
  1. Seminars. I think it very important to provide seminars and growth opportunities to our leaders. My wife and I recently took some church leaders with us to a Leadership Roundtable with Tony Cooke and Gerald Brooks. The church pays for their registration. Needless to say, events like this are a boost to our leaders.
  1. Trust them to make important decisions. When they make a good one, praise them publicly. Make a big deal out of it, especially in your leaders meeting. When they make a bad decision, instruct them and correct them privately, giving them grace and understanding. This is easier said than done; however, it is necessary to grow leaders.
  1. One-on-one opportunities. This can be lunch after church or coffee in the evening. It can be a time in between services, a phone call etc. I always try to have an encouraging word and a listening ear.
  1. Resources. This is something I think should be doing more often. Occasionally I will provide a book to all of the leaders that I think will be beneficial.
  1. Recognition. Here at Family Life Church we believe every member is a minister. Therefore, we recognize a “minister of the week” in every service. Their names are put up on the screen and printed in the weekly handout. Once a year we provide a Volunteer Appreciation Banquet. At this event we recognize and honor three “Ministers of the Year.” It is always a great success.

Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA

It’s obvious that the opportunities for “learning moments” are CONSTANT in ministry. When I think about those moments, though, I’m usually thinking of moments when something has “slipped” or “crashed” or a “shake up” of some type has occurred and I’m presented with an issue to deal with while teaching staff (and/or innocent bystanders) a needed lesson in order to prevent that particular “mishap” from reoccurring…EVER! I think the best way to deal with those moments is to avoid them all together! (Like that’s EVER going to be a reality!) But training and educating a group of disciples doesn’t always happen in the classroom setting, does it? Teaching opportunities are always presenting themselves and are always exciting, fun, and interesting. But I don’t think we can afford to leave the development of people up to random acts of “what-just-happened?”

I like Jesus’ style of mentoring, A LOT! He opened the door of opportunity for others to engage with a simple invitation. “Follow Me.” Those who accepted were taken on the ride of their life! As they walked and talked with Jesus, it wasn’t long until He had them doing the very things that they had been watching Him do along the way. Remember the time when He had been teaching the crowd of 5,000 men (who knows how many women and kids were sitting out there, too!). His crew came to him after one of the afternoon sessions and shared how hungry all of the conference attenders had become (we all know they weren’t worried about the crowd … THEY were HUNGRY!). Don’t you love how Jesus dealt with it? He told the guys, “So… FEED ‘EM!” This threw the 12 into crisis mode, I’m sure! They probably held a huddle off to one side and discussed how they were to move forward with this new initiative. After searching the area, you know the story. They located a lunchable sitting next to a backpack a young listener had set down. We’re not sure how they did it, but they talked the kid into giving it up for “the better good.” I can see them rushing back to Jesus and handing it over only to have Jesus bless it, break it, and hand it right back with their next assignment …“YOU GUYS HANDLE IT!” Wasn’t this how Jesus developed his crew? Walk with me – watch me – imitate me – go and do even greater things!

I even believe this is why Peter, when on a boat in a storm getting passed by Jesus walking on the water, said, “Lord, if it’s really you, bid me to come.” Wasn’t he really saying this: “I’ll know it’s REALLY YOU if you invite me to come do what you are doing!”

This is the way I attempt to teach and train others. I want them to eventually do the things they’ve seen me doing. Then, I want to see them doing even greater things! It doesn’t bother me at all when they begin to sink. What bothers me is when I secretly find myself hoping they sink, just so I can rescue them!

Training disciples requires intentionality. I have to constantly remind myself that my goal isn’t to get things done right. My goal is to get people doing things. The more people I can develop, the happier I’ll be. The performance of tasks isn’t the win, developing people IS. That will never happen by accident. It won’t happen through “teachable moments.” Accidents and teachable moments WILL BE A PART OF THE PROCESS, but they’ll never BE the process.

I consider this a TOP priority and I communicate it to my key leaders, asking them to make it their TOP priority, as well. TOP (Training On Purpose) is MORE important to me than almost any other aspect of ministry. I am striving that every individual who is serving (in ANY capacity) can and will locate at least one other individual that they can invite into ministry. It’s as easy as “Follow Me.” The hardest part is handing them back the lunchable. That’s the point where it becomes painfully obvious that the miraculous doesn’t require my personal involvement (I often enjoy thinking that it does).

Pastor Jim Graff – Victoria, TX

There is undoubtedly a lot of discipleship that needs to occur outside of our services in a successful, growing church. There should be well planned meetings that impart what is needed for those who lead and for those who lead our leaders. These small group meetings are some of my favorite, and I enjoy greatly how God has filled them with His presence in special ways.

I first pray over what needs imparted. Then I look for a book or DVDs series we can study together that will help us grow together. I meet with my leaders of leaders first to prepare them to lead small groups. Then we meet with our staff. As our staff has grown larger, we have a worship segment, a brief teaching segment, a small group segment and a time for each small group to share their best thoughts. After that, we meet with all of our ministry leaders monthly to keep us all in unity and growing together.

Pastor Walker Schurz – Lusaka, Zambia

My wife and I are very dedicated to this process of growth in the organizations we lead. There is a wealth of outstanding material on this subject and I hope you will avail yourself to the great wisdom that is in the body of Christ. Here are just a few thoughts from us that we hope will help you.

Growing others begins by growing yourself. Don’t stop growing. Paul told us to pay careful attention to ourselves as leaders. When you are growing in maturity and effectiveness, you will rub off to those around you and call them to higher places. This will require you to read, attend conferences, pray, have mentors and be dedicated to grow through your personal dysfunctions. If you are unaware of your main dysfunctions, ask the three closest people to you, as they have known about them for years.

Jesus modeled both formal and informal types of teaching and mentoring. Here are some thoughts about strategically using both.


  1. Seminars, classes, conferences, book studies. Take your top leaders to the conferences that help you the most. You are exposed to the same information and can process the content as a team. There are great options now via webcast, DVD curriculum, books and other media that do not include travel costs.
  2. Plan and think together. Let others see their own fingerprints on the strategic plans for their areas.
  3. Team meetings. Get very good at having a regular time where people can process how things are going — both the positive and negative. This begins with everyone bringing issues and problems to the meeting. Teams without trust will not have this type of honesty. The team will work on problems together and build trust and cohesion.
  4. Pray together. Incredible bonding happens as you seek God together and hear each other’s hearts towards God and His purposes.


  1. In the moment teaching. When someone succeeds or fails, process it with them. Help them to understand the purpose or “why” and also the steps that led to the failure or success.
  2. Be there in the tough times. Be the first in line to comfort and mourn with those who experience loss and disappointment.
  3. Build relationship. Take time to talk, have meals and interact with those you lead. God does everything through relationships and we need to invest care and concern with those we are helping to grow.
  4. Inject Biblical principles. In moments of mentoring, appeal to a higher authority than your own thoughts or experience. Bring God’s word into these situations to help bring mind-transformation.

It is critical that learning leads to doing. People must begin to do and implement for themselves. Eventually, we have to get out of the classroom and onto the battle field. Be there with them as they learn to do what you have taught.

Ultimately, create a culture where each individual takes personal responsibility for their own growth track. Growth always happens with others, but the responsibility for growth cannot be delegated to someone else.

Pastor Jim Overbaugh – Missoula, MT

I try to live mentoring as a lifestyle with those the Lord has placed under my care as a pastor, friend, or loved one. I simple walk through life and endeavor to follow the Lord in ministry and try to help as many people as I can with what the Lord has given me. Life is busy and time is a commodity that must be used wisely, so being aware that I can’t “help” everyone and that I’m not “the savior” to everyone is very important.

As a pastor I am aware that I have a grace measure that does not reach to everyone at all times, so I try to be sensitive to those that I perceive the Lord would have me give time to. Sometimes it’s just a short conversation. Other times there may be significant time spent giving someone access to myself and the graces God has given me to help them. I endeavor to be aware of what the Lord wants to impart to others in times spent with them. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being their friend while God is working His will in their lives.

Being real and touchable with others in these times of mentoring is an important key to helping people grow in the Lord. Your realness will help them to know they can be used by God as well. I don’t limit mentoring, coaching, instruction and discipleship to just spiritual areas. For example, if I can coach a young man under my care in natural things such as mechanics, building maintenance, financial integrity, or any other area of life, I try to do so. So often today, young people are without the parental example needed to take them into a productive adult life.

As far as mentoring church leaders and employees, I endeavor to mentor and impart through one on one conversations, staff meetings, leadership meetings and training by sharing what I have learned in my experience and walk with the Lord on a regular basis. I also recommend good material and books on the subject as well as work books with small groups.

Pastor Sam Smucker – Lancaster, PA

I have found regular “one on one” meetings are an important part of mentoring and coaching team members. I do this with my leadership team {4 people} and a number of pastors that pastor church plants we have done. A “one on one” is an hour and 15 minute meeting where we talk about things like the balance of family and ministry, their biggest personal challenge, their biggest ministry challenge, how is their marriage (on a scale from one to ten), are they spiritually refueled, what do they do to stay spiritually refueled, what is draining them, what do they most enjoy, etc. These meetings can be monthly or every 2 months or even quarterly. The main reason for these “one on one” meetings is to ensure that these individuals are healthy emotionally, mentally, and in their family and marriage relationships.

We have weekly staff meetings where we talk about things that pertain to having a healthy staff environment and keeping the vision of the church fresh so that we all know why we do what we do. Our goal is to have a healthy relational environment for our staff and volunteers to work and serve in.

We encourage our staff and volunteers to not allow conflict to go underground but to have honest conversations when someone disappoints you.

With my leadership team, we have a lunch with our wives about once a quarter to give the wives opportunity to share from their perspective.

These are a few of the things that have helped us have a healthy staff and volunteer environment.

Pastor Kevin Berry – Lansing, MI

For me, mentoring and investing in others outside of the pulpit can be summed up with something that has to show up in my calendar. I call them “People Moments.” For years, I have tried to be intentional about scheduling into my week moments that I will spend with people. This could be family members, a neighbor, staff member, or a guy that I want to lead to the Lord. Certainly you can mentor and coach people through podcasts that you create or books that you write and those are very valuable. But here’s the thing: the greater the relationship, the greater the potential for impact. If I want to have a significant impact on a person’s life, I realize that will require the investment of a great relationship.

Relationships have always been a catalyst for spiritual growth.

A few weeks ago I met a young man at the altar of our church. He had come down front with a group of people that morning to receive the gift of salvation and be adopted into God’s family. I wrote my cell phone number in a little book I had written for new believers. He sent me a text the next day and I ended up going out for a cup of coffee with him. There I learned his story. I learned about what he had been through and I was able to pour courage into him. And it was there that he knew I gave a rip about him! He went from praying with a preacher to having a spiritual father.

I realize I can’t meet with everyone, but I can with some. I can intentionally schedule time in my week for people. I can refuse to allow my schedule to be so full of things that there simply is no more room for the people God has called me to love and lead. Why not start with planning your week and make sure every day has some people moments scheduled into it? For me, today it was time having lunch with my staff. I encouraged them, I called out the good that I see in them, we laughed together, and I thanked them. It may not have felt monumental, but the reality is I know it was powerful.

I heard Jeanne Mayo once say, “My greatest moments will always be my people moments, not my pulpit moments.” I would have to agree.

Pastor Bill Anzevino – Industry, PA

Precept and example are the methods I use to grow staff, volunteers, leaders and others. By precept, I mean staff meetings, training classes, workshops, recommending books, and one on one counseling. By example, I mean by constantly realizing my conduct, character, behavior, speech and attitudes speak louder than what I teach. Whether at hospital visits, sporting events, school functions, youth retreats or just shopping at the local store, I make sure my example lines up with my precept. Jesus trained His disciples by teaching them Kingdom Principles and by setting the right example in His conduct, character, behavior and speech. We must do the same at church, in the home, and at all times.

Pastor Rob Wynne – Linden, AL

First, I am always available and prepared to give an account of the hope that is in me. I have taken much time to prepare myself to answer questions that hinder others from knowing and following the Truth. I take the implementation of the “Great Commission” as seriously for Rob as I do for the people of my congregation or people that help me. I view myself as God’s, which make me a servant to His cause — which is people.

No matter where I am or who I am with, I look for and listen for opportunities to have a “teaching or inspiring moment” with someone that is in need. I don’t let them determine the need, because some folks do not perceive that they are in need of Jesus or more of him. It never makes any difference to me whether I am on the clock or off the clock, so to speak, as to whether I will be a witness or not. I determined right after I was saved and filled with the Spirit that I would be that way. Jesus had saved me out of too much for me to hold my peace. Whether I am at a restaurant, shopping, out walking, playing golf or just busy going somewhere, I do the same.

I never feel pressure to be anyone different than who I am. I have limitations and shortcoming just like everyone else. I am honored to represent my Lord as His servant. I find that as I live this kind of life, following Him as best I can, my family, my church family and others, want to follow this wonderful life He has provided for us.

Pastor Bernie Samples – Barstow, CA

I’ve never really ever had a planned out routine for mentoring. Since I began pastoring in 1992, I’ve always spent one-on-one time with my leaders and their families at children’s sporting events, school events, etc. During these times, they got to watch how I treat my wife and children when they were younger. They saw how I reacted under stress and when I was caught off guard. Besides that, we have time for one-on-one questions and answer time. On occasion my wife and I take a couple to dinner or bring them to our home to pull them up. Or, I will take a man out for breakfast (my wife likewise sometimes takes a woman) just so we can have one-on-one time to help better them.

We’ve consistently hold Men’s and Women’s meetings for everyone as well as annual Staff Retreats and every so often, Marriage Retreats. It seems to be working for our ministry pretty well, as we’ve always seen marriages and families, and even singles and widows, live stable lives and be able to reach out and help others grow.

Pastor Duane Hanson – St. Paul, MN

One of the primary responsibilities of ministry will be seen in our discipleship relationships, which is where real growth can take place “outside of the pulpit.” Everything begins with the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20, which we all know as The Great Commission. For the sake of simplicity, the Church has boiled this passage down to three simple words: go make disciples. How that is done seems to depend on our position in the ministry. The Evangelist might interpret it as… go make converts! The Pastor might interpret it as… go make more church members! However, Jesus simply commanded us to go make disciples!

In my early years of ministry, in the late 70’s & early 80’s, I realized my biggest disappointments always seemed to be discipleship failures. I had a tendency to promote people into positions of responsibility and leadership based upon their potential instead of their faithfulness. I would pour my life into preparing sermons, hoping that these same people would become strong disciples of Christ, based solely on my “anointed teaching,” only to see some of them compromise and fall back into their former lifestyles. Then I discovered Paul’s instruction to a young pastor that really helped me.

2 Timothy 2:1-2 (KJV)
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able [competent ~ in character] to teach [disciple] others also.

Paul didn’t point only to his pulpit ministry, but to what Timothy and others had witnessed in his personal life. We know this from some of his final instructions to Timothy, when Paul declares “thou hast fully known my doctrine…” Thankfully Paul doesn’t leave it there, but goes on to define the other character traits Timothy knew so well from being in a close, personal discipleship relationship with Paul.

2 Timothy 3:10-11 (Wuest)
But as for you, you were attracted as a disciple to me because of my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, longsuffering, divine and self-sacrificial love, patience, persecutions, afflictions such as came to me…

Being involved in a discipleship relationship with an individual is a major commitment, and a labor of love. I believe I can be more effective helping someone “grow” as I spend time in those personal discipleship relationships, than just the time I spend teaching them from the pulpit.

Once I understood what Paul was encouraging this young pastor to do, I began to look around our congregation and intentionally began to engage those who had proven themselves “faithful” when they were serving in the church. I formed a few select small groups and invited these faithful members to a gathering where we spent personal time together. Some of these groups met monthly, some bi-weekly, and a couple, every week. These became the proving grounds for developing the discipleship relationships that produced qualified leaders in the church.

I based one of my most important weekly groups on what I saw in the life of Jesus, and how he interacted with certain disciples. There are a number of references to four disciples (specifically Peter, James, John & Andrew), that Jesus would invite to join Him on special occasions. These same four men (“P.J.J.A.”) were recognized as “pillars” in the Church (Gal. 2:9), and were known to have a distinct relationship with Jesus, having the freedom to ask questions of Him in private. They were allowed to be present when others were not, such as the Transfiguration, the healing of the daughter of Jairus, and in the Garden of Gethsemane.

In this particular weekly group, I meet with four leadership men every Tuesday morning from 6:30 am to 8:00 am. I do not treat this time together as a “staff meeting,” but as a time to build our relationship as “disciples.” (The abbreviation in my calendar for this group began as “P.J.J.A.” — but was quickly abbreviated and became known as my “P.J.’s” Group!) Each week we have a Q&A time based on a topical subject, article, or book that we study and discuss.

Over the years I’ve known too many pastors who have not seen the benefit of being personally involved with members of their congregation “outside the pulpit.” I’ve heard numerous explanations (and excuses!) for keeping their distance, and not being involved on a personal level with their leaders. This attitude is contrary to the example set by Jesus, and the instructions left to us by the Apostle Paul. Sadly, they’ve never engaged in these discipleship relationships, and have failed to develop strong disciples who were loyal to their leadership, and faithful to the Lord.

Pastor Jesse Zepeda – Pflugerville, TX

How do I minister outside the pulpit?
I once had a relative ask me for some advice, before I could respond, she said, I want advice from my relative not the Pastor. I shared with her that your relative is the Pastor. I am one and the same; I cannot be someone different. I minister outside the pulpit the same way I do from the pulpit.

Who ministers to us? Who coaches us, who instructs us, who disciples us when we’re not behind the pulpit?
Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and other ministers we trust. There’s a time to fellowship and a time to minister. I believe we have to discern the right time for ministry.

Teaching moments.
We had an instructor at Rhema, Rev. Billy Joe Watts, who shared with us that you can find illustrations anywhere and everywhere to help with any teaching moment. I ask the Lord to bring back a memory that relates to the specific moment.

How do we help other’s grow outside the pulpit?
I believe we as ministers have to set the example. If we are growing, others will see the growth and be inspired to grow themselves. We may not see the growth we expect, but we trust the Word has power behind it to produce growth. Amen?

Pastor John Lowe – Warsaw, IN

Live the life; everything is a teaching moment. Share your heart and be willing to be transparent. If we are going to make real disciples, we have to get over the fake facade of “I have my act together” (I will add, especially in the word of faith movement). There is a misconception of perfection. People need to know you’re not perfect and you still live and do the Word!

In short, it is relational theology. If your relationships are healthy, your theology is healthy. If relationships are not healthy, your theology needs a do-over (Matt. 22:36-40 and John 5:39-40. This is the only one that concerns me).