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7 Questions with John Sattler
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with John Sattler
Name: John Sattler
Current title: Retired Lead Pastor
Current organisation: Holy Cross Lutheran Church & School, Indianapolis
I grew up in the church, but wandered off in college, only to be eventually led by God to my future wife as we both responded to God’s Call to come back home to Him…and, eventually, to full-time church work as a pastor. I was working at a radio station when God helped me see the power of words and good writing.. a gift God intended me to use for Him.
Over the years, we served at congregations in St Louis, New Jersey, Iowa, Northwest Indiana, and finally at Holy Cross Lutheran - a mission congregation that grew and flourished into a large ministry in northeast Indianapolis. I retired a year ago, which gives me time to reflect on the role that God allowed me to play in His mission to reach the world.
1. What have you found most challenging as a church leader?
Most challenging aspect of ministry is 1000 members each with a different job description in mind for the pastor. But the rewarding aspect of ministry is to help everyone see where God is leading and for all to get behind the same mission. Instead of developing a program and hoping God blesses it, we figured out what God was blessing and got behind Him!
2. How did you become a church leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was raised in the church but took my faith for granted for many years. I kept trying to figure out what I was supposed be doing, when God made it obvious that He was leading me, if I’d just pay attention. He surrounded me with people who didn’t have the clarity of faith that I had. It struck me that somebody ought to do something for them. And it probably ought to be ME! Duh!
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
If you’re not being interrupted, you’re not doing ministry. Because ministry is simply a series of interruptions. The needs of people cannot be planned or structured. My gift was flexibility… being able to have a plan for the day, but knowing that God will have unexpected opportunities for me to impact people when they need care and compassion.
4. What's one book apart from the Bible that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I have read virtually every book ever written about leadership. They all offer a thought or two that might have been applicable to my present situation. If there was one single book, it wasn’t a leadership book per se. It was “Boundaries” by Cloud & Townsend, which helped me understand where other people’s expectations stop and my understanding of what God has in mind for me begins. I can’t please everyone. Trying to make everybody happy is a distraction invented by satan. There needs to be a “Boundaries for Pastors” book.
5. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I gained most of my leadership training from a lay member who was a world-renowned Executive Coach. He taught me how to lead a meeting, how to hire well, how to understand a balance sheet, how to inspire generosity, how to encourage volunteers, and on and on.
He worked with me over the years to understand that there’s more to leadership than just telling people what to do. The best leaders are out in front DOING ministry, encouraging others to others to come along side and see where God is leading us. It helps a lot to be serving in a very forgiving congregation who understands that pastors make mistakes too!
6. How do you develop a healthy leadership pipeline in a church?
Train people to be leaders by actually leading them. Don’t just tell them what to do. Do it. Show them what you mean. Let them watch you lead a group, for instance. Then let them lead while you watch them (with guidance). Then let them lead. Then let them train someone else.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a church leader so far?
The most difficult aspect of leading a large congregation with a large staff is when someone needs to find other employment. I always felt awful when I had to fire someone. Two insights helped relieve the guilt I felt:
1) That person doesn’t enjoy working there either. They would feel bad quitting and disappointing “God”. They are usually relieved to be let go. Now they get to do whatever they want.
2) Also care about them and their future in serving God. Help them see what they did well and what their gifts are. Those gifts didn’t line up in this setting but they have gifts. Then help them find where that new opportunity might be. Guide them. You are still their pastor.