How To Respond When People Aren’t Responding

Church leaders have often asked me how to handle a staff or a congregation that is not exactly eager to follow pastoral leadership. How do we respond when people are not responding to our leadership?

First, we must realize that leadership is not easy. It is extremely difficult. One of my mentors once told me, “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader—go sell ice cream.” And of all the places to lead, leadership in the church is the most challenging of all.

When Paul listed all of his trials and sufferings in 2 Corinthians 11, he concluded his list with the pressure of caring for the church. The blessed burden of ministry was the apex of the pressures he experienced. Both ministry and leadership are challenging; combine those two (plus yourself) and the challenges increase exponentially.

Second, it would be wise for us to evaluate why people are not responding to the direction in which we are seeking to lead. Instead of looking to find the problem in the people, we should first examine our own leadership. Aristotle said there are three essentials in effective communication, and I believe the same apply to leadership.

  • Ethos: credibility
  • Pathos: passion
  • Logos: logic

In looking at these three big buckets, some self-evaluative questions would include:


  • Do I have the credibility to lead these people where I am attempting to lead them?
  • Have I loved them well?
  • Have I been here long enough to earn their trust?
  • Have I proven faithful with what has already been entrusted to me?


  • Am I passionately declaring a God-given direction?
  • Can the people easily connect the direction with a holy burden from the Lord?
  • Am I authentically and passionately living what I am asking others to do?


  • Is the direction in which I believe God is leading connected to what we believe theologically?
  • Have I done my homework?
  • Can I articulate the direction with absolute clarity?

In your own leadership, you may want to consider which of these three buckets needs more attention and focus there so that you can make corrections and lead well.