The Tension Between Being Available and Being Accessible as a Leader

The larger the church gets, or the more leadership responsibility God calls me to, the greater the tension I feel between being available and being accessible.

Leader, have you ever felt this tension?

And, I’ve learned to be effective, to protect my family and to avoid burnout I can’t always do both.

Truth be, there are too many demands on my time to always be available. Sometimes there are more requests for my time than hours in the day. Sunday is always coming. I receive dozens – some days hundreds – of emails, texts and phone calls, every single day.

I can’t always be available.

  • I must make the most effective use of my limited time.
  • I may not be the best person to meet with everyone.
  • I must spend time investing in the staff with whom I work.
  • I need to reserve ample time for Bible study, prayer, and sermon preparation.
  • I may sometimes need to refer people to someone who is more available at the time.

Some weeks, just being honest, sadly, I end up saying “No” more than I get to say “Yes”.

If time were limitless – I’d rather always be available. As with most leaders, it’s easier for me to say yes than it is to say no. I’m always more popular when I do.

But, popular isn’t a good goal. It’s seldom an effective goal.

I can’t always be available, but this shouldn’t mean I’m unreachable.

I try to always be accessible.

  • I genuinely want people to be served and to serve people.
  • I can easily be found online. (I don’t hide my contact information.)
  • I respond to all emails and return phone calls in a reasonable time – hopefully by the end of each day.
  • I hold responsiveness as a huge personal value and lead our team to do likewise.
  • I always try to help people get the help or answer they need.

I realize even this doesn’t make everyone happy. Some want me always available – to them. But, the goal of leadership is not to make everyone happy – it’s to lead people to a better reality than today. To do this, I must make effective use of my time.

I share this because there are so many pastors facing real burnout. They are struggling with effectiveness. Their family life is suffering. All because they tried to always be available, when all they needed to be was accessible.

(By the way, the church leaders in Acts 6 understood this tension. Read it again to see how they responded.)

Pastor – leader – the tension is real. But, realize you can be accessible even if you’re not always available.

Pastors, do you ever feel the tension between being accessible and being available?

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36 thoughts on “The Tension Between Being Available and Being Accessible as a Leader

  1. Good thinking Ron!

    Google "Dunbar's number". It will change your life if you buy the concept. If you have 21% relatives as Dunbar calculates in your 150 then you are left with 120 slots for everyone else. If you assign 60 of those to friends, associates and neighbors you are left with 60 slots for church people. Manage them well and pick the reliable ones to pour your energy through.

    • Very interesting. Not familiar with this and will spend some time studying the concept. I like it.Thanks!
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  2. Ron! I think this in true in case of all kinds of leaders. A leader cannot keep on saying 'yes' for everything. He need to know where to draw the line. Pritoritizing is a important skill a leader must learn.

  3. This is a good topic for anyone who works from home. For example, in my case, a boarding kennel owner who lives on the premises. Folk expect us to be available at all times. We must at least have one day off per week. We must have time to read the Bible, go to church, and recharge.

  4. Ron, thanks for the clarification between being accessible and being available. As a busy pastor and leader I often struggle with this. I want to do it all and be available to all but many times when I try to do both I usually end of frustrated. I'm learning to say no to people. I had to say no to someone today and at first it bothered me but it was the best thing to do.
    Twitter: ericspeir

    • Yea, it's not easy, but if we want to help people grow, it's necessary to raise up other leaders.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson

  5. Thats great if the Pastor is full time and has assoc. pastors to help. But, when the pastor has to work a full time job and pastor a church full time with no assoc. it gets tricky. I believe every pastor should serve one year as a by- vocational pastor with no assoc. to help out. That's when you really get to learn how to pastor. My husband has been pastoring at our growing church for over a year so I can make this comment openly and honestly. Good thing my husband is available and accessible to our church family.

    • Thank you Michelle for your comment. I appreciate you and your husband's ministry. I sense some "tension" even in your reply. I didn't say I was never available, just that I can't always be. Let me also say that I have served bi-vocationally, the first 3 years as a pastor, so I do understand the pressures of that role. I also, however, believe that the Acts 6 model works there. Your husband can't be everywhere. He may be more available to his church than I can be, but if he is everything to everyone, then eventually he will wear out and something will suffer. If nothing else, leaders in the church will not be developed, because your husband does it all. I don't think you're saying that and I realize (as I said I've done it) that your husband has huge demands on him, but I also believe you and he both must protect your personal time, his study time, and use your time as wisely as possible, allowing other leaders in the church to do some things. Again, Acts 6 speaks to this well. I'm assuming your church does have deacons, committees, elders, Sunday school teachers, or some other leaders who carry some of the load. I hope so for the future of the church.

      God bless.
      Twitter: Ronedmondson