the shape of leadership

Hitting Singles Instead of Home Runs

Building momentum one message at a time

Dean Deguara on June 19, 2018

Growing up, I loved pretending I was Willie Stargell of the Pittsburgh Pirates. Like me, he was a lefty, played first base, and was from the San Francisco Bay area. No one made the unique black and yellow, cylinder-shaped Pirates baseball hat look as good as Stargell did — and yes, I had one in my collection.

What kid wouldn’t admire a home-run hitter like Willie, who had 475 homers in his career? However, a closer look reveals a surprising statistic: Stargell was also near the top when it came to his career record for striking out. In fact, he led the National League in strikeouts during the 1971 season.

All told, Stargell struck out 1,936 times, averaging a strikeout for every 4.1 at-bats.

There’s a lesson in all of this for pastors who want to hit the ball out of the park every Sunday: Look to hit more singles instead of always swinging for the fences.

This past Father’s Day marked a year since my wife, Amy, and I became lead pastors. I think my first sermon a year ago at the church was a home run. It was prophetic, Pentecostal, promising and full of vision. Still, it was one sermon, and I had a whole year of sermons ahead of me.

In my follow-up messages, I loaded the bases with a series of sermons on congregational health. I wish I could have covered it all in one swing of the bat, but the truth, is I would have struck out many times with a home-run mentality and found myself in a losing situation.

Hitting more singles than home runs in a ministry setting requires a different pastoral mindset of what success really is. The most successful pastors are the ones who understand that getting on base consistently — and moving people along a discipleship pathway — is more important than taking a trip around the bases seldomly.

We must allow God to bring our vision into focus so we know when to swing.

To avoid striking out, pastors need certain qualities when they step up to the ministry plate.


Successful pastors are confident in who they are and what they bring to the church. They believe the gifts and talents God has given them are exactly what the church needs for the current season.

These pastors understand the importance of doing what they do best rather than trying to fill someone else’s shoes or working outside their skill set.

Laser Focus

Just as hitters recognize when something is coming at them that is not in the strike zone, we must allow God to bring our vision into focus so we know when to swing.

My focus that first year was on becoming a healthier church. It wasn’t the most exciting vision to rally people around, and it was challenging at times to motivate the congregation to do the work. However, that emphasis laid a foundation on which to build.


Successful pastors understand that the more balance you have, the more consistent you will be. Pastors who always swing for the fences, looking to accomplish everything at once, can become off-balance in their theology, ministry philosophy or personal life.

A balanced approach may not get the results you want by tomorrow. But over time, you will reach your goals more frequently, build momentum regularly, and experience leadership wins continually.

Now, I do believe there is a place for home runs in pastoral ministry. Yet I have found that focusing on hitting it out of the park often causes me to strike out when it comes to the essentials for building healthy, consistent ministry.

Focusing on hitting singles has helped me rally a church that was struggling in transition. I believe home runs will come, but we can’t lose sight of being fundamentally sound and making sure every at-bat counts.


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