Thursday, August 11, 2011

Congregational Leadership

This continues my series of posts on my dreams for our seminary curriculum.  By the way, I am really impressed with the books the team has come up with.  I feel like if a person read all these books they would have a real complete overview of ministry as much as you can get from books.  If you're interested, here's an amazon store in process:

The courses I've looked at so far are:
1. Pastor, Church, and World
2. Cultural Contexts of Ministry
3. Bible as Scripture
4. Introduction to Theology
5. Missional Church

And now, Congregational Leadership:

This course covers the trio of leadership proper, administration, and management.  I've actually struggled a little to think of my "wish list" for leadership, although I certainly have my opinions about stupidity in leadership.  Maybe it's that so much of this field seems like a matter of common sense to me rather than a wish list.

So don't be a dictator.  Do we really need to say that?  Lead ideally by persuading those you lead. Respect their will when they disagree with you.  Give in on lesser things.  Compromise when you have to for the greater good.  On important things, when it is very clear what needs to happen and the will of those you lead is clearly misguided, uninformed, or self-serving, some degree of political maneuvering may be required, even though it is unpleasant and undesirable.  Key however is for the leader to be self-aware and not to be political because s/he herself is misguided, uniformed, or self-serving.

Many pastoral leaders, I fear, misapprehend their own wisdom.  Some get off on the power of the pulpit and mistake wise resistance from the pew as spiritual warfare. By the same token, there is plenty of curmudgeony misapprehension of wisdom in the pew as well.  Some heart tissue is dead and the heart will only survive if the blood can find new paths around it, also known as second services and bolstering the voting membership with new people.  But pastors also sometimes mistake old tissue for dead tissue and wrongly try to remove living cells by trying alluring but untested experimental surgery.

For everything there is a season.  There is a time for planning and a time for launching, a time to be cautious and a time to be daring.  The riskier you believe God's will is, the more confirmation from multiple sources you should have.  Mission statements are snapshots of where your church is at, that often have little shelf life.  Have a plan with as much corporate buy in as possible, but access its progress often and be open to necessary adjustment.

Perception is a reality.  People are not primarily rational creatures.  "A man convinced against his will is of the same mind still."  You cannot force a person to agree with you.  People do things for all sorts of reasons and most of them have little to do with logic.  Most of the time they have more to do with basic needs and desires, emotions, and relationships.  You can bang your head against the wall as much as you like because it shouldn't be there but the wall doesn't care.  In the end you become the fool.  Ultimately it comes down to two things, "what a man can do and what a man can't do."

Conflict in itself is not bad.  In fact, it is a natural element of progress.  It is thus more to be managed than eliminated.  Conflict tends to escalate, however, when it is poorly managed.  A soft answer turns away wrath. There is also a time for confrontation, ideally privately but sometimes publicly too.  Speak the truth in love, and of course CYA.  By the presence of two or three witnesses are all things established.

Some people like conflict for its own sake.  Don't get drawn in.  "Don't wrestle with a pig.  You both get dirty but the pig likes it."  Let the one who likes to confront consider not confronting the first course of action.  Let the one who hates to confront consider confrontation the first course of action.

Know your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.  Focus on your strengths and manage your weaknesses.  Recruit people to come alongside you who off set your weaknesses.  A person who tries to do it all will soon reach capacity--some more than others but everyone has a limit.  At a certain point, you cannot grow any bigger if you do not delegate and establish clear processes of execution and communication that take place outside of you as a leader.

Always keep the greater good in view.  Don't let yourself become the greater good.  I must decrease, he must increase.  One sign of a leader's success is that the organization--and the ministry--continues smoothly when s/he is no longer there.

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