Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Who shall lead them?

Our interviews with nationwide, representative samples of Protestant ministers consistently show that most pastors do not consider themselves to be leaders. Fewer than one out of twenty ministers believe he/she has the spiritual gift of leadership.

Fewer than one out of four ministers claim to serve the church as a true leader. Most of them feel they have been called, trained, and hired to preach and teach. Leadership is viewed as an unfortunate duty they must endure as part of the deal.

George Barna, The Habits of Highly Effective Churches


  1. Do congregants see ministers as leaders? If so, leaders of what? I would say that a preacher is almost by defintion trying to lead but I know that at times I am unsure what arenas I am expected to be a leader in. There are so many dimensions to modern life and, I think, varying levels of authority granted to the minister.

  2. How interesting. I am on a pastor search committee right now, and we are looking for a leader. A leader of what? Not a leader in the sense of being an expert or a boss or having sole responsibility--we have a strong lay leadership in our church. But a leader in the sense of a truth speaker, a way show-er, a questioner, an encourager, a see-er (not the same as a seer), a faith inspire-er. A perfect human? Of course not. A perfect leader? Of course not. But a leader who can help us move forward in our faith and our mission.

  3. RevEliot's comment about uncertainty regarding his leadership role is common in traditional churches, especially smaller ones. I don't mean to sound cynical, but leadership often remains undefined because clergy and lay leadership prefer it that way.

    That's because In most congregations, the lion's share of leadership roles relate to administration, finance, and care of the property. While expertise is required to perform these roles adequately, it also doesn't require a great deal of leadership because these roles become so well defined over time.

    Secondly, the more theologically liberal the congregation, the greater the distrust of true clergy leadership.

    I often write about leadership being the ability to define what journey the congregation is embarked upon in this place and time. This can be a very difficult question to answer, but is a powerful metaphor that theologically conservative churches have utilized very effectively.

    Another definition of leadership is being able to seize opportunities to serve when they arise. If I were on the search committee, these two points would be the ones I would inquire about of candidates.

  4. Thanks for fleshing this out Mike! Small, traditional, liberal church is, of course, exactly what I do.

    I think another aspect of leadership in that it grows over time. That I am a leader in my congregation seems to be attached to the fact that I am still here. That is, it seems that my extended term of membership--and pastoral leadership--is as important as my ordination to many members and friends of the church. Articulating the journey is easier if you have been traveling together for a while. Seizing opportunities is easier if you have had the time to build up trust...