A Book that Changed My Life

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Some might say the title exhibits hyperbole. Perhaps, but I’m not completely convinced. I don’t name this post lightly. Let me share why I say a book changed my life.

Along with several other churches, my church was participating in a transformational process sponsored by our conference. One of the requirements, was a peer mentoring group, meeting for eighteen months, for the pastors. We were around month ten and the book assigned was The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Peter Lencioni. As I read the book, something within me ‘clicked’ and my life, and leadership, have never been the same.

A Short Summary

I am not reviewing the book in this post, although, I highly recommend you get a copy. In summary, Lencioni maintains that the five dysfunctions are 1) absence of trust, 2) fear of conflict, 3) lack of commitment, 4) avoidance of accountability, and 5) inattention to results. The five dysfunctions leads to effective teams. In order for teams to be effective, each dysfunction must be addressed.

It would be nice to simply fix the fifth dysfunction “inattention to results”. The thought being, “If we fix our inattention to results, then we will be attentive to results and all will be well.” However, you can’t fix the fifth dysfunction unless you work through the dysfunction before it, “avoidance of accountability.” You can’t work through the fourth dysfunction, unless you work through the third, and so on, and so on.

Each dysfunction rest atop of the one before much like a pyramid with absence of trust at the bottom and inattention to results at the top. You need to move down the pyramid until you reach a level that isn’t a dysfunction for your team and then start from there. The tendency is to find the problem such as inattention to detail, and try to fix that dysfunction without addressing the dysfunctions that contribute to it.

Healthy Organization (A Church is an Organization…right?)

That very short summary doesn’t do the book justice at all. However, while Lencioni’s discussion on the dysfunctions was very helpful, I had a different epiphany. I realized if all the dysfunctions were addressed and dealt with, the team would be healthy. If all the teams were healthy, then the organization would be healthy.

I saw how this could apply to my congregation. In my desire to be the best pastor I could be and try to help the church be the best church it could be, I had completely neglected any idea of organizational health. How could the church I serve be what God desired, if the teams were dysfunctional? That question became a focus of prayer. I still wanted to be an effective pastor, but also saw my role as a leader of organizational health. I imaged that God wanted my church to be healthy, but to be honest, churches are not always healthy. If there were models and techniques that could help businesses to be healthy, perhaps these same models and techniques could help churches as well. After all, both churches and businesses have people in common.

Healthy Churches

I maintain that healthy churches are better equipped to fulfill the mission of God. Prayer, theology, and doctrine are all important components, but a church that has all those right, but is filled with dysfunctional teams and committees will be less effective and fruitful than a church operating from organizational health. Transformational Leadership helps pastors lead churches to healthy places for the glory of God.

Experiments in Transformational Leadership

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This post contains both a confession and a vision. Over the past three or four years I have been facilitating pastor peer groups for one of our conference programs. The objective of the groups are that each pastor can become the transformational leader he or she is called to be.

A few times, after reading the objective with the group, I’ve commented that when I became a pastor over twenty years ago being a transformational leader was not one of my expectations. When I became a pastor I had visions of preaching, teaching, visiting, and helping people grow in their relationship with God. Seminary taught me how to exegete Bible passages, different theologies, and the doctrine of my denomination. We had one class about leadership but it was mostly reading and focused on different types of leaders; autocratic, benevolent, etc. Transformational leadership was not on the syllabus.

If I were to define transformational leadership, I would say transformational leadership focuses on change whether the change encompasses transition, spiritual formation, organizational vision and values, cultural interaction, or some other kind of shift. The world has changed, is changing, and will continue to change. Transformational leadership equips pastors to address current challenges so that they can be effective and fruitful in pursing God’s mission.

About five years ago I had an epiphany concerning leadership and the church. For most of my ministry, I didn’t have too much room for anything regarding leadership. I focused one spiritual formation, preaching, and visitation. I left leadership development to businesses. As an example, it was just tonight that I added “leadership” as one of the categories for this blog! Slowly my attitude has shifted as I realize how much and quick culture changes.

Along with cultural transitions, the work of pastors has shifted as well. In the past decade or two, pastoral tasks have added email, websites, social media, presentation software, and that’s just the technological tasks. Some say pastors should delegate these tasks to others, but the reality is that most pastors have to take on these roles because those in the congregation who could are too busy and others just don’t have the skills. Without these tasks being addressed the church finds itself on the sidelines of communication.

Over the past few years, I have been stretched, learned much, and feel that I am a much better leader. Through many books, podcasts, and blog postings, my understanding of organizational health, management, and leadership has deepened. I’m learning what I wish I could have learned many years ago.

I regret neglecting leadership training for so long. Now, I have about fifteen or so years left until retirement. My hope, and prayer, is that those years are filled with fruitful and effective ministry because I’m learning to lead in a healthy and effective way.

So far, I’ve made my confession. Now for my vision! The past year has seen quite a few changes in my life. I moved last year from a small town church to a church in a large college town. I went from having almost no staff to having multiple staff. Transformational leadership has become much more important as I see the changes in culture and churches. My vision is to share my journey with you.

If you, like me, recognize all the changes happening and feel a bit overwhelmed, I invite you to journey with me as I share what has helped me and is helping me. I plan on posting once a week on becoming a transformational leader for God’s glory.

My journey toward transformational leadership started with a book. In my next post, I will share how that book changed the direction of my life.