Shared Leadership and the Church

Wheels of Progress

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In over twenty years of pastoring, I have not known the church to be on the “cutting edge” of culture. There may be an argument about some mega-churches focusing on innovation, but for the majority of churches, the wheels of progress move quite slowly. The statements of “We’ve never done it that way before…” and a fear of upsetting people, tend to keep churches from moving too quickly or too far out of their comfort zones.

The propensity to move slowly causes some to look to the business world to get ideas, processes, and inspirations. For years I hated this. “The church isn’t a business,” I would argue, quite smugly I might add. I never considered that both businesses and churches are organizations made up of people. Viewing the church as an organization causes me to wonder; would methods businesses use to effectively mobilize people for a common purpose work in churches? As I continue to see the church, especially my beloved United Methodist Church, slowly decline under cultural tendencies, and how some businesses not only address cultural trends in a way that is effective but thrive, I am convinced that it is time to explore whether any of their methodologies can help churches move forward in God’s mission.

Deja Vu Once Again

Have you ever felt like this?

“Consider the challenges of the 21st century enterprise: things change too fast for one individual to know how to best respond; there are many explanations for any event, and multiple perspectives are needed to understand what that event means and decide what to do; a pipeline of future leaders is essential…”

I know I have! I resonate with that quote. Actually, I resonate with the whole article (more on the article below). I even wrote something similar in Experiences in Transformational Leadership. In my article, I bemoaned how quickly everything changes, making adaptation difficult. Maybe you have similar feelings. You are working longer, harder, and have to know more than ever before. Technological advances help us find information in an instant, but with Facebook, Twitter, Email, text messages, and other technological tools that we have to learn and use, life becomes overwhelming.

Sharing is Nice

The article goes on to say:

“No wonder organizations today are drawn to the benefit of leadership that is shared, rather than concentrated in a single, charismatic individual. Regardless of the exact organizational structure or what it’s called, the times seem to call for leaders who can be first among equals.”

I could say the same thing for the church! Yet, this article wasn’t in Christianity Today, or Relevant Magazine. No, this article came from Harvard Business Review. Amazing.

Learning to Share

In the 21st Century, we must learn to approach leadership differently. If you are interested in the concept of shared or decentralized leadership, check out the article. I like the little twist when they write, “…leaders who can be first among equals.” The concept “first among equals” puts a bit of a spin on decentralized leadership where everyone is equal. Kaiser argues, in “Winning on Purpose”, that effective teams have someone in the lead. Someone, as Kaiser maintains, must be held accountable and it isn’t possible to hold groups accountable. Having a leader, however, does not necessarily mean others are unimportant or don’t have influence. Sharing leadership is one way to maximize the gifts and graces of those in the church. As the article explains, “things change too fast for one individual to know how best to respond…”

The article also states:

“This is more than delegation. It has to do with a team sharing a sense of purpose and responsibility for the overall leadership of the company. Different people may spearhead different aspects of the team’s work, but everyone is in charge, always.”

Shared values, purpose, and alignment of values and purpose, are topics that I plan on exploring on this blog since they are vital to flourish in the 21st Century. A new day has dawned,…well…actually a new day dawned quite a few years ago. The time has come for church leaders to embrace new leadership styles and develop leaders who move the mission forward.

Will shared leadership work in the church? What do you think it would look like? Are business methods even appropriate for churches? Is leadership overvalued in our culture? Leave a comment below.

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.

Prayer: Oxygen for the Soul

I just recently stumbled upon this article. I’ve noticed the while UMs seem to believe in prayer and try to promote prayer, we really don’t pray. We might have prayer before meetings, or in our services, yet it feels like we are simply trying to do what we are expected to do.

When we relinquish prayer as our foundation, praying becomes a type of courtesy to God. If prayer was left out, we would continue on as usual. God doesn’t need our courtesies, but God covets our prayers. He years for our relationships. He desires to speak into our lives and our churches.

The article is excellent and I encourage all readers to click the link and read it!

 

Unless you pray about it, it ain’t gonna happen.

 

That’s the Rev. Jeff Kersey’s take and, indeed, it’s happening at his church, Mount Horeb UMC in Lexington. Folks at Mt. Horeb have heavily invested in prayer, and the church has grown from 250 to 2,600 members.

via United Methodist Advocate – Connecting Methodists in South Carolina Since 1837 – Prayer: Oxygen for the Soul.

Not As Easy As it Sounds

Somethings are pretty straightforward. You read or hear about them and it is fairly easy to implement. Other things sound pretty easy and make sense, but implementing them is difficult if not impossible because obstacles and attitudes stand in the way.

I agree with this sentiment article and I have for years. However, this is easier said than done. What is a pastor to do if he or she tries to raise up others for work, but they don’t want to work? What if they have other priorities? Family, work, entertainment, etc., all take time and energy. Many cite that 20% of people do 80% of the work. The other day I heard a lay person say that 10% of the people do 100% of the work. Sometimes it seems he might be right. If so, the pastors have a lot of work to do…

Here’s a quote from the article. The full article is linked for your convenience:

The pastor really has one job, and it has nothing to do with running committees, hospital visits, service bulletins, capital campaigns, and all other sorts of craziness that has become pastoral tradition. Based on Ephesians 4:11, the pastor isn’t supposed to be the doer of all ministry, but rather the equipper of people who do all of the ministry. As simply as it can be put, the job of the pastor is to raise up other people to do the work.

via Ministry Matters™ | Articles | The Lie of Well-Roundedness.

God Working In and Through (Church in a Bar)

The Missional church is being an agent and instrument of God’s Kingdom by discovering how God wants to “put things back to rights” and allowing him to work through us in fulfilling his purposes. This church is a good example. The question it leaves in my mind is: How is good wanting to impact our community through us?