Three Rules of Pastoral Leadership

My sister is a professor in the business department at a large university. She’s highly curious about what makes effective leaders in the business world. Our discussions comparing ministerial leadership and corporate leadership are enjoyable. More often than not, there is overlap. The business world is learning about systems thinking and how to comprehend the multi-layered dynamics in their organizations. Congregational ministers are experienced in systemic dynamics (church fights over carpet color), whether they understand what is happening or not. Simultaneously, significant distinctions exist between leaders in these two fields. Our measures for effective congregational leadership are drastically different than typical corporate measures (theoretically at least).

As my sister studies systemic principals in the corporate world, she wrote a short piece on the three little rules of leadership. With her permission (thanks again) I pirated them, adapting them to congregational leadership. I hope they help you grow clearer on your role as a congregational leader.

Rule Number One: Congregational leadership is Not About Me. God’s call to local churches is to accomplish their mission to the best of their ability. The effective congregational leader helps the church to fulfill its calling as a church at this time, in this place, with these gifts and needs. The personal characteristics, charisma, motivational ability, creativity, of the pastor are not the focus. The functionality of the pastor in helping the church to move forward toward mission implementation is the focus. Effective congregational leaders care little about who gets credit or affirmation. Peter Drucker comments about leadership for non-profit organizations. “The most basic competence is the willingness to realize how unimportant you are compared to the task.”

Rule Number Two: Congregational leadership is All About Me. No, not about you personally, but about you functionally. The congregational system needs leadership – good, effective leadership. The pastor’s position in the system is designed to provide leadership for the congregation. The pastor who does not lead for fear of authoritarianism (or any other reason) robs the system of what it needs. Conversely, the pastor who makes leadership about the personality or gifts of the pastor will cultivate dependency and immaturity in the congregation. Effective congregational leadership is all about the pastor’s functioning. The congregational system needs leadership from its designated leaders.

Rule Number Three: See numbers 1 and 2 above. Paradoxically, effective congregational leadership is not about the personal attributes of the pastor, yet is about how the pastor functions in the system. May we be faithful stewards of the ministry opportunities to which God has called us – serving as effective congregational leaders!

Mark Tidsworth, Coordinator
Center for Clergy & Congregations