Lead Pastors Teach Us About Ministry In This Postmodern Context

Since this is startup time of year, Lead Pastor Cohorts at Pinnacle started up this month. These are groups of Lead Pastors from various denominations who gather one day per month for a seminar, lunch together, and a coaching group. After the first gathering, it struck me how much we are learning about our Postmodern ministry context from these Lead Pastors. Let's see what we might interpret about the ministry world from these insights.

Pastors are eager to learn, developing new skill sets and leadership approaches, given their high change contexts.

Listening to them describe their busy schedules, I'm amazed these pastors are willing to give one day each month to their leadership development cohort. They spend their CEU budget on the tuition, or use their personal funds when their church doesn't provide funding for learning. They show up ready to engage, primed for substantive learning and coaching experiences. If they don't experience something very helpful, they won't participate again. All this to say, pastors are very motivated to improve and strengthen their leadership effectiveness at this point in the Church's history. They recognize the world around their congregations is changing rapidly, necessitating their churches adapt or grow extinct. Motivated pastors are highly interested in what the next expressions of church may be, driving them to place themselves in contexts wherein learning and guided experimentation are valued and encouraged.

The content of seminars and curriculum in our trainings is changing, indicating church leadership itself is rapidly shifting.

Not only in the Cohort seminars, but I notice this change in our Pinnacle trainings overall. One example will illustrate this insight. In the past we often provided a workshop for clergy and laity called "Successfully Moving Through Congregational Size Transitions." The Cohort would engage this learning in its seminar over the course of a year. We focused on leading well as pastoral and lay leaders helped congregations adjust their expectations, processes, and systems to larger size dynamics. This learning was good and useful....ten years ago.

Now the focus of lead pastors, church staff, and lay people has shifted toward a different set of questions. The trainings we do which seem to gain more traction are on leading adaptive change, shifting the emotional system of the church, investing in core callings of the congregation, leading effectively in high change environments. The interest, when it comes to driving questions which need answering, is about adaptation rather than lower level adjustments. This indicates where the growing edge of church life is in this Postmodern context.

The high wall of separation between denominations is now a dim dotted line.

As I look around the Cohorts, I see pastors from 5 denominations in groups of only 10 participants. Would this have happened 20 years ago? 10 years ago? Where previous generations gathered for learning based on denomination, now many are gathering based on affinity groups (similar roles, like Lead Pastors). Sure, this takes some maturity, along with a willingness to respect the differences between us. My experience is that the differences, when mature people are involved, actually enhance the enrichment. These pastors don't insist on uniformity when it comes to respecting one another and learning from each other. One pastor described this well while sharing why he participates in this kind of Cohort, "I need to place myself in contexts with others who see ministry differently than I do. Otherwise I'm only reinforcing my own viewpoint all the time and not stretching or growing." Well said. We all see the denominational divisions among laity softening. Thanks be to God that the Christian Church appears to be moving toward more unity (not unanimity) in its leadership.

Lead Pastor positions are increasingly filled by female clergy.

One Cohort last year was equally split between female and male participants. Another Cohort this year has more women than men. For some, perhaps, this is not much of a development. For those of us who came along when fewer women were in pastoral roles, this is news to be celebrated. Now I'm fascinated to observe the differences in leadership styles and approaches as these men and women describe their pastoral ministries.

So, motivated clergy are engaging in newer ways of learning and growing. When was the last time you approached your leadership development differently? May we all sharpen our saws regularly, becoming the most effective leaders in God's Church we can be.

Mark Tidsworth,
Pinnacle Leadership Associates