Effective Pastoral Leadership: It's Not What It Used To Be

We hear it all the time from Leadership Coaching Clients and Pastoral Cohorts….”I used to know what to do to be effective as a pastor. But now it seems like what I used to do doesn’t achieve the same result.”
Appointment making denominations are highly interested in this topic, as are seminaries who’s mission includes preparing students for pastoral ministry. Even more, pastors themselves are laser-focused on this question: What makes a pastor effective…now?

It’s fascinating observing how individuals and groups begin answering this question. Their answers quickly collect around their particular mental model or church paradigm. Many continue to view the church in its Modern Era expression, Pre-2000, describing the pastoral competencies which were associated with effective leadership for then. Others, though fewer in number, describe emerging pastoral leadership competencies which look very different, obviously designed to effectively lead a different church paradigm. The reality for most churches is that they are on the journey, trying to shift and adapt from the world they have known to the land they know not of.

One way to bring clarity to this dilemma is to consider the culture we are trying to create within our congregations. Many theologians and practitioners provide helpful analogies to describe the church: green house, holding environment, pressure cooker, crucible, hospital, garden, etc. Whatever our metaphor, what ingredients contribute to a healthy cultural environment in our congregations, resulting in disciple development and missional engagement?

Those who are staffing to the Modern Era church paradigm describe a church culture with the words in the left column below. The right column describes the culture of a church in transition, moving toward the Postmodern Era expression of church. In other words, effective pastoral and lay leadership cultivate an atmosphere of either:

So what does the Church in North America need at this point in history in order to thrive; accomplishing its calling from God? What kind of atmosphere does it need to breath for healthy living in its context? What is our essential challenge at this point in time? Our answers to these questions directly influence what we expect from leadership. Looking at the two word lists above, these describe very different kinds of church cultures. It follows then that the pastoral leadership competencies needed for each culture are significantly different. The second culture calls for leaders of Movements, while the first calls for a Statesman (generic term).

Perhaps this cultural difference would make for helpful conversation in your next lay leadership team meeting. Perhaps this discussion could inform denominations who are tasked with placing and/or supervising clergy. Perhaps this discussion could help seminaries consider curriculum. Perhaps this discussion could guide a pastor’s selection of the next continuing education experience.

I don’t know about you, but there is no way I want to miss out on this next expression of God’s Church in our world.

Mark Tidsworth, President,