Re-Forming Pastoral Leadership, Part 2

Mark Tidsworth, President, Pinnacle LA

“This is not what I signed-up for.”
In Part 1 of this series on pastoral leadership we described the first step in moving to a new leadership approach: Recognition. First, we recognize that our former and/or current pastoral leadership paradigm is leading to diminishing returns, formed for another culture and time.

The second step in moving toward a new approach involves two moves, twin actions coming to us together: accepting and grieving. When pastors consider moving
on toward new pastoral leadership paradigms, they remember their seminary training. They remember mentors in the seminary community, accompanied by many other mentors since, who promoted their version of pastoral leadership as THE approach to pastoral leadership. Of course, we are all passionate about our approach. Yet, we must realize that every approach to pastoral leadership is influenced and shaped by the prevailing Christian and secular culture of its time. This means that no approach is meant to last forever. All effective approaches are timely; shaped by and for their particular cultural context. Each pastoral leadership approach then has a shelf life; a season in which it resonates, leading congregations forward effectively. Recognizing and accepting that particular approaches we were taught from cherished mentors are less effective can feel like betrayal. Yet, remaining effective as pastoral leaders means we must accept the decline of cherished approaches, grieving the losses therein, while growing open to new paradigms for new seasons of pastoral ministry and leadership.

After moving through the second step, clergy may feel lighter, entering into new space. They are saying goodbye to their former approaches to leadership, while opening to new possibilities. At this point, discernment becomes the focus; the third key step. A series of pivotal questions find their way to the pastor’s attention, requiring answers before moving on.

• Now that so much in congregational life is changing, including my approach to pastoral leadership, am I still called to this expression of ministry?
• Since God has not rescinded my call to pastoral ministry, am I willing to enter a season of learning, refining, and reformation? How open am I to learning new approaches to pastoral leadership?
• Can I develop the approach to pastoral leadership this particular congregation needs in order to make its transitions, living out its calling in faithful and culturally relevant ways?

Yes, in this 500th anniversary year of the Great Reformation, everything is changing again, including the shape of pastoral leadership. Pastors who continue to lead like they did in the year 2010 or before will experience diminished results. Most pastors, I suspect, will do the work necessary to transition to new leadership approaches. Making this change is a process; a journey. Fortunately, we can describe predictable steps in the journey. After taking these first three steps, pastors are poised on the edge of the promised land (so to speak); ready to launch into new leadership approaches and paradigms (see next week’s article). May we accept the courage for change God provides every time it’s needed.