Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Challenge of Pastoral Leadership: The Pastor-Centered Church

When a church moves from a worship attendance of less than fifty into the 50 to 150 range, a different style of pastoral leadership is required.  Perhaps another way to approach this is that if a church wants to transition to this next level of participation, the pastor must be able to fulfill a different type of role.  This may well be one of those “chicken and egg” quandaries.  Which comes first?

One may object to “the pastor-centered church” as the descriptor for this size congregation, but the fact is that the pastor is the nexus—the coordinator, the linchpin, the network node—through which everything flows. This is not an ego thing on the part of the pastor, but something that the members expect.  They want someone who will be the administrator of a growing church.

Although the pastor continues to perform the “priestly functions” of office (marrying, baptizing, and burying), he or she is expected to be more proficient in communicating the Word of God.  As a preacher, the pastor in this size congregation embodies the caring ministry of the church, aware of the needs and crises that take place and being the calm at the eye of the storm.  In teaching, the pastor is expected to apply the Bible to issues faced by the congregants—family issues, moral choices, and values.  In this function, the pastor links orthodoxy and orthopraxy—right believing and right acting—in the life of the church.

This type of congregation calls upon the pastor to lead through personal relationships and by being the one who delegates responsibilities, provides support in their execution, and recognizes achievements of members.  The pastor is the first among committee leaders who involves, encourages, empowers, mentors, and praises the “worker bees” in the church.  In addition, the pastor is often the primary Christian educator in the church, so he or she trains and coaches those who teach in most of the age groups.

The pastor in this congregation uses all of his or her relationship and emotional intelligence skills, but the greatest challenge here is time management.  Being the administrator does not mean that the pastor has to perform every task or even be present at every meeting, and this requires some wise choices about use of professional and personal time.  Failure to do so can lead to burn-out, poor health, and marital issues.

In this stage of church development, the pastor is the generalist, the “jack of all trades,” who is helping the members lay the foundation for both personal and organizational growth.  Some pastors function best at this level and are happy to continue in this role.  Others realize that they are willing to do this for awhile but they long for the day that the church will transition to a new model or the day when they accept the call to different type of church!

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