Friday, August 31, 2012

The Challenge of Pastoral Leadership: The Corporation-Sized Church

The National Congregation Study from Duke University reported that 50 percent of churchgoers in the United States attend 10 percent of congregations.  These are churches that average 350 and up regular participants on a Sunday. This size congregation, whether 351 or 10,000 plus, is usually referred to as the corporate or corporation size church.  Certainly, there is a great deal of diversity in leadership when considering this great a size range, but once a church passes 350 in Sunday morning attendance the expectations of the pastor and the competencies required to lead effectively change in several important ways.

Although some may react negatively to the designation, the pastor of this type church is usually seen as the chief executive officer.  Even more importantly, the person is this position becomes a symbol for of the congregation and its face to the community.  Theodore Johnson says that this church is seeking “a leader with mythic qualities.”   Wow!  How many can measure up to that standard?

In fact, very few ministers have the ability to lead this type of congregation.  Some perform effectively at the lower range but the larger the church becomes, the greater the challenge to lead.

The pastor of the corporate size church is expected to be an extraordinary communicator, especially since his or her preaching ministry is often multiplied through various broadcast, cable, and online media outlets.  The pulpit is her or his primary means of guiding, discipling, and motivating the congregation.  He or she must be a master teacher as well, offering clear and pertinent Bible teaching in a number of settings including publications.

The pastor of the corporate size church leads the church to provide pastoral care not only through trained and equipped volunteers but through a staff of professional ministers.  In fact, he or she may well be presiding over multiple mini-congregations within one church—senior adults, single adults, youth and their families, children and their families, and participants in the music ministry—with each led by a professional staff member.  These ministries may be the size of a pastor-centered or program size church!

This situation requires a pastor who accepts his or her role as unifying symbol but realizes that he or she is “first among equals” or “chief of staff” to a group of trained and competent individuals.  Failure to adopt this position will assure frustrated ministry leaders and a revolving door approach to staff leadership.  Perhaps the greatest challenge this pastor faces is to articulate a vision that will unify not only a complex congregation but a diverse staff.

If a pastor is to be effective in the corporate size church, he or she must become a student of leadership, knowing his or her strengths, learning from others, and taking the initiative to train and mentor those in the congregation—whether paid staff or volunteer leaders.

Some pastors in this size church abdicate the role of staff leader to someone else, usually an administrative pastor who not only takes care of the business of the church but becomes the “chief operations officer” supervising other staff ministers.  I must admit that I have a bias against this approach.  There is certainly a need in this size church for competent administrators with business savvy, but if the pastor is to be lead effectively, he or she must plan, pray, dream, and work directly with other ministers.   To do otherwise is to become only a figurehead for the congregation and the community.

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