Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Challenge of Pastoral Leadership: Beyond the Local Congregation

Throughout Christian history, there have been leaders who have exercised pastoral leadership outside of the congregation.  We could point to those who founded and led monastic orders, mission societies, Bible leagues, and various para-church organizations.  Founders of movements and church planters are often in this category.

There is a new impetus for this type of leadership.  Such leaders are ministry entrepreneurs.  Many of them are young adults who have found a cause and are too eager or impatient to wait for the church to address it.

Leaders in these organizations engage in theological reflection, leader development, team building, effective communication, and administrative skills just as the pastor of a larger congregation does, but there certain other skills are necessary if they are to be effective.

First, they must practice cultural awareness and sensitivity. Entrepreneurial leaders deal with culture both internally and externally.  They learn to read the culture in which they minister, understanding its norms, values, and beliefs in order to function more effectively. At the same time, they are creating an internal culture in the organization that both guides and empowers its mission.

Second, these leaders learn and practice creative problem solving skills in order to develop the strategies, tactics and practices needed to pursue their vision, accomplish their mission, and fulfill the need they have identified.  They often find new ways to address old problems and this requires the ability to have a unique perspective on a situation.

Third, they must have excellent planning skills.  This means that they can clearly articulate their mission, develop a workable “business plan,” identify and state their objectives, and design effective action steps, and then identify and obtain the resources they need.

Fourth, they will be students as well as practitioners of leadership.  They must have the ability to learn from other leaders—through networking, participating in a peer cohort, reading, or being a protégé—and be able to mentor, supervise and coach those who join them in their cause.

The challenge for those who form ministry leaders—a theological school, for example-- is to provide the framework in which such skills can be developed.  This is not a task for the faint of heart!

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