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Pastors and Leadership

My recent post on Adam Hamilton's Leading Beyond the Walls has garnered the most comments on any post I've done, replacing only my post on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in number of comments. This is thanks in large part to a conversation between RevWilly and David Allen Grady, and I feel almost as cool as Shane at WesleyBlog and Dean at Untied Methodist, who always have long comment threads on their posts.

Anyway, RevWilly and David started a conversation about what it means to be a leader, and what kind of leaders we are called to be as pastors. Forgive my short summary of their comments, but it started with David asking: do pastors enter ordained ministry because they want to be leaders? Is being a leader the focus of pastoral ministry? Revwilly responds to say that shepherding a flock requires great leadership, and that pastors with thriving churches have great leaders.

I think both have raised some interesting questions. What kind of leaders are pastors meant to be? What is our model of leadership?

A good place for us to start, of course, is with the example Jesus sets for us. But Jesus, rabble-rouser that he was, always was more challenging to the leadership of the religious community than anything else. I've been studying the upcoming lectionary text from Matthew 23:1-12, where Jesus has harsh words for the scribes and Pharisees, who in their leadership, lay great burdens upon others, while reveling in their titles of 'rabbi' and 'teacher', all the while not practicing what they preach. Pastors today are in that same position - we're the religious leaders of our communities. So we stand in leadership with many warnings from Jesus to be very careful about what kind of leaders we are.

What kind of leaders are pastors meant to be? We toss around words like "shepherd" or "servant-leader." What does that mean? I personally have a hard time connecting to the image of shepherd - I'll be honest. We see pretty paintings of Jesus carrying a lamb, but I suspect this isn't a good picture of a shepherd. Was a shepherd in biblical days considered a leader? Should we try to resemble CEOs? How much does leadership have to do with how and what we preach? How about our administrative skills? How much do we need to have those gifts and talents? What about how we dress or how we carry ourselves?

What do you think? What does it mean to be a leader as a pastor?

Who would you lift up as a great example of pastoral leadership?

Do you have a resource on pastor leadership to recommend?


Jonathon said…
Here's my recommendations:

1. Pastor: The Theology and Practice of Ordained Ministry by Will Willimon (coming at this from scripture, tradition, and experience- Willimon writes about what it means to be a pastor in its various roles)

2. Pastor: A Reader for Ordained Ministry edited by Will Willimon (compilation of saints and pastoral leaders throughout our history)

Anonymous said…
actually Beth I'd say you :) I just read your reply on dear brother jacob's blog and you were lovingly brilliant

I bless you and your ministry to all of God's people, just as you have been called.
Anonymous said…
GREAT questions here by the way Beth. And I'm thinking on them ... back soon I hope :)
Anonymous said…
Beth, As a lay person I think it might be easier to see what it takes to be a good pastoral leader. A while back we changed pastors our old pastor was looked upon by the district as someone who could lead a church that is facing problems so they reassigned him. The qualities I saw were accessibility (always ready to be there for you), hard working, enjoyable to be around truthful,a peacemaker( helping congregants to get along),loving,and encouraging of the ministries of the parishoners. I think these attributes bear fruit through a healthy and vibrant church
Betty Newman said…
This may be changing the subject a bit, but what you said about relating to a shepherd caught my eye.

I wrote a Christmas poem a few years ago titled "Shepherd or Wiseman" about who we are, and how is it that God comes to each of us.

Anyway, my inspiration for that was reading that shepherds were sorta "outcasts" in Jesus' time due to their inability to keep all the laws - after all they were like dairy farmers today - they had to work 24/7 to care for the sheep.

I'm not saying that a pastor has to be an outcast :-) but they certainly are "set out" and at times, I know they feel like they are on call 24/7.

Also when there is an ineffective pastor, a church can actually look like "sheep without a shepherd..." especially when there is not strong lay leadership either.

I take a business magazine called "Fast Company" and last month's issue was on "Leadership." When I took a "Christian Leadership" class at a local Bible School (not "V"BS!) we studied both Christian and secular leadership.

Sometimes ya just gotta be different!

Anonymous said…
Romans 8:6-8 (NRSV) says, "We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

I think that pastoral leadership requires us to know which of the gifts that God has given to each of us, but not to neglect the others. What I have found (and I am sure you have found, also) is that in relationships people bring all kinds of expectations to the position. Some want a prophet, some a teacher, some a leader, some compassion. It has taken me a long time in this journey finding little pieces of myself here and there to claim. Questions that I continue to ask are… What is my gift? Is my call shifting or changing? What area of the pastoral office has God challenged me to grow into? What gifts are those around me affirming?

The question that I have for God is, why do people like Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and Adam Hamilton (all of which I have the utmost respect for) seem to have been given a basket of gifts and most of us are fortunate to see and claim one.
kwpershey said…
I struggled mightily with my Administration & Finance class during my last semester of seminary. In my opinion, the tack of the class was to pretend to encourage theologically framed conversations about adminstration while simultaneously preaching the pastor as CEO approach. We had Harvard Business Journal articles as assigned reading. It really turned me off. But I will be honest: I have rejected that approach to pastoral leadership without really constructing an alternative. The shepherd thing doesn't really work so well for me, either. Do we need a better metaphor? Or better practical guidelines?

Thanks for the great post, Beth. I popped by through the RevGalBlogPals ring.
Revwilly said…
Some random thoughts on leadership

John Maxwell says, "leadership is influence." I agree. Leaders have the ability to influence and motivate people to move in a particular direction, to go places they wouldn't have gone without a leader, do things they would not normally do. Leaders are people with a vision of how something can be better.Leaders take time to dream about what could be. Leaders see what others don't. Leaders challenge the status quo. Leaders lead themselves and then others.

Everyone can learn leadership skills. People like Warren, Hybels and others often have a gift of leadership, but everyone can learn the skills. I am a big picture person who is awful at details and follow through. Therefore I have brought people around me who love detail and follow through. They understand me and know what I can and cannot do. I am no good at all at administration or finances, but others in my church are and I let them do it.

I've already alluded to this; leaders are people who are very intentional about personal growth. They read books, listen to tapes and attend conferences on leadership.

Leaders have also learned and developed good people skills.

Leaders are people who care about others. "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." J. Maxwell You see, first you have to get people to buy into you, then they will buy into your dream/vision.

Leaders are courageous people. They feel fear about doing things, but they do it anyway. They have decided that they don't need to survive. They make hard decisions.

Leaders are people who develop others to lead.

Leaders serve.

Leaders lift others.

For what it is worth, those are a few of my random thoughts of how I understand leadership.
Revwilly said…
Please don't let my post be the last! Let's hear from some more of you. This, in my opinion is one of the most important issues in the UMC.
LutheranChik said…
Beth, my own pastor engages in what I would call "leadership by bringing along." I actually first met him back when I was in college, when he was assistant pastor at our university/townie parish, and the clergyperson most in contact with the student members. I can't tell you how many women and men he inspired to go to seminary. He loves doing theology with anyone. He loves bringing interested people with him on pastoral visits. He shares worship leadership duties with the laity. He freely shares what he knows. And he very gently nudges people into discovering their own gifts for ministry in their everyday lives. (Which is one of the reasons I wound up in our synodical lay ministry program.)
Willie Deuel said…
A leader is primarily someone who responds to a call - we discern a need within the community of faith and we cannot live with that need going unmet.

Spending an afternoon with Len Sweet's "Summoned to Lead" can't hurt.

Re: the Sheherd image - don't soften this image too much. A good shepherd has to be something of a bad dude - vigilant, watchful, ready to fend off predators, raiders, and enemies armed only with sharp instincts and a crooked stick. Yet a shepherd must be clever and patient in rounding up and moving the sheep from place to place, discerning the needs of the sheep.
Beth Quick said…
Lorna - thanks for the great compliment!

Willie, nice take on the shepherd image.

Jonathan - I have both the books you suggest, read them cover to cover my first year in ministry. I agree and highly recommend them as well!!

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