Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Shepherd Leadership

I think that the first thing that we need to look at when talking about the seven churches in Revelation is the role that leadership played.  Leaders and leadership teams can make or break a congregation.  On the flip side, congregations can make or break a leader or leadership team as well!  Let's go back to First Peter chapter 5 where he tells the leaders his concern (from The Message paraphrase):

"Here's my concern: that you care for God's flock with all the diligence of a shepherd.  Not because you have to, but because you want to please God.  Not calculating what you can get out of it, but acting spontaneously.  Not bossily telling others what to do, but tenderly showing them the way."
Here is Webster's dictionary definition of Shepherd as it relates to leading:
"to conduct, guide (a group of people) and prevent them from lagging or straying" 
So a Shepherd leader guides a group diligently (preventing lagging and straying) and they do so because they want to please God.  It's not because they "have to", or because they like being in charge or because they think they'll get something out of it.  It's because of a love of pleasing God and doing what he has asked of his leaders.

Ezekiel 34 gives us an idea of what God had in mind when he describes what God plans to do as THE Shepherd.  God the Shepherd will:  rescue, bring them out, gather them, bring them to the mountain, feed them with "good pasture", make them to lie down (rest).  He will also, seek the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.

Feeling overwhelmed yet?  Sound like Mission Impossible especially with some of the goats at your church who like to ram into everything head first?  On our own, I would agree that the task seems insurmountable!

I started writing this particular piece on Monday with the intent of publishing it on Monday.  I wanted to come up with some sort of list of characteristics that define a leader and really flesh out this idea of Shepherd Leadership.  So I pulled all of my books out on church growth and spent time browsing through them again.  What took me by surprise, was the realization that none of these books talk about what makes a good leader in the first place!  Each and every book, that I have read, specifically, about church growth and turn-around strategies focuses on the congregation-not the minister leading the congregation.  It is assumed that a minister already has the skill set to implement an effective vision.  The closest I can come to a list of leadership skills comes from the book "Turn Around Strategies for the Small Church" by Ron Crandall.  Here are the 11 items that he labeled "Leadership role of the Pastor":

1)  Visionary  2)  Enabler/Encourager  3)  Partner/Friend  4)  Facilitator  5)  Cheerleader
6) Transformational Leader/Change Agent  7)  Spiritual Leader  8)  Caregiver
9)  Manager/Director  10)  Coach for Success  11)  Expert/Initiator

Pardon me for saying so, but I think that list is just as clear as mud!  And maybe, just maybe, that is why we have growth issues in the modern day church.  If a minister-the shepherd-the leader doesn't have a clear understanding of what is truly required of them out in the field, then how can they lead change?  A minister needs a clear understanding of their calling and vision.  They need to know their strengths and weaknesses.  What is a minister's specific gifts and how can they best use them when ministering to a congregation?  If you do not have that in the first place then how can an individual be expected to help a congregation cast a vision?

The first session that Adam Hamilton led at Leadership Institute had to do with Leadership Essentials.  His five point list is where I got the Ezekiel 34 reference from, that I talked about earlier.  Here's what he said:

1)  It's all about people.  Effective leaders build relationships.
2)  Leaders Clarify the Mission.  Mission=Why (Ezek. 34)
3)  Leaders help churches or ministries to discern God's Vision.  Vision=Where
4)  Leaders honestly face shortcomings and pursue excellence.  How can we do this better?
5)  Meaningful, moving, well led worship.

Bill Hybels also spoke at the Leadership Institute but I will leave what he had to say for another day.  As to Adam's list, I like it, I think it is workable but I also believe that the list comes from a place where the leader has a clear personal vision in the first place.  I'm not so convinced that all of our Ministers have that sort of clear vision to begin with!

So instead of focusing on accountability, perhaps the leadership of the church should focus on helping their ministers create their own clear vision before they ask them to help a congregation create a vision for ministry in their community.  Perhaps we need to go back and look at how these individuals are being trained in the first place.  Are we truly preparing them to be able to handle what they will experience when they are assigned to a local congregation?  Have we helped them clarify why they are in ministry?  Is that vision strong enough to carry them over the rough patches?  Do they have the skill set to be able to Shepherd a church through a process of change?  I think that these are questions worth asking.  If we want to see change, we need to make certain that the individuals being asked to lead the change, clearly understand their vision, first!

Want to create Shepherd Leaders?  Then give them the tools they need to be able to see the process through!

1 comment:

  1. Trudy, I like the suggestion for vision. I think it is less about developing my own clear vision for the church and more about understanding and coming into line with God's vision for the church.

    This may be quibbling over words, but it is important distinction to me.