My friend and colleague, Terry Hamrick, shares some very relevant thoughts for us today…
A staff colleague once had a baseball cap hanging in his office with two bills angled from the front. The inscription on the cap read, “I’m their leader, which way did they go?” This cap captures the feelings of many congregational leaders today.
We were trained to lead, minister, pastor in a world that no longer exists. The church/culture transition is acknowledged in literature across the religious spectrum. The non-religious/non-churched population is growing. Many congregations deal with the stress of maintaining institutions and structures built in former times. The tension between honoring our past and being relevant to the present colors the agenda at practically every church business meeting.
Many ministerial and lay leaders seem to have two default metrics used to gauge success: 1) Are we paying the bills?
2) Do we have peace and harmony in the fellowship?
Most of our monetary resources is spent on trying to satisfy these evaluative criteria. Obviously these are good and important goals that need our attention. But are they the most appropriate ones?
In his book, Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz introduces us to a different set of metrics. He offers both technical and adaptive leadership tasks. Many of us were trained to be technical leaders. We learned to help the church run smoothly and grow larger without ruffling too many feathers along the way. The focus was inside the walls of the church, OUR organization, attendance, budget, friendly fellowship. Of course we cared about spiritual growth and mission but they were very difficult to measure.
Adaptive leadership asks different questions. Adaptive leadership shifts the question from raising money to relevance. Adaptive leaders shift from asking, “Why DON’T people give?” to “Why SHOULD people give?” These are two very different ways of looking at stewardship! Adaptive leaders are concerned with motivation and participation rates more than “nickels and noses.”
Congregational leaders must wrestle with two specific issues, “How do we discern both God’s mission in our specific community?” and “What is our specific role in that mission?” Answers require more than an organizational chart, a head count and a peaceful business meeting.
Rather than asking how we get more participation in our programs, perhaps we should ask questions like:
“What does the church have to say to the cultures in our neighborhood?
“What do these various cultures have to say to the church?
“What do we need to do to put ourselves in a position to listen, reflect and respond?
We are congregational leaders, which way do we go?
For more see Hamrick’s work, Leadership in Constant Change, available from the CBF Store.