Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Six Leadership Functions for Ministers/Church Leaders

Six Leadership Functions

According to Israel Galindo (in The Hidden Lives of Congregations), there are six leadership functions of a minister or pastor. These functions may play out differently in a church where there is a strong pastoral leader than in a congregation that has a minister serving under an eldership.

The first function is providing vision. Vision is the sense of purpose a congregation has for it’s existence and function. “Vision is a blueprint of a desired future state ... an image of that state of being and living that the congregation will work to achieve in the future” (140). Vision is developed after a congregation has a sense of its identity, meaning it knows what it believes and stands for, has a sense of values, and honors it’s past (144). When a church clearly knows who and what it is, it then has the understanding of itself to pursue it’s vision and fulfill it’s mission. Mission is what God wants all churches and Christians to pursue: preaching, teaching, and ministering to the hurts of the community. Vision is the direction of a congregation to fulfill that mission in a manner uniquely suited to its identity and make-up. Is the congregation an inner city church with a large homeless population? Then that congregation’s vision might be to focus its greatest energies and resources in ministering in Jesus’ name to that segment of the population. Is the congregation a rural or small town church with a number of teen pregnancies in it’s community, but little or no resources to assist them? Then the vision of that church might be to function in Jesus’ name by focusing attention, maternal and paternal mentoring, care and financial resources to those teenage boys and girls about to become parents. The mission of every church is to minister in Jesus’ name; the vision of each church is to decide, based upon it’s identity, nature and abilities, how to best fulfill that mission. One function of the minister is to study his congregation and community and help identify a clear and compelling vision for ministry.

Managing crisis is a second important function for a minister. Crisis is created by change that lacks purpose or focus and thus “introduces disequilibrium, uncertainty, and makes day-today life chaotic and unpredictable” (150). Changes in leadership, the perceived direction of the church, or corporate structures and functions, such as worship, can all create this disequilibrium for the members, especially if they cannot discern a purpose for it. They feel “threatened and out of control” because the personalities, processes and structures that have provided their spiritual security are gone (150). When disequilibrium or systemic anxiety hits a church, the following responses, as identified by Rabbi Edwin Friedman, can be discerned. One, reaction. Members may be scared, frustrated, angry, or nervous, all indicative of chaos. Two, blame-casting. No one immediately assumes they are responsible for the confusion, so they look to others to lay the blame on. Leaders become primary targets and, if they initiated the changes, they may be legitimate targets. Three, herding. People of like mind begin to group together, finding equilibrium and comfort in solidarity. Grouping together means there is an “us versus them” mentality and should signal to the leaders that there is a real problem in the congregational unity. Four, a demand for a quick fix. The inner turmoil caused by the chaos can become unbearable, and the sufferers demand an immediate remedy. It may be going back to an old practice, firing a staff member or insisting on the resignation of an elder or other congregational leader. At this point, the leaders can experience what Friedman calls failure of nerve. A failure of nerve is when the minster or leaders get caught up in the anxiety of the system and become part of the chaos by giving in to unrealistic demands or by participating in any of the members’ chaotic behaviors (reacting, blaming, herding or seeking a quick fix; Friedman, A Failure of Nerve, 54-55). Leaders must stay engaged and continue to function with the aim of helping to regulate the system (discussed in #3 below).

Thirdly, ministers exercise leadership by staying connected. This is especially critical during periods of conflict and upheaval. The best response of the leadership is to remain differentiated from (calm and above the chaos of) the members while at the same time staying connected to (visiting with and listening closely to) them (152). The calmness of the leaders allows the members to know leadership is still in place, and remaining emotionally engaged and connected with them helps regulate the anxiety. The tendency of leaders to “hunker down and fly under the radar”(151) during crisis and conflict to avoid attacks opens the door for greater systemic dysfunction and for others to vie for positions of power and influence. It is my experience that some people intentionally incite conflict in a family, business or church to disorient the leadership and open the way for the initiator to step in and begin to function as the leader, as invariably happens if the existing leadership is disengaged from the members of the system. Not all conflict is started purposely by someone to wrest control for himself; it is often the result of changes leadership tries to make for the health of the congregation, or changes that are inevitable, such as the aging or passing of older leaders. Whatever the cause of the crisis and chaos, effective visionary leadership means the minister (and elders) remain engaged. Leaders must understand that “effectiveness depends more on relationships (with the members) than on official status or in the office they hold” (152). Remaining connected means listening to the members to understand their perspectives, showing concern, and challenging them to responsible behavior (152).
Fourthly, ministers function as the resident theologian of the congregation. Without a strong orientation to scripture and what it teaches for the life of Christians and the church, many members will base decisions and actions on expediency. It is particularly important during times of crisis for theology (biblical teaching) to inform peoples’ viewpoints and behavior, since during chaotic times people are more prone to act out of intense emotions than reasoned and biblical thinking. Congregational peace can be sacrificed to a desire by competing sides to win. To challenge leaders to thinking more theologically, Galindo asks them how theology informs their decisions. He finds that even many ministers make church decisions based more on expediency than theology. One role of the resident theologian is to help people fit their story into God’s story. How does the life of the congregation and individual members fit into God’s ongoing story of redemption for his people? Most people don’t think in those terms: it is the theologian’s job to train them to. All of our lives must be interpreted in light of the Gospel and God’s claim upon us. Ministers continue the ancient biblical narrative into the life of the congregation by use of: 1) speech (terms for our redemption and relationship); 2) themes (key ideas, doctrines and dreams); 3) conflict (helping the congregation interpret and process fears, tensions and challenges); 4) rituals (worship, meals, and a sense of belonging) and 5) issues and stories of belonging (what it means to be part of this community) (156).

A fifth function of ministers or leaders is management. Some understand leadership to be relational (connected to and leading people) and others for leadership to be the management of an organization (“through process, procedures, organization, and the control of resources,” 158). Both approaches are actually necessary. To be a successful leader/manager, a minister must understand the congregation’s purpose, and have a vision to achieve it’s mission. In smaller churches, leadership/management is more relational than administrative. “Relationship management means being attuned to people’s emotions, and practicing influence with a purpose in order to move people in the right direction” (159). This requires being emotionally connected to and involved with the congregation.

The sixth and final leadership function according to Galindo is influence. More critical than any skill or ability is for the church leader to earn the trust of the congregation and thus be able to exercise influence. Leadership means influencing others in a way that “believers will trust and respond to the Head of the church for themselves, in order to accomplish the Lord’s purposes for God’s people in the world” (Galindo, 160; Stevens and Collins, The Equipping Pastor, 109). Influence in Christian circles is not charisma, manipulation or personal power; it is the proper exercise of positional and personal leadership within the church. If one is granted a position of leadership within the body (minister, elder, deacon, teacher, etc.), he or she has a degree of positional leadership. Personal leadership is relational: “influence is the result of the leaders ability to stay connected in significant relationships with the members” (160). The aim and direction of the minister’s leadership is to influence the people to live out God’s claim on their lives, submitting to his will, obeying, and engaging in mission to lost and needy souls.

These six leadership functions identified by Israel Galindo are a huge challenge for today’s minister or elders. Most of today’s ministers were trained to work within the church culture, meeting the needs of the members. Because of changing church and cultural circumstances, many churches today are in serious decline, and congregations are anxious about their church dying. It is imperative that ministers, elders, and other church leaders realize that ministry within the church is never to be an end in itself, but it is to prepare the people to engage the world with the Gospel (Eph. 2:10; 4:11-13). Leaders must exercise their influence to lead members out of the comfort and safety of the closed church environment out into the world where ministry must be done today. Kennon L. Callahan wrote, “The day of the churched culture is over. The day of the mission field has come” (Effective Church Leadership, 13). Galindo’s six points can help ministers and elders navigate the changes that will be necessary to posture the church for the future, by moving it from an inward to an outward focus.

Warren Baldwin
August 31, 2011

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Three-Legged Stool of Spiritual Growth

Three-Legged Stool of a Spiritual Life

You’ll never sit on a three-legged stool that wobbles. If the legs are disproportionate lengths you may sit a little sideways, but you will still sit securely. A four-legged stool might wobble on you, though, because if one leg is short, it won’t touch the floor until you lean that way. Then, as you shift your weight and the stool leans with you, you may fall right off the seat. A three-legged stool is more secure because all three legs will reach the floor.

A vibrant spiritual life rests on a three-legged stool of spiritual disciplines. Roy Oswald and Barry Johnson describe such a stool in their book, Managing Polarities in Congregations: Eight Keys for Thriving Faith Communities. A healthy spiritual life needs an environment that encourages people to pursue faith through asking questions about God, encountering people of compassion who manifest the fruit of the spirit in their lives, and who are taught about submission and obedience to Jesus (55-56). In such an environment, such a church, people can practice the three-legged stool disciplines and grow in the grace and mercy of the savior.

The first leg of the stool is home rituals. Such rituals would include praying in various occasions, such as at meals, for family and friends who are sick, and in private. They would also include observing seasonal religious dates, such as Christmas, and being free to discuss biblical issues around the dinner table. Such discussions would not be negative, as in criticizing the theological views of other people at church, but would be positive discussions of biblical texts, possible interpretations, and applying God’s truths to our lives.

The second leg is membership and active participation in a small group. The function of the small group is to study and discuss biblical issues, pray, and share faith stories. Faith stories are simply the experiences of people that have impacted their faith and their life journey in someway. They may share about the death of a loved one and the hole they still feel in their life; an abusive situation that leaves them suspicious and distrustful of everyone; or a school teacher that loved them through that difficult time and planted the seeds of faith that are just now beginning to sprout, and has them in this small group. Members of this group will need to be open, loving and non-judgmental to give the seeker plenty of room to question, experience love, and grow.

Corporate worship is the third leg of a healthy spiritual life. People of all ages, theological perspectives and faith development will be able to function together in a church if they can “come together to worship God, united in their common offering of praise and thanksgiving” (57). Participation in the Lord’s Supper is the chief symbol of their unity together. (Discussion of these three legs is found on page 57).

Too often churches rely on only the third leg, corporate worship, to develop the faith and spiritual vitality of young Christians. That is only one-third of what a new believer needs to root him in deeply. Some of them may attend Bible classes, but if the function of the class is primarily to teach and not share faith stories, younger Christians may not feel comfortable being vulnerable about their past. Or, if they do share sensitive and embarrassing episodes from their history, members of the class who may not be as open and accepting might offer judgment in response to what is shared rather than the affirmation and support the new Christian so desperately needs. Or, if the class discussion turns heated, sensitive new members may decline to attend in the future. I saw a newly baptized Christian quit church after attending his first Bible class, a class where a heated discussion erupted over a question of church management of money. “If that is what following Christ is about, I don’t need it,” he said as he walked away, never to return.

Churches can’t make anyone participate in these three activities, but they can teach about the importance of faithful involvement. They can also offer basic training in home devotionals and small group leadership. The goal of this three-legged stool is to encourage the faith and growth of everyone in the orbit of the church, from the seeker just beginning to explore faith, to the mature Christian still seeking to grow in the grace and favor of God.

Warren Baldwin

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Wives Who Bless the Fountain

Wives Who Bless the Fountain
Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be your alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:16-18

While these verses speaks primarily to husbands, there are implications for wives as well. For example, even though a husband may be unfaithful, the wife doesn’t have to be. This passage acknowledges that if a husband doesn’t avail himself of the thirst quenching water he has at home (a satisfying sexual relationship with his wife), he may seek it elsewhere. When he does so, he leaves his wife emotionally starved and unsatisfied. Solomon acknowledges that some women in this situation may become springs that overflow in the streets; that is, they seek love and romance else where.

But, they don’t have to. They shouldn’t. Since Proverbs is addressed primarily to young men, most of the moral instructions are directed to male temptations: the lure of attractive women, voluptuous kisses and sensuous perfume (cf. Prov. 7:10-18). But Proverbs is concerned about developing wisdom and a moral consciousness in everyone, male and female. Proverbs warns against the wiles of the immoral woman who draws men from the moral path (chapters 2, 5,6,7) and who seeks pleasure in stolen water (a likely metaphor for immoral sexual behavior). But it also honors the moral woman for building a healthy home (14:1). Also, the Wise Wife of Proverbs 31 is extolled for the selfless attention she showers upon her husband and children, something she likely would not do if her energies were spent upon a secret lover.

Photo from Amy Free Photography

While Proverbs enjoins moral behavior for the male, it clearly assumes it for the female as well. So, if a husband is unfaithful, seeking sources of sensual refreshment from a woman other than his wife, that doesn’t mean the wife has to do the same. She can exercise her moral fiber and rededicate her efforts to do all she can to preserve her home.

A wife has tremendous power to nurture refreshment in the home to help prevent it from deteriorating to the point of either partner seeking affection elsewhere. She can use initiative and creativity to ensure that the springs and fountain of the home continually attract the attention of her husband.

Proverbs 7 presents us with a sexually aggressive married woman who, unfortunately, is unfaithful to her husband, and is directing her energy toward an unsuspecting young male visiting the big city. She spots the aimlessly wandering boy and accosts all of his senses with her feminine appeal. She wears alluring apparel (v.10), envelops him in a passionate embrace, kisses him energetically (v.13), speaks temptingly (v.14-18), and perfumes her private chamber (and likely herself, v.17). Everything she does inflames the young man’s mind and body! Yet, everything she does is so wrong because she is not married to this young man. Her drive and ambition is completely misdirected because such affection is meant for her husband.

Why the woman acts this way Proverbs doesn’t say. It just warns young men to avoid such volatile, moral situations. God gives men five senses to experience pleasure. When all five of them are under sensual attack at one time, it will be difficult for even the strongest, most centered of men to resist for long. The immediate response in a family-oriented man must be to just run!

But let’s look at Proverbs 7 from another perspective. What makes the woman of Proverbs 7 so dangerous to a man? The fact that she is offering what every male craves: a healthy, inviting, and energetic romantic encounter. And while the approach of the Proverbs 7 woman is so wrong when exercised outside of her marriage, it is so right when directed toward her husband.

Tell me, what man wouldn’t double time it home if he knew ready to embrace him was the love of his life acting out Proverbs 7 toward him!? Wives, the greatest weapon your husband has in his arsenal to ward off the overtures of the seductress is you. At least occasionally, show him the same level of excitement and interest that the immoral woman may have already tempted him with earlier in the day.

Jobs, demands of the home, and caring for energetic kids often leaves a wife and mom so exhausted she simply doesn’t have the strength to give an energetic and sensuous greeting to her husband. It’s unfair to expect her to. At least all of the time. There are years when the children are little when romance seems to take a back burner. While that is understandable and sometimes unavoidable, it is also very dangerous. The sizzle in a marriage may falter and die, but the need for love, acceptance, embrace, and sex does not. And if a husband and wife don’t find them in each other, they become easy pickings for any aggressor on the prowl. Don’t let exhaustion give room to a Proverbs 7 woman claiming what is yours. And, yes, while all the adultery chapters in Proverbs hold the man accountable for his moral offenses, even when he is under assault by an aggressive woman, a loving wife who is equally aggressive at home can do so much to assure the faithfulness of her man.

Wives, be the spark plug sometimes. Your romantic aggression means more to your husband than he will ever tell you, largely because men don’t like to talk about their feelings. But if you notice your husband smiling more, being kind and gracious in the home, telling you to go shopping while he watches the kids, and taking out the trash without being asked, you’ll know why. Your initiation of a sexual encounter will make your husband feel valued, proud (in a healthy sense), wanted, and deeply, deeply thankful to you. Conversely, never initiating can leave your guy feeling bruised in his self-esteem, unwanted, and hurt. Pride will keep him from saying, “I’m hurt,” so he will likely mask his bruise in anger, speaking and acting in ways that will hurt you back. Eventually, he may even begin to withdraw from you.

Men want to know that their wives do more than tolerate their advances; they want to know that they are wanted, sexual needs and all. You can communicate that by occasionally being the aggressor. If you don’t, the Proverbs 7 woman is ready to.

Don’t leave sensual allurement for your husband to women who shouldn’t be offering it. Your husband picked you because you were the most beautiful and alluring of women to him. He loved you. You are the one he wants to knock his socks off, and if you do, the Proverbs 7 woman doesn’t stand a chance.

God wants a husband’s fountain to be blessed. That means you share in that blessing. You are that blessing! Keep the cistern cool and refreshing, and you guarantee where he will be coming to drink.

Warren Baldwin