Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Role of Church Leaders

    Written by Jeff Bigelow

    There is an overwhelming amount of books and articles on the topic of leadership. You could spend a lifetime studying leadership and never actually get to leading anything. Leadership is complex, which is probably why there are many articles written on the topic.
    I appreciate how acclaimed Harvard Business School Professor John P. Kotter described the role of a leader. He summed up a complex role into three things: casting a compelling vision, aligning the resources necessary to accomplish this vision, and motivating and inspiring people to do whatever is necessary to make the vision a reality.

    Focusing on these broad descriptions of leadership and how they uniquely apply to us as church leaders will help us cultivate an effective team and build a healthy church.

    Casting A Compelling Vision. Vision is a combination of insight and foresight. It usually starts with a dissatisfaction of the present situation and a growing picture of a better future.  That is why a key trait for church leaders is optimism. Best-selling author Marcus Buckingham said that the opposite of a leader is not a follower but a pessimist. Vision is articulating a future that inspires passion and energy in people. Bill Hybels refers to vision as, “the most potent weapon in a leader’s arsenal.”

    Aligning the resources necessary to accomplish the vision. It is not enough to have a vision. Church leaders must find the resources to accomplish the vision. Take a look at Nehemiah who had a vision to rebuild the broken-down city of Jerusalem. In order to accomplish the vision, he made some “big asks” of rulers who responded by giving him the necessary capital for the project. Nehemiah had the boldness to step up and align the resources to rebuild the city of Jerusalem when it would have been easier to give up.

    Motivating and inspiring people to do whatever is necessary to make the vision a reality.  When Nehemiah arrived in Jerusalem he had to inspire people to form teams, work hard, and not listen to critics. This often means the leader needs to roll up their sleeves as well. Some church leaders seem to think that getting in the trenches is beneath them. The late John Stott said, “The chief occupational hazard of leadership is pride.”  Perhaps you remember Thomas Edison’s definition of genius as “one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.” To see vision become reality often means many long days of hard work.

    With the many books, articles, podcasts, and conferences that revolve around leadership, it's easy to feel stuck in the details of leadership strategy. When you feel overwhelmed, step back and ask yourself, "What is the primary role of church leaders?" Re-center yourself on why you do what you do everyday. Remind yourself that casting vision and motivating your team toward achieving that vision should always be at the center of every part of your day.

    What other responsibilities would you include in the role of church leaders?

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