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Seeing Christians As Sheep To Be Fed, Not Beasts Of Burdens To Carry Your Agenda (by Peter Bogert)

Some words of reflection about a pastoral ministry philosophy that is firm, but gentle; and does not come communicate disappointment and demand.
Passion for growth of the kingdom can result as God’s people being seen as the means to implement a vision, rather than being the sphere in which the pastor serves.
From Peter Bogert:

…this all leads to a rather important question: do you see your people as sheep, or have they become something else? Let me explain.
More and more I find churches describing themselves by a desire to be influential. That particular word is not used, but it summarizes what is often found in the mission statements or purpose statements on church websites. And while there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a light in the darkness, we are not thinking clearly if we trade our focus as shepherds for one that increasingly calls its people to more and more activity. In other words, to put it plainly, our people do not exist in order to accomplish our goals for our churches.
We exist for them, not them for us.

Plenty more good thoughts here.


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They’re Not Growth Barriers, They’re A New Way Of Growing (via Ed Stetzer)

Something that I’ve become conscious of over the last couple of years is the link between growth in congregational size and change in leadership style.
Increasing beyond certain numbers of people in a congregation is sometimes portrayed as a ‘barrier’.
What is being identified in that is that at certain sizes a group of people necessarily relate to one another differently, and they relate to leadership differently.
It is a change from one form of group dynamic to another form of group dynamic.
That’s not a good thing or a bad thing. It is just the way things are.
Most education for pastoral ministry is aimed at the most basic (smaller) grouping of people. The principles behind what changes a pastor needs to make in order to effectively care for mid to larger groups of people are not specifically identified.
There is a grieving process, though.
Particularly when the calling and practice of pastoral life has been framed in one expression, and that needs to be modified and changed to serve the needs of a larger group.
I really don’t want to be an inhibiting factor on the life of the church I serve.
So change is the only option.

Ed Stetzer puts in helpfully when he writes that pastoral leadership that wants to support a church that is growing from one size of group dynamic to another size of group dynamic needs to know “that it’s not just more growth of the same kind — it’s a different way of leading and a new way of growing.”

He writes more about leadership change in situations where churches are growing in size here.


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Seeking Genuine Accountability (via Ed Stetzer)

In a post about leadership Ed Stetzer identifies a number of areas that he describes as mature leadership.
On of these has to do with accountability.

Mature leaders purposefully set up structures for accountability and then seek and receive genuine accountability within those structures. They understand that it is easy to be drawn into inappropriate use of that power and will engage in honest and transparent accountability. Every person with power and influence needs to submit to an accountability structure and seek accountability somewhere in some way.
source

Now, the challenge is that for accountability to be genuine it has to represent an authority which the leader submits to.
In pastoral ministry leaders can be seen to participate in an accountability structure, but it is one they have invited, and one whose parameters they have established.
Friends, it’s too easy to give the appearance of genuine accountability (and get recognition for being accountable) but to have only given account for that which you want to give account and be recognised for.
Maturity in leadership invites accountability, but cedes authority over the accountability structure.


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An Unhelpful Dualism In Church Governance (via Dan Hotchkiss)

I grew up with a church system that had two bodies, one tasked with spiritual and the other tasked with temporal matters.
It is not a helpful distinction in so far as everything is spiritual and practical. At its worst the ‘temporal’ body can use its power to veto the plans of the ‘spiritual’ body, effectively putting themselves in charge. At its best the ‘spiritual’ body works with the ‘temporal’ body in developing plans and the ‘temporal’ body sees its role as enabling the decisions of the ‘spiritual’ body, not as determining whether they should happen.
Our system allows for members of the ‘spiritual’ body to be automatic members of the ‘temporal’ body, which generally means they could get their way if they wanted, but, from a governance perspective, the notion that control of what happens rests with the ‘temporal’ body creates an unproductive dynamic that is resistant to change and protects the status-quo.
From Dan Hotchkiss:

Some congregations have two, or even three, top boards, all responsible directly to the congregation. Sometimes the division reflects an old-fashioned mom-and-pop dualism: The board of trustees (pop) controls the money, while a program board (mom) does most Of the work. Sometimes one board is said to be responsible for the “business” aspect of the congregation, while the other takes charge of the “spiritual” part. Have I made it clear yet that I don’t like this way of splitting up the universe? Whoever controls “business” ends up having ultimate control of spiritual matters also.

Dan Hotchkiss, Governance And Ministry, Rowland & Littlefield, 2016, pg 44.


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Group-Centered Leadership (via Dan Hotchkiss)

Dan Hotchkiss observes that churches of a certain size tend toward staff-centered leadership structures. The first advantage of that structure is that they usually depend on one leader, and any disruption to that leader can have an inordinately disruptive effect on the organisation.
He then points out a second, more philosophical disadvantage that resonates with my understanding of how a local church should function.

A second disadvantage of staff-centered structures is a disadvantage only if you believe, as I do, that committed groups are capable of making better decisions than individuals can. I don’t always enjoy group decision-making, but I have found again and again that a community willing to be patient with people’s differences and indecision will correct and improve the insights of even the most gifted individuals. If you agree with me that wide participation adds an essential element to a congregation’s search for truth, then a strictly staff—centered congregation seems wrong. Even if the staff-centered model were always more effective at producing practical results, it would leave me dissatisfied because it does not make use of every member’s gifts for discerning the congregation’s mission. This concern, at bottom, is theological: I think each of us comes with a built-in antenna tuned to the fight frequency to hear the promptings of the Spirit, and congregations ought to take advantage of it. I also believe what people call the “politics” of congregations has a good side because a group in conversation can perceive more about what is good and right than the sum of what its members can perceive alone. For these reasons, I choose congregational participation with its messiness, even though I sometimes envy the efficiency of the staff-centered way.

Dan Hotchkiss, Governance And Ministry, Rowland & Littlefield, 2016, pg 42.


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The Difference Between Feedback And Instruction (via Dan Rockwell)

Reading this post by Dan Rockwell provided a moment of clarity on the difference between feedback and instruction.
Good feedback energises performance, it doesn’t discourage effort.

In a recent workshop, I invited a participant to knock a small box off a stool using a cookie. She stood with her back to the stool and tossed the cookie over her shoulder – without looking. (The cookie was wrapped.)
The audience was instructed to remain silent. The first toss hit the ceiling and dropped about two feet behind her.
Her second attempt flew about half way to the stool. But she couldn’t see where it fell.
I asked the audience to give her feedback. Someone in the second row said, “Throw it harder.” Another said, “Hold your hand a little higher.”

Stop:

I stopped the process and said, “That’s not feedback. That’s instruction. Let’s try again.”
Another participant said, “You were about half way to the target.” I asked her to try again.
The cookie fell short by about a foot. “Give her feedback.”
“Your line is perfect,” someone said. Another responded, “You were about a foot short and too low.”
On her fifth try, she knocked the box off the stool. Everyone exploded with applause.

Read the whole post at Leadership Freak.


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Wisdom In The Timing And Implementation Of Change In An Established Church (via Ron Edmondson)

In a church plant (and, in a more limited way in a revitalisation) the leader has a considerable degree of discretion and control about how things are done.
With an established church, particularly those of smaller to medium size, people have a sense of ownership and partnership that means the introduction of change needs to be processed with wisdom and patience.

In concluding a post on the subject, Ron Edmondson says:

Be strategic in the implementation.

Take your time. Establish trust. Build consensus. Talk to the right people. Even compromise on minor details if necessary. Accommodate special requests if possible and if it doesn’t affect the outcome. Be political if needed.
It’s part of the process, especially in a highly structured environment. (Does that describe any churches you know?)
Structured environments shouldn’t keep you from making the right decisions involving change. They just alter the implementation process.
Knowing this difference provides freedom to visionary pastors and leaders in highly structured environments. You can make the change. You can. You’ll just have to be smarter about how and when you make them.

The only thing I’d add is don’t simply bank up trust and never get around to spending it on needed change.
Sometimes that time of patience can become the status quo that you never emerge from.

Read the whole post at Ron Edmondson.