All designated leaders need training, not just the central few, so that all can share common values, understand emerging visions, and trust each other. Leaders also need certain skills that don't necessarily transfer from their career work.
Clergy need to be involved in training, although not necessarily as lead trainer. One way to break down distrust between clergy and laity is to encourage them to work together as trustworthy colleagues. Another way is to give each a stake in the other's effective performance
Basic Bible knowledge
Each Christian tradition takes a nuanced view of Scripture, from treating it literally as words spoken or directed by God to treating it as stories and words about God. In every tradition, however, the Bible plays a central role in defining congregational identity and sense of purpose.
It is essential that leaders in a congregation possess enough Bible knowledge to place their mission within the context of God's saving acts, as their denomination understands those acts. Leaders don't need to have an unanimous view of Scripture, but they do need to trust Scripture as a source of authority.
They need also to respect other viewpoints. Otherwise, leadership discussions can turn into Bible-bullying, the use of Scriptures as weapons. We recommend that leadership training include some basics of Bible formation, structure, content and interpretation, to make leaders comfortable with Scripture as a frame of reference and source of authority, even when interpreted variously.
The Education for Ministry program developed by the University of the South is a good example of an in-depth but accessible survey of the Bible.
Principles of servant leadership
Most institutions in our society follow some variation on a command-and-control system common to military, business and government. Power is allocated to certain roles, and those roles are organized in a hierarchy. Some congregations maintain a top-down hierarchy, others start with power held by members. In either system, leadership flows from the exercise of power.
Servant leadership starts with a somewhat different principle, namely, that leaders should serve, not command, and that their highest calling is to draw others into active and effective participation.
Servant leaders empower others to take meaningful action, not just follow instructions. In this way, Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs with general guidance on how to prepare but not detailed instructions on what to do.
For many who come to church leadership from command-and-control worlds, this concept will be foreign. Therefore, it must be taught.
Church organizational issues & opportunities
While congregations might give an appearance of timeless stability, they are going through significant developmental transitions. Not only do they have a life cycle, as do all living entities, but religion's nature and place in modern culture are changing, leadership structures are changing, membership and participation are changing, and in some ways every congregation is having to reexamine its fundamental reasons for being. This is exciting work, but wrenching and conflictual. Leaders must be aware of transitions taken place and feel confident about guiding their congregation through such churning waters.
Theology of Christian leadership
Polity varies from tradition to tradition, and local leadership tends also to reflect factors like size, demographics and cultural context. As Jesus told the disciples when he sent them out two by two, they would need to adapt as they went. Rigid adherence to inherited forms is precisely the wrong leadership approach today.
In general, to judge by what Jesus laid befoire his followers, Christian leadership has these markers:
It is non-hierarchical
Despite a long history of deploying hierarchical forms, Jesus clearly intended a flexible and more or less flat leadership structures, grounded in servanthood and shared ministry, not in rank.
It is relational, not power-based
Leaders were called to teach, heal, forgive and nurture community. Those are relational assignments. For many centuries, churches behaved more like military installations. We are rediscovering the importance of leadership as Jesus modeled it.
For much of its history, the Christian enterprise has seen ordained ministries as set apart, in the way a Levite was set apart for sacred duty. With the rise of the Lay Ministry movement, healthy congregations have come to new understandings of set-apart, as arising from a need to lead people from worldly concerns to sacred concerns. The leader stands on the bridge and invites members to venture into the realm where God's ways pertain.
Look ahead, see the whole enterprise
Effective leaders look beyond their specific niche and see the enterprise in its entirety. It's called "seeing the whole." Activities still happen in particular settings or niches, but those are seen as connected with the whole and deriving their meaning and purpose from the whole.
Leaders need to be pastors, concerned with the care of those whom they lead. In the church, effective leadership is profoundly personal. Leaders know other people's stories, tend to their life transitions, and either provide or broker help when they need it.
As in a successful business, effective leaders teach others the skills and insights they need in order to be successful. They explain what is being considered, explain why it matters, help team members engage with assignments, and help them learn from failure.
The norms that guide Christian ministry are mercy, generosity, inclusion, mutual respect, love and transformation. The leader models those norms and holds others accountable for observing them.
Concern for Spiritual Formation
The primary yearning that draws people to churches and makes them want to serve is a desire for closeness to God. Leaders seek to establish an environment where that spiritual formation can occur. They apply norms in order to keep the ground fertile.
Four critical topics to cover in leader training: