Every pastor naturally desires to be an effective leader. So why do some succeed and others fail? Every church desires to thrive in its ministry efforts, so why do some churches seem to “do no wrong” while others can’t seem to “do much right”? These are complex issues. However, if pastoral leaders and their churches adopt two foundational Leadership Style principles and adhere to these principles faithfully, leaders will come to love their place of service and ministry organizations will overcome barriers that have held back their ministries for years.
Leaders must be allowed to lead according to their leadership styles.
All leadership styles must be valued and mobilized within an organization.
Principle 1: Lead According to Your Leadership Style
In my recent article: Why One Leadership Style Isn’t Enough, I introduced Rev! readers to the subject of leadership style. The fundamental principle undergirding leadership style is the presupposition that God created every person with the potential for significant influence…particularly influence that promotes Christ’s Kingdom in this world. For this reason I believe there is no “ideal” style of leadership. In fact, I would suggest there is no such thing as a “good leader” or “bad leader”. Rather, those leaders who we might label as “good” are individuals who are allowed to serve in a manner that respects their divinely designed leadership style, while those leaders that we might label as “bad” are likely expected to serve in a manner that is contrary to their divinely inspired leadership style. Our success as leaders is generally related to how well our job description matches our leadership style.
The online Leadership Style© assessment plots each individual along a continuum that ranges from highly entrepreneurial and task-oriented on the left, to highly relational and task-avoidant on the right. The continuum is divided into three broad categories: Builder, Manager, and Nurturer.
Builders are designed by God to influence their world through designing and building new ministries, programs, and systems. Builder sub-categories include Pioneers who develop new ministries, and Strategic Planners who design ministry structures and strategies.
Managers are designed by God to influence their world through the administration of people and/or tasks. Manager sub-categories include Administrators who address the many tasks associated with a ministry, and Team Leaders who mobilize the human resources associated with the ministry programs and mission.
Nurturers are designed by God to influence their world through interpersonal relationships. Nurturer sub-categories include Pastors who care for the welfare of the group, and Encouragers who care for the welfare of the individual.
My friend Paul is an excellent example of the importance of serving according to one’s leadership style. Paul recently underwent a difficult period in his life as God convinced him that it was time to re-orient his ministry service to better align with his leadership style. Paul possesses a Pioneering leadership style. Twenty years ago, he responded to God’s call upon his life to plant a new church. This calling fit Paul perfectly. Soon the church grew from a small handful of core members to approximately 600 members. Unfortunately for Paul, as the church grew and stabilized, the church no longer needed a Pioneering leader. My friend’s response to the church’s new stage of development was to try to become an Administrative leader. However, God never created him to be an administrator. No matter how hard he tried, Paul could not thrive, nor could he ever feel satisfied, serving as an Administrative leader. Recently, Paul made the difficult decision to resign his senior pastorate of 20 years so that he could explore new church planting options God may have in store for his life. While the decision to leave the established (and “safe”) ministry was emotionally difficult, I firmly believe that as Paul honors his divinely ordained leadership style, and involves himself in a new church plant venture, he will discover that his life will be reinvigorated with passion and a sense of fulfillment that he has not felt for many years.
While some people might consider Paul to be a “bad” Administrative leader, Paul is an excellent Pioneering leader. If you identify with Paul and are experiencing feelings of dissatisfaction, anxiety, and discouragement as a leader, and are seeing little spiritual fruit produced within your life or ministry, it is likely that you are trying to lead in a manner that is contrary to how God intended you to influence others. Only as we align our ministry service to correspond to the style of leadership God has ordained for our lives, will we find that our service will be truly blessed and our sense of passion and fulfillment fully realized.
Principle 2: Value and Mobilize All Leadership Styles
Not only is it important that we empower all leaders to lead according to their leadership style, it is also important that our ministry organizations value every leadership style God has ordained within his creation. God designed the “Body of Christ” to work together in healthy and effective manner (1 Corinthians 12:18).
A church growth consultant recently contacted me to discuss the Leadership Style assessment. He had assumed that as he evaluated congregations using the assessment tool, he would find groupings of people associated with all six styles of leadership: Pioneer, Strategic, Administrative, Team Leader, Pastoral, and Encouraging. However, in some cases, congregations were lacking Pioneers and Strategic Planners. He did not know what accounted for these deficiencies. I explained that chapter 3 in my book, Made for a Mission, addressed this issue within the nomenclature of Mission Myopia. Mission Myopia exists whenever we consolidate around ourselves people who possess a similar ministry temperament to ourselves, or impose our ministry temperament...and its way of perceiving and serving...upon those closest to us. Earlier we pointed out that the leadership style continuum could be divided into three broad categories: Builder, Manager, and Nurturer. These traits can apply to organizations as well as to individuals. When these traits are associated with organizations, we generally refer to them as describing the organization’s personality. Since organizations are comprised of people, the personalities of the primary influencers within the organization combine to create the organization’s personality. In a healthy well balanced ministry, all three categories of leadership style would be highly valued and mobilized, while one or two categories may predominate due to the ministry’s stage of development or unique style. For example, a church plant would obviously emphasize the Builder leadership characteristics. However, Mission Myopia may display itself within an organizational personality when one or two leadership style categories are given precedence to the rejection of the others. In our consultant’s example, these ministries gave the leadership styles of Manager and Nurture precedence while rejecting leaders who possessed the Builder style. This specific expression of Mission Myopia is a common scenario within established churches. Builders, by their nature are never satisfied with the status quo. They are always looking for new and better ways to accomplish Christ’s mission in this world. However, Managers and Nurtures desire to minimize risk, preferring to perfect established ministry structures rather than to create something new which they deem as untested and risky. As a result, somewhere in the church’s history, the Managers and Nurturers who held key leadership positions within the ministry, began to communicate to Builders that they were not welcome. These messages may have been communicated in a manner similar to the following examples:
- “Why do you have to always be so critical, if this church is not good enough for you, why don’t you find one that is?”
- “Many good people have invested years to develop and refine our ministry, how dare you suggest that our ministries could be better! Your critical spirit is an insult to this church and to the many good people who have faithfully served long before you ever came to this church.”
- “You just want to control everything and run everything your way. We have pastors and a board whom God has place in authority over this church…they are the ones who are in control.”
It may be helpful at this point to review some of the common Builder characteristics. Builders are strong-willed, visionary people. They are highly entrepreneurial and are natural risk-takers. They are agents of change. Their strong personalities are both their strength and their weakness. As a strength the Builder’s strong personality helps cast vision passionately, recruiting people to buy into the vision and helping people implement the vision by giving clear direction. However, as a weakness, the Builder’s strong personality can be interpreted as “controlling” and insensitive to the feelings of others.
The unfortunate result is that over time, people who God made to be Builders received the message that who they were, and what they contributed to the ministry, was no longer valued. The result is that virtually all the Builders left the church. Any Builders who may still exist within the membership are likely resentful and distrustful of the church leadership.
Sadly, after some time, the church eventually stagnates. Its programs are no longer relevant and attendance begins to decline. Church leaders realize that they need to change, but discover that they no longer have any skilled change-agents left in membership. It is very important to understand that as a rule, the leadership style that an organization alienates is often the very leadership style which will eventually be required to help the church mature into its next stage of development.
The Mission Myopia principle can spin-off in various different scenarios.
- I have observed Charismatic and Pentecostal congregations assert a value that human planning and administration was not “spiritual”. As a result, the ministry forced people with a Manager leadership-style to leave the church.
- I have observed white-collar professional churches, run by strong corporate-model leaders, express a devaluation of the touchy-feely contributions offered by Nurturers.
- I have observed highly relational churches that value the Nurturer leadership style, reject non-relational Managers and Builders. Mangers and Builders work through organizational systems and structures that empower people to serve. Nurtures tend to devalue systems and structures.
- I have observed church plants that ten or twenty years later were still stuck in church plant mode because they valued the Builder’s high-octane leadership style but rejected the Manager’s leadership style, claiming that these kinds of leaders became bogged-down in too many details.
Overcoming Mission Myopia:
After I explained the principles of Mission Myopia to the church growth consultant, he asked, “So how does a church move forward?” I explained that I believed a healthy leadership team would pursue the following steps:
- Recognize that the leadership-types whom the church has been alienating are likely the leadership-types the church now requires to mature into the next stage of its ministry mission.
- Acknowledge that the church sinned when they rejected a specific category of ministry leaders, and that the church leadership should take steps of repentance before God and seek forgiveness from those that they have hurt.
- Commit to one another as a leadership team that the devaluation of God ordained leadership styles will never again occur within the ministry, and hold one another accountable to this commitment.
- Recruit people who possess the leadership style the ministry now requires. In many cases, since few of these types of leaders currently exist within the membership, the leadership team will need to recruit these new leaders from outside the ministry membership.
- Mobilize the new leaders into significant positions of influence so that their leadership style and personality can help re-shape the personality dynamics of the ministry organization.
- Bless the new leaders publically and stand behind them with full support. Do not allow the new leaders to be setup for failure or to be demonized by those who still possess negative myopic attitudes toward people who possess leadership styles that differ from their own.
Ministries that commit to practicing the two foundational principles outlined in this article, 1) Leaders must be allowed to lead according to their leadership styles, and 2) All leadership styles must be valued and mobilized within the organization, will construct a culture in which people will be able to thrive as they seek to serve their Lord and one another…influencing and supporting one another as God intended.
About the Author
David Posthuma’s Leadership Style© consists of a Pioneer/Strategic Planner blend, with a Planner ministry temperament.
He is the founder of E-Church Essentials™ and the chief architect of the AssessMe.org online ministry mobilization assessment program. David has served as a church revitalizer, church plant pastor, church consultant, and since 1998, has designed software solutions for the ministry market. This article is adapted from his book, Made for a Mission….The ultimate resource for team building and ministry mobilization (CLC Publications, 2008).
David resides in Holland, Michigan with his wife Tamara, and their two children, Joshua and Alyssa. For booking information, please call 1-800-724-1159, or visit www.AssessMe.org/extra.