Pastoral Leadership II (Part 9 of 10)

Editor’s Note: This is part 9 of a 10 part series on pastoral leadership that I am writing for my seminary class, Leading Christian Communities, with Dr. Kyle J. A. Small. My reflections in this series are based on the project “Learning to Follow, Learning to Lead” (2012) by Dr. Megan Mullins & Dr. Kyle J. A. Small, which assessed seven competencies for the practice of pastoral leadership. 

Over the last seven weeks, we have been exploring together seven different competencies (organizational, learning, public, collaborative, reconciling, resourced, sacramental) of pastoral leadership. This week, I would like to use this space to consider how these different competencies might blend together in the life of a pastor.

At the beginning of the semester, when I was planning this series, I was asked to reflect on how these competencies fit together. I’m not sure that they do. Or at least, not in the way that we might like for building an integrated model. I affirm all of the seven competencies as important and necessary components of pastoral leadership. In fact, most every action, behavior, and practice I can think of that a pastor might potentially do spans not just one, but three or four of these competencies. It seems in any given situation, a pastor has to discern which of the competencies to magnify, knowing that over the course of all pastoral duties, each of these competencies will be relied upon.

As I’m now just over two weeks away from graduation, I’ve been thinking about the last few years—really, my entire journey since graduating from UConn in 2008. It’s a journey that has taken me into the business world before the major life and career change into seminary. As I think of my experience in these two seemingly different worlds, I can’t help but see all the ways in which they are the same worlds, just with a different language. And though we as pastors might prefer to deny it, even these seven competencies of leadership translate into the language of “secular” leadership.

Five years ago as I was preparing to graduate from UConn, I was revising, finalizing, and submitting my honors thesis, which was a analysis comparing the profitability of franchise ownership in the National Football League and Major League Baseball. Let’s explore the parallels. As a pastor or as an owner, some of the competencies are obvious. Each engages in organizational leadership, each in collaborative leadership, and each in public leadership. Owners, typically as individuals who were successful in some other field before owning a franchise, are generally people who value learning leadership for continued personal growth, and they recognize when they need expertise beyond themselves, engaging in resourced leadership. There is always conflict in every arena of life and in every organization—whether church or sports team—and so every leader has to practice reconciling leadership.

The only remaining competency that I haven’t yet discussed is sacramental leadership. But I believe that competency translates as well. Sacramental leadership is about pointing to something greater than ourselves, connecting to a purpose. For pastors, sacramental leadership is about pointing to our union with Christ and re-narrating our story with the biblical story. For a franchise owner, this leadership competency is about connecting fans and cities and states with a team heritage and re-narrating our stories with the emotional wins and losses of our team from season to season.

Really, the only difference is the purpose for being…the mission. And don’t get me wrong, I think there’s a significant difference in that regard. All this is to say, as much as I feel like my life has been changing over the last three years, the more I realize in many ways it’s staying the same.

But there are also cautions to this similarity. Too often I see churches or denominations who are more focused on the “secular” goals of ministry: are membership numbers growing? How is the offering? This is partly because those are easily measurable data. While pastors should be more concerned with gospel transformation and discipleship in individual lives that configures more and more to the image of Jesus, there is no hard data that we can analyze to measure “success” or, rather, faithfulness. And any attempt we make to do so spirals into legalistic boxes checked and we end up missing the whole point of grace.

Hmm, now this has me thinking. Maybe I should look for a sports chaplaincy position?



Read the rest of the 10-part series on the practice of pastoral leadership:

  1. Pastoral Leadership (21 February 2013)
  2. Organizational Leadership (28 February 2013)
  3. Learning Leadership (7 March 2013)
  4. Public Leadership (14 March 2013)
  5. Collaborative Leadership (21 March 2013)
  6. Reconciling Leadership (28 March 2013)
  7. Resourced Leadership (11 April 2013)
  8. Sacramental Leadership (18 April 2013)
  9. Pastoral Leadership II (25 April 2013)
  10. Leadership Transition (2 May 2013)
«Photo by Naomi de la Torre»

About Joshua

Joshua is the lead pastor of Massapequa Reformed Church (RCA) on Long Island, New York. He and his wife Kathryn have one young daughter. He loves coffee and board games, ice cream and sports—he's an avid fan of the Green Bay Packers, UConn Huskies, Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers.
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