Unbind Them!

One of our church’s most under-utilized resources is the untapped capacity of our pastors and diaconal ministers to lead. Yes, lead! Having closely worked with hundreds of rostered ministers over the past twenty-five years, I can testify that many of have both the desire and capacity to provide a higher level of leadership than is typically called forth in many congregational settings. Sadly, many of them feel constrained and in some cases blatantly prevented from exercising the full repertoire of leadership gifts with which they have been abundantly endowed. On their worst days, some of them feel they are functioning as little more than junior clerks at Church Inc.

University of Houston author and educator Brene Brown describes the high price such constraints can extract. “When our learning and working are dehumanized; when you no longer see us and no longer encourage our daring; or when you only see what we produce or how we perform, we disengage and turn away from the very things that the world needs from us; our talent, our ideas and our passion!”

Our rostered ministers have a lot of talent, a lot of fine ideas, and a deep, deep passion for the gospel and for ministry. Sadly, in many congregations those incredibly rich resources are not being properly and fully utilized.

I want to throw out a challenge. Sometime this fall I would propose that each of our congregational councils conduct an interview with their pastors and diaconal ministers. Here are some questions you might use to guide your conversation.

• What were your initial expectations when you began to work with us? How have they turned out?

• What three areas of your work have given you the sense of greatest fulfilment?

• What were your three areas of greatest frustration?

• How do you view the next five years of this congregation’s life? What do you see to be its greatest potentials and obstacles?

• Where do you believe our congregation most needs to grow and develop?

• Where do you believe that you most need to grow and develop?

My guess is that such conversations could help us begin to remedy some of the leadership deficits we experience in many of our churches. The work of congregational ministry is a collaborative effort between the people and our rostered leaders. Our mutual ministry is enhanced and strengthened to the extent that we collaborate effectively in that work and provide an environment wherein everyone is able to exercise their unique gifts and talents to the fullest possible extent. That can only happen in environments that promote and encourage free and open communication.

Let me be clear. Our rostered leaders do not want to run the church. They don’t want to dominate or dictate. They do, however, want to lead. That’s what they have been called and equipped to do. We need to unbind them and set them free.