posted by Gary
I was minding my own business yesterday afternoon in my office, surrounded by teenagers, sitting next to either Rebecca or Melissa (who have a very selfish reason for sitting next to me), and working on the black & white Ansel Adams puzzle of which Luke is so fond because Curt picked it with him in mind. Then Josh Reed wanders in to ask if I’ll be part of an interview for his Church Administration class. Sure, I say. Good, says he. So today I received his questions and left my humble responses.
I thought these questions (and possibly your agreement or disagreement with my answers) might be of interest to you. So I’ll post it all here. Give it a read and see if any of you are tempted to answer the questions for yourself. They are thought provoking and hopefully will cause you to consider yourself and your church family. Feel free to post back any thoughts you have on any of the questions.
What are some important characteristics of a church leader?
Compassion will take you about as far as any characteristic. And self-awareness is a key to this; to be able to see how God has loved you through all the situations of your life even when you’ve made poor choices. Compassion leads you to patience and understanding, which bring about wisdom. It allows you to love the people who you minister to when you see them hurting even in stressful situations of their own making. And I believe compassion is a key element that Jesus came to engage our lives to teach us, which is a fact confirmed in Hebrews 2 when we’re told ‘Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity…’ We’re all in the flesh together, trying to overcome the flesh together by the power of God.
If you were looking to fill a leadership position at your church, what kind of background checks would you do? What would keep someone from being hired?
Even in this internet age of instant information on people’s backgrounds, there is still no substitute for investing the time required to speak to people who know the candidate personally. We would want to speak with those who worked closely with the candidate to confirm the candidate possesses the altruistic nature needed for ministry. And aside from the assumed disqualification which would be brought about by certain criminal histories, I believe a history of selfish behaviors would be something that could lead to a candidate being removed from consideration.
In my class we studied Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus. Do you think that Paul’s requirements and rules for leadership should be taken as standard for all time, or were they simply for that time period?
This is a hot button issue today and I’m going to answer in the realm of logic so as to leave the theological implications for you to think on. So I’ll share my opinion, but I don’t claim my opinion to be infallible. I believe God has protected and preserved these writings of Paul and guided them into the canon of scripture we now possess, so therefore I must assume they are principles by which all of humanity is intended to choose their spiritual leaders and not just a passing list of rules which applied only to the culture of the time. That would tend to make God very short-sighted in my opinion and I believe Him always to take the long view. God, communicating through Paul, was thinking just as much about us as he was about the people in that specific time.
How is the leadership at your church distributed? Do you have elders? Who makes the decisions?
We have a group of six Elders/Shepherds who are the spiritual leaders of our church family. A group of deacons also serves our church and takes care of the church’s needs and ministries. The Elders devote themselves mostly to teaching, pastoral care, and prayer, while the deacons take care of the things of a physical nature ranging from facilities maintenance to feeding the less fortunate in our food pantry. Many other ministry leaders are empowered by our leadership to form ministry teams and carry out their ministries.
Do you think that it is important for a church leader to be involved in other parts of the community? Why or why not?
I think it is important that the bulk of the church’s ministries actually serve the community and not just focus internally. So yes, I believe very much that all Christians, leaders or members, be investing themselves in humanity (our community and beyond) since we’ve been called to be the body of Christ; his hands, feet and voice.
What are some of the day-to-day responsibilities you have as a leader?
I do much of the counseling for people within our church family and for those outside our church family who receive a recommendation to come see us. I work daily on youth projects, service projects and have the weekly responsibility for helping to form our worship times.
How do you feel about committees in a church? Can they be effective?
I think they can be effective if well guided and populated with mature, selfless individuals and then appropriately empowered.
What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses as a person in a leadership position?
I’ve inherited a very relational personality from my father, which has been formed and guided by God’s working in my life. I think this helps to put people at ease around me and allows open communication in the sharing of ideas and the solving of problems. My overriding weakness is that I’ve had to work very hard and concentrate my efforts on growing in compassion. It’s been a wonderfully frustrating journey for me to see people through the eyes of Jesus but I’m convinced it’s the only peaceful way to see the world.
Have you ever been faced with a situation in which you have been totally unprepared to deal with as a leader?
The most recent example of this was my challenge during Allen’s sabbatical. As the only minister on staff here in the office for 3 months, my leadership abilities were challenged, stretched and molded. There was no way to prepare myself mentally or organizationally for what his absence would mean to me. But with blessings from God and good guidance/support from our leaders, this time of work and growth has brought about great blessings in my abilities as a leader.
What are some of the perks and burdens of being a full time leader?
The one perk that rises above all others in my mind daily is that I’m privileged to invest my life in other people. Every day, the decisions I make matter and my listening for the voice of God has a wide affect, I hope. This is true for all Christians but it seems especially pressing on my soul as someone who has the humble task of helping to set our direction.
The major burden of ministry is that your church family, with which most members gather for stress release, may also be the major source of stress for most ministers. So it’s of the utmost importance that a minister’s refuge is in God and not primarily in his church family.