Three Traits of Effective Congregational Leaders

by David Brubaker

Over the 27 years that I’ve consulted with congregations and other organizations, I’ve noticed three consistent traits of effective congregational and organizational leaders—whether lay or ordained. These traits are present with such consistency I’ve come to believe that together they constitute a required set of core characteristics of effective leaders. Fortunately, these traits can be developed by any congregational or organizational leader—as highly effective leaders are made, not born.

You Disappointed Me

by Susan Beaumont

A volunteer agrees to complete a task but fails to deliver, or delivers a less than satisfactory outcome. A leader violates an established behavioral standard. What do you do? How do you redeem the situation?

Disappointment is inevitable when people are involved in ministry, but disappointment doesn’t have to be the final word. Delivering an effective feedback message in the face of disappointment can turn the situation around and introduce accountability into the volunteer relationship.

Governance and Ministry: Why Worry?

by Dan Hotchkiss

Why should congregations worry about governance and ministry? When there’s so much important work to do, why spend precious time defining boundaries, tinkering with bylaws and policies, delegating power, assigning duties, setting goals, and holding one other to account?

Visual Cues, or Sometimes You Can Tell a Church By Its Cover

by Sarai Schnucker Rice

Six years ago, I made my very first trip overseas – to New Zealand – and it was fabulous! Breathtaking scenery, generous people, amazing art. With the exception of the indigenous Maori culture, which was literally another world, I felt like I “got” everything about the country.

My next trip? China. And again it was fabulous, but this time I “got” nothing. I couldn’t automatically tell whether someone was well-off or not. I couldn’t distinguish one neighborhood from another. I had no way to process cultural norms like split pants or outdoor kitchens. That’s when I realized for the first time that I carry in my brain an enormous vocabulary of visual cues that didn’t apply in China, and that I was used to processing these cues at lightning speed without even noticing.

We do this with churches all the time – we look at the building and draw conclusions without even noticing.

We Can See Clearly Now

by John Wimberly

As a consultant, when I first meet with the leadership of a congregation, I ask them a straightforward question: “What is your congregation’s primary purpose, your driving reason for being?” Usually, the response is halting, filled with qualified statements, and includes a laundry list of things the congregation does. The exchange leaves me and the leaders with one clear conclusion: they aren’t sure what their primary purpose is. They have purposes. But not one, clear, driving purpose.

I can receive this response even in congregations that have recently gone through a strategic planning process. They emerge from the planning exercise with goals and strategies. But a clear, passionate sense of purpose? Too often, it is missing.

Changing the Ending of our Conflict Stories

by David Brubaker

Despite their enormous capacity for transformation, congregations persistently experience internal conflict. But when leaders acknowledge that people fight about things that are important to them, help them to identify their underlying concerns, maintain leadership unity despite differing perspectives, and move towards conflict rather than away from it, they can help the congregations they lead to to thrive in the face of conflict.

Succeeding in a Paid Position

by Dan Hotchkiss

Each year, thousands of musicians, educators, clergy, office workers, and custodians start new jobs in congregations. If all goes well, the new staff member will eventually become an energetic, well-respected, and productive member of the team. The staff member helps to make this happen, but so do the governing board, the head of staff, and other supervisors. I will share some thoughts first for the top leadership, then for the new staff member directly.