Love & Leadership

Lately my understanding of pastoral leadership has grown.  Most of the books, conferences, etc. about church leadership seem to focus on skill, strategy, character, and stuff like that.  But the one thing that is perhaps most important is usually not mentioned: you gotta love people.

This has been on my mind a lot the past couple days.  There are a ton of ideas floating around in my head about the many things we can do at this church to really get things moving, but first and foremost, I need to find ways to show the people that I love them.  After all, this has been their church for years, and if they don’t trust me and know that I care deeply about them, they won’t follow my leadership.

A word about this particular congregation: They are very unique.  Over the last five and a half years, they’ve only had a pastor for two years.  Coming into a situation like that, a new pastor might expect to find one of two things–either a church that is absolutely set in its ways and refuses to budge, or a church where nothing is in place and everything is chaotic and falling apart.

Surprisingly, this church doesn’t fit in either scenario.  They’re obviously very hard-working and deeply committed to the church, or it would have folded by now.  But they’re also very flexible.  They’re ready and eager to do whatever it takes to make this church burst into new life.  It’s really a unique combination.

Consider our current undertaking–changing the name of the church.  Many of the people here have been part of this church for years, some even going back to the 1980s.  And now a new guy comes in and wants to change the church’s very name, even dropping the denominational title!  The amazing and truly impressive thing is that they’re all for it!

In following new leadership, there will always be–and always should be–caution.  (Over-caution is bad; caution is good.)  But the one thing that will move people from hesitant caution to trust is when they see that their leader cares about them.  Jesus Christ set a remarkably high standard for leadership.  He taught His disciples that leadership is about serving, feeding, and even dying for the people you’re called to lead.  In other words, all-out love.

So love is inseparably intertwined with leadership.  But here’s where it gets complicated: How do you demonstrate that you really love people?  It takes time, obviously.  And some people are better at it than others.  Since I have a more introverted personality, it will probably take more time and effort.

Another complication is that leading people with love is not always perceived as love.  For example, it would be easy for a pastor to make someone feel loved by meeting all their expectations and giving them complete attention.  If I go to all the Bible studies, call or visit all the time, and always act on their opinion, then it makes someone feel loved.  But is that really love?  If I neglect the things that God has called me to–such as preaching, vision casting, and leadership development–in order to cater to people’s felt needs, is that love?  If I act as a chaplain, setting a pace that’s impossible to maintain in a growing church, is that love?  If I try to adhere to everyone’s opinion rather than listening to God and acting in wisdom, is that love?

What a tricky paradox!  Leadership requires love, but it also requires doing things (or not doing things) that might appear to people–in the short run, at least–as not being loving.  Yet people will not be moved to follow a leader that they don’t perceive cares deeply about them.

If anyone reading this has any insight you’d be willing to share, I’m open to any guidance!

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Published in: on May 17, 2007 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  

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