My assumption is that you probably know your theology pretty well. The LCMS seminaries do a pretty good job teaching theology. Then if you have a desire or need to grow in historical, systematic, or exegetical theology you have your pick of a myriad of useful sources.
But if your challenge is in the practical area of theology or the application of theology and the proper use of “first article gifts” in pastoral ministry, that might be a little bit more challenging.
There’s no shortage of books and web sites and training in leadership and management, human resources, strategic planning, and so on. But where do you start? How do you “filter” all of this vast information on these subjects for ministry? How do we approach this mountain of information and distill down what is useful?
One option is to dismiss it. “I don’t need all this stuff about leadership. All I need to do is preach and teach and administer the sacraments.” Well, God bless you! Would that we could do that! But God calls us to be good stewards. Not just of the mysteries of God but also of our own spiritual gifts and everything that we do – and don’t do! That includes growing in how we interact with people, how we approach the task of ministry, shepherding the body of Christ, equipping the saints and so on. Our seminaries have one quarter of our theological education in “practical theology.” That includes preaching and teaching but it also includes how we manage our time and work with others and yes, that includes leadership. So we can’t escape it.
Another way is to go all in with no filter and just grab whatever someone says and hope that it makes an improvement on our own leadership. I once heard a workshop leader who said he read one leadership book a week. Common sense tells us that probably won’t help either. One must be theologically discerning in what one incorporates in their personal leadership and it must also be customized based upon our own gifts and personalities addressing our growing edge.
So like the seminary teaches us to recognize our theological assumptions, we also need to be aware of our assumptions with regard to leadership and management. Sometimes it looks like the demanding “I’m the pastor so you had better agree what I say” kind of pastor (authoritarian leadership). Sometimes it looks like the “this doesn’t have anything to do with the preaching or teaching so I won’t say anything” kind of pastor (passive, passive aggressive, acquiesce or even conceding what is your leadership to others!). Some might excuse this kind of avoidance by saying this is “servant leadership” but it isn’t. Rather, this is an avoidance of leadership so as not to offend or being unsure of your appropriate voice or place when it comes to leadership.
Leadership is not necessarily based on position or in having a loud persuasive voice. Leadership is not necessarily something that you are born with but it can indeed be learned! If you have taken some responsibility for a ministry then you have assumed a degree of leadership. The truth is that one’s capacity for leadership is directly related to one’s capacity for taking responsibility. The question is: how is one to intentionally grow and develop as a leader who is responsible for people with a purpose?
First explore your leadership assumptions: Pray, ask others to give you feedback (i.e. a “360”), journal what you were thinking and how you approach working with others.
Second notice the outcomes of your interactions, conversations and decisions. How is it going? What is good, not good, helpful, not helpful? Is the ministry declining, stuck or in a different place? Do people understand where you are going and how, by God’s grace, you will get there?
Thirdly look for some help where you need it most: with people or groups or the areas that seem to challenge you (recruiting, delegating, leading others, leading yourself, planning, etc.). That help may be an older, wiser pastor like a vicarage supervisor, a mentor (in the form of an author or training program or degree program) or a coach who can help you think it through and sort out the next steps that are appropriate for you.
Let me know about your progress and development! And let me know how I can support your leadership growth!
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