The Leadership Challenge for Church Leaders, Part 5

Part 1 of this post series provides the background and context you need to understand my purpose in writing.

Part 2 described some of the research that led Kouzes and Posner to develop their Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership:

Model the Way
Inspire a Shared Vision
Challenge the Process
Enable Others to Act
Encourage the Heart

Part 3 explored the first practice: Model the Way.

Part 4 concerned the second practice: Inspired a Shared Vision

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s work, The Leadership Challenge: How to Make Extraordinary Things Happen in Organizations, may be one of the most important and influential works on leadership in the past 30 years. If you lead or want to, it is worth your time.

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The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership are those behaviors that the most effective leaders actually do – and they practice them regularly. The third practice might fall into a category once described by Tom Peters this way: “If it ain’t broke, break it.”

People do their best when there’s the chance to change the way things are. Maintaining the status quo simply breeds mediocrity. (P. 156)

I have a friend who says, “The only reason an organization needs leaders is because an organization needs change.” As a church leader, one of the most important questions you can ask is, “Where is the Lord leading us?” The very question implies change and growth. And that’s at the heart of the third leadership practice.

Challenge the Process.

It’s not that God has changed, of course, or that the Gospel has changed. But the way people connect to God and the needs of his people have changed with culture. Leading a church in a nineteenth century agrarian America was not the same as leading one in a post-modern information-based society in the context of technology-gone-haywire. For instance, people in the future may require more ministry outreach related to healthcare than they do now. I could envision a local church near a hospital expanding on the Ronald McDonald house concept to connect care, healing and The Cross.

This will take leadership that searches carefully for God’s next adventure, innovates, seizes the initiative – challenges the process.

The study of leadership is the study of how men and women guide others through adversity, uncertainty, hardship, disruption, transformation, transition, recovery, new beginnings, and other significant challenges. (p. 160)

This process often involves what K&P describe as Outsight. This is the idea that the next best thing God has for your congregation, class, or group might come from outside your organization. For instance, a church leader might ask, “What can Chik-fil-a’s success teach us about effective ministry?” or “How can we model a great idea fostered by the church in Guatemala?”

In short, think differently on purpose. Try paths you’ve never walked before. Ask questions you’ve never asked before. Brainstorm. And by that I mean true brainstorming.

Perhaps send out pairs of people to spend the day in your community with the expressed purpose of coming back with 10 ideas/concepts/processes that are going on in any organization that isn’t a church that might translate into a ministry.

And then, finally, challenging the process means you aren’t afraid to take risks. Yes, this is easier said than done, particularly in a church leadership setting. But the fact is, the best new ideas will come with inherent risks. You can’t find them without taking some chances. My own local church took a huge risk several years ago to eliminate certain programs in order to plant a sweeping church-wide life group program. It has been a staggering success but took immense courage on the part of the Vision Pastor and his team.

That’s challenging the process.

In the next post, the fourth exemplary leadership practice.

Suggested Leadership Books

Cynthia Montgomery/The Strategist: Be the Leader Your Business Needs

George Barna/The Power of Vision: Discover and Apply God’s Vision for Your Life & Ministry

Robert Greenleaf/Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness 25th Anniversary Edition

Kouzes & Posner/Christian Reflections on The Leadership Challenge (J-B Leadership Challenge: Kouzes/Posner)

Ken Blanchard/Leading at a Higher Level, Revised and Expanded Edition: Blanchard on Leadership and Creating High Performing Organizations

Michael Fullan/Leading in a Culture of Change

Patrick Lencioni/The Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive: A Leadership Fable

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