Although written in the early 90’s, one of my favorite books to reference when working with congregations is The Equipping Pastor by R. Paul Stevens and Phil Collins. It is still relevant today. The book helps us understand congregations as relational systems. From Chapter 8, I list the ten principles for leaders to equip the laity:
- Work with the Whole – The whole is more than the sum of the parts. The church is the body of Christ, the family of God, the covenant community of God. Discern the body.
- Cultivate Healthy Interdependence among Members – Equipping is essentially a relational, rather than programmatic, ministry; this involves building the people of God.
- Lead the Process Not the People – The way in which the equipper engages the culture, makes decisions, and makes changes is more important than specific achievements accomplished.
- Cultivate the Culture – Recognize culture as a systematic expression and a powerful influence in creating motivation and shaping behavior.
- Make Changes Slowly and Indirectly – Remember that resistance is not necessarily to the leader’s ideas or personality but the result of complex dynamics in the system.
- Sound Your Own Vision and Define Yourself – This is not an exercise in self promotion but systematic ministry. Your initiative will help others define themselves.
- Shepherd the System and the Subsystems – The pastor and other leaders are shepherds of the congregational system. Discover the way it is put together and strengthen the connections.
- Avoid Becoming Triangled – As shepherds, the leaders should be able to discern dysfunctional relationships. This involves taking the appropriate actions.
- Maintain Open Boundaries with the World – Be an open system interacting with the community outside the congregation. In order to do this, one must understand who belongs and what defines community.
- Relax: The Church Is in Good Hands – The church is in the good hands of Jesus, the head of the church. The leader is not the only equipper.
It is good to be reminded we are not alone as leaders in our congregations. I invite you to think about your own ministry and reflect on which principles are ones you employ in your setting. What are some empowering ministry stories you could share with others?
Other Suggested Readings
Healthy Congregations, a Systems Approach by Peter L. Steinke
The Leader's Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation by Jim Harrington, Robert Creech, and Trisha L. Taylor
Personality Type and Religious Leadership by Roy M. Oswald and Otto Kroeger