Monday, July 8, 2013

What Will It Take? Reimagined Leadership

It's been a fast and furious two weeks for Kairos staff:
  • Stan and Gena conducted a StratOp planning weekend and we had a one day Kairos board retreat
  • Scott Lambert was in Germany working with the Heidelberg Church of Christ
  • All the Kairos staff were in Nashville for Lipscomb University's Summer Celebration where we hosted a breakfast with Josh Graves (Otter Creek Church of Christ) and classes on strategy planning for churches
Recently I've been offering some ideas on what it will take for the fellowship of Churches of Christ to transition out of our general numeric decline that began in the 1980s. Along with this numeric decline is an accelerating societal disconnect that both drives and exacerbates our numeric decline. The first idea was reorienting our understanding of God's mission through a different hermeneutic. Here's the second idea:

Change our leadership pattern and expectations

Our  leadership structure is an elder-driven model. Elders are expected to be the final arbiters of decision-making, providing the ultimate backstop for what a church should or should not do, a role often defined as a protective function (Acts 20:28). Our practice of an "elder board" is often critiqued as insufficient because it appears to rest on a corporate, business model of leadership rather than a shepherding model (Doug Foster, The Story of Churches of Christ, p. 32; Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep). While the fundamental orientation is certainly critical, there are two practical considerations that operationally bring us to a stand still:

1.   This structure tends to be decision-making impaired. At heart an elder board is a committee system. While a plurality of leaders can be a powerful means to pool wisdom, courage, and experience, my experience of our practice is characterized more by a "checks and balances" approach. This checks and balances system is enabled by a consensus expectation and a one-person veto rule. The result is decisions are not just difficult. They are torturous. As one elder recently described to me their decision-making process, "We discuss it for six months, then decide to postpone making a decision for another six months." Living in our 24-7, instant communication world when decisions take months to make we can expect nothing less than for the world to pass us by.

2.   It is maintenance oriented. Here safety is often confused with control that works through a chain of events. New situations, questions, and demands are change producing. Change produces tension, stress, and ultimately fear. Thus when a situation is fear producing, feelings of safety decrease. So when a situation arises in which change is possible fear rises and control is applied as the brake to minimize or eliminate the fear. Safety is transformed into control.

Paul in Ephesians 4:11-12 provides an essential corrective for us to explore in leadership impasse:
1.   Accept that leaders are given and gifted by God and give them the authority and space they need to lead.
2.   Organize leadership teams around the two primary leadership tasks of direction-giving (apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic) and care-giving (pastoring and teaching).
3.  The function of leadership is to equip body members for action. When action is not occurring it is a sure sign that leadership is not occurring either.

*Photo gratefully used from

No comments: