Leader to Leader, Ministry

Five Ways to Develop Spiritual Leaders

September 12, 2016 | Posted by Will Miller

A quick perusal of available titles on Amazon reveals that, when it comes to books on church ministry, pastors reign supreme. Though I was able to locate one book on the ministry of church executive assistants to the pastor, most “church secretary” books were handbooks or how-to’s on creating effective administrative structures. Though there are a fair amount of titles on Christian education from the standpoint of pedagogy and evangelism, I’m not sure all these apply to a Director of Christian Education the way they are utilized within our LCMS circles. And don’t even get me started on the resource desert that Deaconesses live in!

I have a diverse staff, not simply in the usual terms of ethnic and gender diversity, but in terms of their roles. We have a Volunteer Coordinator, Business Manager, and Outreach Coordinator (no, I don’t mean the head of an Evangelism board in the usual understanding, but someone who helps me actively train and equip our congregation for outreach and servant events in the community and who represents the church in building new ministry partnerships throughout Memphis). Our school has a Public Relations Director who spends part of her school day away from campus making connections in the business and not-for-profit communities. And these positions are in addition to the more common Administrative Assistant, Assimilation Director, Worship Leader, Director of Christian Education, a full faculty, and Principal roles. This means that we have some folks who work alongside me in executive leadership roles who do not fit the typical pastor and/or elder roles. Where are the books on spiritual leadership for their roles?

In other words, if the church exists in the first place to bear witness to the cross and empty tomb of Jesus Christ, then how does a Business Manager see her role as a spiritual coach for other Christians within the overall ministry when she’s up to her elbows in payroll? How does my Volunteer Coordinator see himself as leading others to Christ rather than a glorified beater-of-the-bushes for the ever illusive critical mass of volunteers to pull off the servant events that the Outreach Coordinator organizes? These are important questions even for those we already consider to be ministers of the gospel such as teachers and principals. Does the principal have enough time in his day to focus on the faith development of his faculty and students (dare I say the families of his students?!), or is he primarily pressured to act merely as an effective administrator and encouraged to read books on management that come from Corporate America?

It is imperative that all those in leadership positions understand the difference between the tasks they are expected to carry out and the role they have in the faith formation of the people of God. My Business Manager is given time away from the office to visit members in the hospital just as I am. My Volunteer Coordinator is consulted on new ministry initiatives for their feasibility. And my Principal is regularly praised for doing his best ministry work in the family living rooms of the homes of our students. This culture of ministry has been criticized by some who are leery of the “everyone a minister” view. But no one goes into Christian ministry to sit in meetings and simply cross T’s and dot I’s. Those who believe in the mission of the church go into ministry in order to work with people and to point them to the cross. Here are some ways you can encourage every one of your leaders to value their role in spiritual leadership:

  • Talk with your staff about what makes it easy to remember their role in the spiritual formation of the congregation and what makes it difficult to remember that role.
  • Talk with your staff about how they use their time during the week with a view to more than professionalism and efficiency. After those managerial concerns are addressed, move on to talk with them about their time needs. If they need time to engage in personal ministry and/or discipleship, give it to them!
  • Foster conversation with your staff about the professional expectations and pressure they feel in their role in order to help them balance those expectations with faith and assurance of who they are in Christ. Have these talks with a view to focusing them on helping the people of God in the congregation conform to the image of Christ as well.
  • In discussing ministry outcomes, begin with obvious metrics like attendance and second-time visitors to worship, but moving on to questions such as: “At the end of this event/process what do you want the disciple of Jesus to be and what do you want the disciple of Jesus to do?”
  • Remember that you are responsible for helping staff to develop their unique skillsets into matching ministry contexts that benefit the church. For example, if your business manager is good with personal finance, should she also organize stewardship classes with your church’s stewardship chair?

I hope you’ll take steps to provide leadership that focuses each ministry role on the discipleship of God’s people. If you do, you’ll multiply ministry effectiveness for the Kingdom!

Will Miller
Will Miller is Senior Pastor for Immanuel Lutheran Church and School in Memphis, Tennessee. His passion is to see Christians engaging their urban context with the healing of the Gospel in the compassion of Jesus Christ.