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Published on June 8, 2017 by in Coach's Corner

The leadership puzzle

We live in a time when there is a lot of focus on the different branches of government in our country.  How well will they each stand up and how well will our legal system work?

This is perhaps a good time to revisit how our congregation is organized and how leadership works.  The Presbyterian Church USA’s form of government is very similar to that of the US; in fact I have been told that it inspired the representative form of government of this country.  There is also separation of powers. The pastor operates a bit like the executive branch, but decision powers are mostly limited to the conduct of worship and pastoral care and routine issues. The difference is made up by the session and sometimes the congregation. The Session and the congregation function somewhat like the legislative branch if congregational policies are involved.  Any personal serious violations of church law/ code of conduct are usually referred to a commission of the Presbytery eventually, but legal issues with organizations outside the church might be handled by the trustees initially.

What about leadership? How does that work in our congregation?  There are a number of types of leadership that are commonly accepted. First there is laissez faire leadership where leaders “live and let live.” There is autocratic leadership where one person decides without checking the input of anyone else.  Next there is participative leadership which is based on input from the group.  Then there is transactional leadership which requires much supervision and rewards the completion of tasks. Finally there is transformational leadership which is dependent on clear communication and visibility.

In my opinion we come closest to participative leadership, because we do ask for input from the congregation for important decisions frequently and beyond what the congregation demands.  But not everything is group consensus based because we have the rules of the Book or Order of the PCUSA to follow in the way we organize our congregation. We cannot just suspend the Session for instance just because there is consensus to do so. I am sure that once in a while someone makes a decision without checking with the appropriate committee or the Session, but that does not make our leadership autocratic. We’ re relatively laid back as a congregation, but this does not mean that we are laissez-faire. Important decision are talked about and recorded. Transactional leadership seems to hit the mark with our residency program, but we do not have a bonus system. We try to communicate clearly and pretty much everything we do is visible, but I cannot judge to what degree our leadership is transformational. So much for all the types of leadership.

When I was thinking about this it occurred to me that in a congregation like ours, there are pieces of leadership.  Everybody has to feel responsible for something for the leadership to be participative and to get the most miles out of our ministry. Maybe leadership is like a mosaic in stained glass, different pieces of varying size, color and shapes that each of us brings to the community.  Whether this is in music, care of the sick, care of the young, care of the aging, care of the bereaved, care of the homeless, worship, fundraising, food preparation, social activities, administrative decision making and care of our physical and financial resources. As Ephesians 4:16 says about with Jesus Christ as the departure point:”from Whom the whole body joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.” With leadership as a mosaic of different sized, shaped and colored pieces, light can fall in creative ways into the life of the church.

We live by God’s grace Who provides the light, but we each fill in the puzzle of stained glass. We determine how the light will fall. There has to be a certain freedom in that. What kind of piece of leadership do you feel called to provide so transformation can happen? Thank you for all you do. See you in church. Aart


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