308. Board Chairs and Organizational Leadership

I am coming to realize more than ever before how important the competence of organizational leadership has become for church boards and lead pastors. When I use the term “organizational leadership” I mean the capacity of the leadership in an organization to understand themselves as leaders, understand how to develop the organization to its maximum potential through leadership, and understand how to work with people in the organization to enable them to achieve their vocational goals and potential.
When current leaders in the church, including board chairs, reflect upon the church, they tend to think of it in terms of a collection of people, a community, a family. And these perspectives have some truth, but they do not capture the entire truth. Local churches are both organic communities of people and organized entities designed to achieve specific purposes. When Jesus initiated his “messianic assemblies” (Matthew 16:18) he intended them to function in part as one of his key means of attacking and obstructing Satan’s purposes and in this way advance his mission. Of course, local churches do this by becoming robust expressions of God’s people, empowered and enriched by his Holy Spirit.
Yet in all of this these local groups of Christian disciples we call churches have to have some organizational character in order to function as Jesus intended. This requires their leaders to understand the nature of this organization and how to lead such entities in ways that enable them to fulfill their God-given design.
I would suggest that at least three elements in a local church’s organizational leadership that are particularly important:
1. The primary leaders, i.e., lead pastor and board chair, should understand clearly what values, functions and structure a local congregation must have in order to be a valid and authenticate part of Jesus’ kingdom rule. If local congregations are “seedbeds of kingdom reality” in their respective communities, then how they are organized and the values that define their organization become a vital part of their witness to the gospel in that community. More than anyone else in a local church these two leaders have to understand God’s intention for the church and how it should best be designed and organized to achieve God’s purposes. If these leaders do not have a clear vision of what this looks like, how can they lead the organization towards that goal?
2. An important relationship exists between good, healthy congregational organization and healthy, robust Christian community. Although good organization does not guarantee a healthy congregation, it goes a long way to supporting and sustaining it. People want to be part of something that works well and effectively, that accomplishes what it regards as important, that treats people well, and that uses its resources wisely. Good leaders understand this and work hard to develop good organizational life built around the values of integrity and trust. They know it reduces conflict, encourages strong volunteerism, and enables the congregation to tackle serious and challenging goals to advance God’s purposes. A robust and dynamic congregational organization provides a safe, exciting place in which to help believers become the disciples God intends each to be.
3. Effective organizational leaders in congregations commit themselves to enabling every disciple discern how their Christian commitments translate into market-place, family, church and civic leadership. One of the key traits of a local church is that it is a learning organization. Its most important resource are the people that form the community. Enabling them to discern and attain their potential in Christ has to be a primary part of every congregation’s vision and a major outcome that every church board establishes. If this is not happening then the mission of the church is failing and the organizational leadership is not responding to its responsibilities appropriately.

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