Friday, March 20, 2009

Denominational leadership: equip, encourage, inspire

I'm just tossing around some ideas. I've been thinking about church leadership and denominational leadership and how it all works together. I do happen to think denominations are good, and that there is a vital need for denominational leaders - which, in my case, consists of "general" and "regional" leaders (our general conference offices, which oversea worldwide operations, are in Findlay, Ohio; and I have a regional director who overseas Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana). When I refer to the "denomination" or "denominational offices" I am usually referring to both the general and regional offices/officers as one in the same. And this is not meant specifically as a critique of my denomination, but I'm just thinking in general here.

It seems to me that the reason for denominational leaders should be to equip, encourage, and inspire local church leaders (meaning pastors for the most part). This would be through: teaching, training, resourcing, recommending books and materials, etc. (equipping); listening, counseling, and just generally encouraging; and the inspiration could come about in many of the things already mentioned. These things could happen as a direct result of the denominational leaders efforts, or though recommendations of conferences and places to seek equipping, encouragement, and inspiration. Certainly we need financial people, and administrative and record-keeping type people, but... I really think there needs to be more of a concerted effort at equipping, encouraging, and inspiring our church leaders for the betterment of our churches. Pastoral burnout, depression, and loneliness are well documented as leading problems in ministry, and yet you don't hear much about what denominations do to help in these situations.

I believe there needs to be a distinction that the denominational leaders should be doing this for the local church leaders, and then the local church leaders can work at equipping, encouraging, and inspiring the congregations. Then the congregations can work at equipping, encouraging, and inspiring one another, and those not yet a part of the church.

In essence there does need to be a clear hierarchical chain, but it is perhaps upside down from what most people think of. The denominational leaders are there to serve the local church leaders, the local church leaders are there to serve the congregations, and the congregations are there to serve the world. I think this is the opposite of what many used to think, where we felt the need to demand our church people make commitments to our churches, who would make commitments to our denominations, so the denominations could thrive and grow. It should be the other way around so our churches can help our people thrive and grow and reach the world as we partner in God's mission of reconciling all things through Jesus Christ.

So... there are probably some holes here. But I think way too much time, effort and money goes into keeping "the machine" running for most denominations, and too little goes towards the point of it all in the end. At least in my opinion.