Real Change Pastoral Leaders

This year’s Annual Conference had as its them “New!” It is a great challenge truly to “make all things new” as Scripture enjoins us to do.

Brad Spencer from Canterbury gave me a wonderful book on leadership, Real Change Leaders, by Jon R Katzenbach. I have found it a most stimulating read for those of us who are charged with the leadership of the church and its congregations. “Real Change” is change that is deep, lasting, and genuinely changes the direction of an organization. On page 13, Katzenbach lists the common characteristics of real change leaders of an organization. I think that we pastors could benefit by measuring our own leadership by these characteristics:

  1. Commitment to a better way and strong belief that the future is dependent upon the change-particularly their being a part of it.
  2. Courage to challenge existing power bases and norms
  3. Personal initiative to go beyond defined boundaries – they break/alleviate constraints and think outside the box
  4. Motivation of themselves and others
  5. Caring about how people are treated and enabled to perform – understand that institutions are both economic and social organizations
  6. Staying undercover – keeping a low profile – grandstanding, strident crusading, and self-promotions are ways to undermine rather than enhance credibility
  7. A sense of humor about themselves and their situations – enables RCLs to help others stay the course

Whenever I visit a congregation where significant, Spirit-filled change is taking place, I see at least five of these characteristics in the pastor who is leading that change.

Prayer for the day: Lord, help us to be better leaders, so that we might follow your leadership into your promised future. Amen!

Will Willimon

3 thoughts on “Real Change Pastoral Leaders

  1. Bishop Willimon, I’ve been surprised over the past few months reading your blog to see you quoting lots of leadership and management resources. I remember my ethics professor at Duke decrying the fact that the most-read books by pastors in a survey a few years ago were What Color is My Parachute and Who Stole My Cheese; her contention was that leadership in the church was qualitatively different than “leadership” as seen in the business community and so these books could only be of marginal utility and certainly should not be among the most-read. On the other hand, it is clear that our churches could benefit from an infusion of knowledge and skill in the area of management. How, then, to navigate this balance? There is a pretty large business machine pointing me toward quick answers and thin content on the “leadership” aisle at Borders already.Isn’t there a risk that pastors will get the idea from your posts that they should be concentrating on leadership books? Although I am no longer working in a parish (but rather as an attorney, actually), I crave guidance from you and other leaders I respect as to how I can draw important lessons from the Bible, Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, or even theologians with names that don’t start with “A.” You can do that better than almost anyone. Thanks so much for your commitment to this blog; I miss having you in North Carolina, and it is a joy to be able to keep up with you in this way.


  2. Most pastors have been heavily trained in the Bible, but seem to lack in the understanding of social orgnizations. We have to understand that whether it is a church or business there are certain principles that apply to both. The goal is to have wisdom to apply biblical themes to an living organization.I have found that my MDiv prepared me in the art of exegesis but not how to apply those truths in a church setting. Understanding these concepts has been instrumental in navigating thru choppy waters.Thanks BishopJames Sizemore


  3. MatthewGood to hear from you again. Didnt know that you were an attorney now.Where do you go to church? Where do you practice.I’m in a job for which I’ve had no training and experience –admniistration, management, etc. so I’ve been reading books about that like crazy. I think that books on management are a lot like books on psychology or sociology, as far as Christians are concerned — can be very edifying, in a secondary sort of way. I guess I see so many peoplefailing to recieve vital ministry, and so much ineptitude (among bishops especially!) not because we’re not good people intending to serve the Lord but because we think that since we know a good deal about the Bible we are geniuses at everything! Thus my interst in all this managementstuff.I’ve had a group of business people (and a couple of ttorneys!) who meet with me regularly to advise me on these issues and I’ve really grown to respect how much they know about these matters. I’m just trying to learn.Some of the criticism of this stuff you got at Duke Div. was right on target, some of it was just simple ignorance.Good to hear from you. Thanks for keeping in touch.Will


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: