success stories

Posted January 9, 2003

Leadership in the Church

by Bishop William Friend, D.D.
In Origins Jan. 9, 2002, Vol. 32: No. 30

"There is no more powerful engine driving a ministry or organization toward excellence and long-range success than an attractive, worthwhile and achievable vision of the future, widely shared," Bishop William Friend of Shreveport, La, said in a Dec. 4 address in Baltimore, MD., to the annual Diocesan Education/Catechetical Leadership Institute.

Friend asked what effective church leaders can do to become more effective. The fashioning of a vision requires a leader to be a "concerned listener who reads the signs of the times and learns from people and their experiences," said Friend.

He added, "A vision can be little more than an empty dream until it is widely articulated, shared and accepted.

Friend said that effective leaders help "believers to coordinate their activities and to integrate what the do with the life and teachings of the church." These leaders also "help to develop the connections of gifts and services," and often "ask the questions on one else thinks to ask."

Effective leaders "call others to move and to open up into what God calls for in the way of action, " said Friend, and they "work for the development of other emergent and future leaders."

Friend told his audience that as leaders for today they "will encounter massive, accelerated change, a diversity of cultures, high expectations of church members and an ever-continuing challenge regarding resources, both human and financial."

He examined the difference between transactional leaders, who, he said, are basically managers, and transformational leaders, who serve moral agents, elevating people "to rise above their narrow interests." Effective Christian leaders today "endorse a concept of persons," said Friend, and "begin with an understanding of the diversity of people's gifts, talents and skills."

He said, "People need to be seen as valued, needed and included in such a way that they begin to think about surrendering some of their autonomy to the strength of others in order to join in working for the common good of all."

Friend said: "It is necessary for you as a church leader to fashion a vision for the people whom you serve and to communicate interactively with them. This twofold dynamic will lead to shared purpose. Shared purpose added to empowered people, added to appropriate organizational changes and strategic thinking amount to successful visionary leadership."

Excerpts from Friend's talk worth pondering:

"How should a leader/minister reflect the general mystery and mission of Christ and the church? And how can a person avoid focusing attention on authority, wealth, power, honor and trivia?"

"There are admittedly all kinds of attitudes about leaders and leadership in the church. Some persons who occupy a leadership role see it as a cross to endure, becoming thus the victim of ‘patient martydom.' Other folks wonder why there have to be leaders at all. They want everything decided by consensus by ballot or by feelings."

"One might say leaders are pioneers in that they are willing to risk and venture into unexplored territory. They risk guiding others beyond the usual and the routine maintenance activities of living to new and often unfamiliar destinations."