Do the people you lead expect you to calm things down, provide stability, and return things to normal? Isn’t that what leadership is supposed to do? In most churches this is the main responsibility of the pastor/leader. After all, the very title of pastor conjures up visions of green fields full of happy sheep frolicking in idyllic joy. To tell the truth, it’s also the expectation of most pastors. Yet pastors are also commissioned to be change initiators and change is almost always messy.
In his classic book On Becoming a Leader (Bennis, 2003) Bennis made a distinction (perhaps too sharply) between leadership, where the goal is change, and management, where the goal is efficiency (see Suggested Readings – Leadership). Both are important and often both are required skills of the same person in authority. However, because they have different purposes, when people expect one and get another there can be a firestorm of Biblical proportions!
Take for example the pastor who sees tension building between those in the traditional service and those in the contemporary one. People from each want their service in the “prime time” slot on Sunday morning. Folks from both services are looking to the leadership to provide the solution. They want a fix to their scheduling problem. Suppose however, the pastor determines the problem is deeper and requires attitudinal change on behalf of people in both services. Therefore, he inaugurates a 6 month preaching series on selfishness and unity, allowing the situation to go unresolved and seemingly unaddressed while he stealthily tackles the root issues in the weekly sermon.
The people are expecting a solution (management) and the pastor provides leadership (addressing attitudes and values). Torches are lit, tar is heated, chickens plucked and the pastor now sells used refrigerators in the Arctic. In such a situation both management and leadership are necessary. Appointing a committee composed from people of both services to “study the issue” and report back to the congregation with recommendations, affords the pastor the time necessary to address the attitudes that need to be changed. (If the committee functions like most in the church, the pastor has until the next ice age before recommendations are made anyway…)
A good pastor/leader employs the right skill set, management or leadership or both, to accomplish the right goal. Knowing which tool you’re using and why, may keep you out of the Arctic.