Some of you have heard my own leadership story. For those who haven’t, here’s a short version. In my first church planting attempt, right out of seminary, I thought that all I needed to do was to teach the Bible well and my tiny church would grow. It didn’t.
After several years of recovery – in a highly successful parachurch experience – from my first two attempts at being a pastor, I had a long, slow, painful climb toward becoming a leader. I was spurred on by an elder and friend who understood the importance of leadership and “fed me” several great books to get me going and growing in this important skill. Eventually we created a seminar on the subject together, which I still teach to this day.
By the time I had completed eleven and a half years as the solo and then the senior pastor of that very patient congregation – Cornerstone Church in Grafton, WI – I was ready to be a pretty good leader. Finally. By that time it was too late to be that leader in that church. I had to drive across the country in a Penske truck and get a fresh start.
In the fifteen years of redevelopment interim pastoral ministry which followed, I saw the importance of good leadership again and again. More than once I tackled church messes which EFCA District Superintendents told me were the result of poor leadership by the previous pastors.
As the years rolled by, I developed a deep and unshakable concern for helping long-term pastors improve in their leadership skills, so they wouldn’t create the ecclesiastical disasters which interim pastors have to come in and clean up. I found myself wanting to work “upstream” of the crises and catastrophes which are so painful for all of us.
As I read and studied and listened and learned all I could about what helps pastors become strong leaders, I repeatedly came across the same training formula: high impact, high commitment small groups for pastors which meet monthly for four or more hours, with lots of homework and the opportunity to get to know the other group members well. I had experienced something like this earlier with District Superintendent Gene Swanstrom and Church Health Director, Don Price. I thought it was wonderful and wanted to pass the blessing on to others.
Three more components to this formula seem to make it extra-powerful. Monthly coaching calls for each pastor in the group, comprehensive church assessments conducted by the group leader and follow-up teaching of church leaders on the recommendations resulting from the church assessment.
In my current ministry I’m calling this formula the Becoming Effective Leaders (BEL) Groups plan. It’s not new with me. It has been used in many locations with significant results. There’s more information on this site about BEL groups. I would love to help you grow in your ability to lead God’s people and revitalize God’s churches!
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