Each year I meet for a two day retreat with those being ordained and commissioned to get to know them better and to talk about their leadership in the church. Here are some of the things we look for in GNJ leaders:
- Open to new ideas and differences of opinion
- Relational and results oriented
- Life-long learner
- Creative, curious and risk-taking
- Transformational – initiate a vision, develop strategies and inspire people to work together to achieve goals
- Analytical – make excellent decisions and resolve challenges using prayer, scripture, knowledge, input from others, data and experience
- Managers of Multiple Projects – flexible and adapt to added work or challenges while maintaining excellence and a Christ-centered spirit
- Organized – plan, formulate steps, prioritize and carry out work on time and with excellence
- Communicators – listen for understanding, articulate with clarity, express directly and clearly and inspire people through verbal and written communication
- Connect and relate well with church people and community residents
- Develop leaders within the congregation
- Lead the congregation to deeper faith and service in the world
- Grow the five markers of vitality – new disciples, worship, small groups, disciples in mission and giving to mission
- Raise sufficient funds for community and world mission, ongoing congregational ministry, shared ministries and salary and benefits
It is not easy to be a pastor today. Congregations are more diverse, the church and community environment continues to change, the competition for people’s time and commitment in a fast paced over-worked world is a significant challenge and continued shrinking resources makes it harder and harder to do the ministry that needs to be done. But we cannot shrink before the challenges rather we must grow our character and competency to face into the challenges and expectations.
I found our new clergy during the two day retreat to be highly engaged and open to suggestions. They are eager to learn and serve well. They want to partner with the laity and cultivate more lay leadership. And they want to grow disciple’s faith in Christ. This eagerness must be fed with prayer of course, but also by congregations that are willing to let their pastors explore new ideas and make mistakes. They need encouraging laity even when things don’t go well.
Early in my leadership, I made a mess of some things. But Frazier R. Horton was a patient Church Council leader who believed in me, listened to me and gave me thoughtful guidance. His guidance was not to try and change everything in me but to encourage incremental changes that were doable. Every leader needs a Frazier Horton who sees possibility in them. There were others who tried to influence my leadership but were not as helpful. They mostly criticized rather than finding positive things in my leadership. They tended to focus on what they would do rather than recognizing there are several ways to lead. I never had the sense they prayed for me. Frazier prayed for me all of the time. They did not give regular thoughtful feedback but waited until there was a problem to “unload” their issues and concerns.
To have excellent pastoral leadership, we need healthy congregations in which the pastors see laity as ministry partners and laity provide prayer and healthy feedback to their pastors.
I have great hope in the church because I see clergy all around GNJ who feel called to serve God, the church and the community, and want to do well. I believe in them, trust them and pray for them. I hope you will do the same.
Keep the faith!
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
of Greater New Jersey