Yesterday was the second Sunday after Annual Conference. In many United Methodist churches in North Georgia it was the first Sunday for the new pastor. In others it was the time to celebrate the return of pastors for another year.
United Methodist clergy are appointed by the bishop each year. In our itinerant system, preachers return to their parish or other place of ministry on the Sunday after the conclusion of Annual Conference. The next Thursday (June 24th this year) is “Moving Day.” This is the official day when clergy receiving new appointments relocate. On the following Sunday (yesterday, June 27, this year) a new service year begins.
Clergy and laity have begun a new year of partnership in ministry with hopes and expectations that they can accomplish great things for God and for the good of humanity--things that will transform lives and glorify God.
This new beginning provides an opportunity to consider the qualities of effective leaders. With some editing I offer the thoughts of Adam Hamilton from his book Leading Beyond The Walls. He suggested qualities of effective pastors, but I believe they apply to all church leaders.
Integrity: Stephen L. Carter of the Yale Law School, in his book, Integrity, defines this characteristic as “discerning what is right and what is wrong; ... acting on what you have discerned, even at personal cost; and ... saying openly that you are acting on your understanding of right and wrong”
Humility: Leaders tend to be aggressive/assertive types (“type A”). But great leaders temper this with genuine humility. They have to work at this--and sometimes they struggle with it. But the best genuinely see themselves as servants for others, and strive to put the needs of others before their own.
Passion: Leaders truly believe in what they are doing; they have convictions. But leadership goes beyond mere convictions to the ability to inspire others with those convictions.
Vision: Leaders see things that others do not see. They see opportunities others miss. They anticipate problems before they become problems. They know how to think strategically. They see potential others miss.
Perseverance: Leaders know that there will always be opposition and roadblocks to accomplishing great things. They don’t run over people, but they are also not deterred at the first sign of opposition and they don’t allow temporary setbacks and defeats to determine their future.
Decisiveness and Risk Taking: Leaders make decisions. Effective leaders must always weigh the risks and rewards of their decisions, and they must also be willing to fail.
Purpose-Driven: The deepest desire of Christian leaders is to see the church faithfully pursuing God’s purposes. Purpose-driven leaders align resources including staffing, facilities, and finances, as well as their own time, to accomplish the purpose or mission of their organizations, as they understand them.
Communication Skills: Effective leaders are nearly always effective communicators. They have strong interpersonal skills, sometimes demonstrated by initiating conversations with others rather than waiting for others to speak first. They demonstrate strong listening skills so that others feel heard by them.
Encouragement and Mentoring: Great leaders know how to encourage others. They constantly praise others and build them up. They love to help others succeed and be their best. They exercise restraint in criticism but pursue praise and encouragement with a passion. Successful leaders mentor others and help others hear God’s call into ministry.
A Personal Relationship with Jesus Christ: It would be very difficult to lead a congregation of Christians to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,” if the pastor and other church leaders are not doing this. This is the most important characteristic of effective pastors and church leaders; it is the foundation upon which the rest of the ministry will be built. Effective church leaders pursue the spiritual disciplines, are involved with others in accountability groups, and earnestly seek to grow in their relationship with Christ.