Bishop William Willimon: Pastoral Leadership Challenges (Part 3)

Dr. Hugh Ballou has done some great work in his transformational leadership seminars. Last year Dr. Ballou interviewed me on church leadership issues. Here is a part of that interview:

Ballou : Will, have you ever been to a boring, unproductive meeting?

Willimon:  Are you kidding? That's one of the major things that Bishops do!

Ballou : I live to put an end to the boring, unproductive meeting. How can we have more productive church meetings?

Willimon : The first thing is to keep your eye on the prize. Focus on fruit, on results, on productivity. Then, form the meeting on the basis of those goals.

This is a little thing, but it has been transformative for the meetings of our Cabinet, and that is 1) have an agenda, but 2) in the minutes, have the secretary put down action items with dates. And let those be highlighted in red. People complain that we go to these church meetings and we talk about everything (blah, blah, blah) and then it just dies - it goes nowhere. We never hear about it again. Christ calls us, not just to have good plans, good intentions, civil discussions, but also to action.

We begin every meeting in my Cabinet by going over the action items from the last meeting. That has really improved morale on the Cabinet. People know that if they have debated an idea that it will be responded to and not be left to die from passive aggressive neglect.

I've heard the laity complain that we preachers tend to have meetings in order to hear ourselves talk, in order to give ourselves the illusion that - since we have spent so long at a meeting - we have actually done something for the Kingdom. Well, I think that may be unfair, but I can see their point.

One thing that the gospel writers all agree upon, in their narratives of Jesus and his work, is that Jesus spoke and worked from a sense of urgency. The Kingdom of God is at hand! Repent! Believe! Follow!

I pray that this same sense of urgency, that sense that God presses urgent business upon us, will characterize our meetings. In that way, every one of our church meetings has the opportunity to become a true meeting between us and the God who has come to us in Jesus Christ.

For more information on the seminars, on-line coaching, and books by Hugh Ballou, visit

By: William H. Willimon On 1/24/2011

Weekly Message from the North Alabama Conference

[Used by permission]