Developing leadership for the church
Leadership: A word from Mennonite Church USA leadersby Ed Diller
Current calls in secular and religious circles for leadership development seem particularly intense. What is driving this focus?
Our immense, complex world makes true progress difficult without some sort of collective effort. That effort is likely to be successful only with effective leadership.
For this reason, the Executive Board of Mennonite Church USA has designated leadership development as a churchwide priority.
As moderator, I find the work and relationship with other leaders exciting. Uniformly, our leaders are grateful for the opportunity to serve. They tell me their leadership roles have been high points in their lives. It is exhilarating to worship with them, meet and learn about those committed to the church and envision together what Mennonite Church USA is called to be.
Though rewarding, leadership in the church has many challenges. I will touch on just three.
Impossibility of knowing the future. None of us knows the future. That lack of clarity makes direction setting difficult and imprecise. One leadership job is to envision and help shape the future. Leaders do so even while acknowledging that their vision is incomplete and inaccurate. They remain optimistic about what lies in front of them, knowing the Lord guides us continually (Isaiah 58:11) through all uncertainty.
Leading through change. Our call is to be a church that aligns itself with God's mission to reconcile all things. That call requires us to focus on the future instead of on the past or present. We need to adjust continually what we are doing in order to move forward.
Even as we adjust our direction and modify our thinking and our actions, we know that not all change is easy or good. Guided by the Holy Spirit, our church leaders at every level are called to help us maneuver between change and constancy and do so at appropriate times and pace. Making changes soon can also exhaust resources and energy for achieving our goals; making changes too late can impede their accomplishment.
Often the right choice is not immediately clear, and since no one likes to make mistakes, lack of clarity can lead to timidity, self-doubt and criticism. Such feelings and the resulting hesitancy can keep us from our mission.
Leading through conflict. Conflict often arises as a result of decisions and choices regarding direction, constancy and change or about the timing and pace of change. As a church, we've not always found clear paths to resolving conflict in healthy, life-giving ways, particularly when change itself often brings on the conflict. Unfortunately, rather than discerning together appropriate direction, we allow our conflicts (and sometimes anger) to focus on the people providing leadership.
How do our congregations, conferences and denomination call people to leadership roles? How do we ask people to assume responsibilities that will surely lead them into situations that will test their judgment and self-confidence and will involve conflict?
We as a church must embrace these issues. Conferences and congregations can begin this work immediately by blessing leaders in their midst and by dialoguing openly with them about current and future challenges. Our seminaries and educational institutions are well-equipped to assist us in this endeavor.
Just as important, each of us must examine our own feelings regarding leaders. Do we assume a posture of suspicion toward them and doubt their motives simply because they have accepted leadership positions? Or do we empower them?
We need to view people we tap for leadership as individuals called and committed to serving Christ. Seeing our leaders as focused on God’s mission in the world will give a different tone to our discussions about leadership and change, about conflict and risk-taking. Doing so will also enhance our ability to call courageous, insightful leaders.
We must heed this call. The church needs a solid theology and philosophy of leadership as well as a practical means of developing leaders. We need to ensure that together we nurture and support our leaders.
May God equip us all to discern the future and join together in what God is doing. May our collective efforts enable us to live into our vision (at left).
- Whispers of resurrection
- Up, out, down
- A paracosmic Millennium
- The Word in worship
- God's realm in and among us
- In March
- The cost of medicines
- My testimony
News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer
- MC USA receives $3 million surprise
- Web exclusive: John Howard Yoder's 'irresponsibility'?
- MMA to change name
- MCC leaders respond to MC USA moderator
- Review: Avatar lays groundwork for peaceful solutions
- Franconia's plan to dismiss staff on hold
- Moderator questions MCC
- CPT founding director Gene Stoltzfus dies
- Goshen College announces plans for national anthem's implementation
- Mennonite providers get update on health-care legislation
- Mennonite artist creates icons
- A nurse describes her two weeks in Haiti
- News Briefs - March 2010
- Festival celebrates 300 years in Lancaster
- Burkholder's dissertation 'all but banned'
- Brenneman calls for new 'school of thought'
- Survey: more women in leadership but still not enough
- MDS trailer stolen Jan. 5, worth over $10,000
- Resources - March, 2010
- Births and Marriages - 2010
- Inattention blindness
- Living the in-between
- Tenderly name others
- God's avatar
- Developing leadership for the church
- 'They seek a city'
- Ceaseless generosity
- First things first: Seek God's wisdom
- Lent reorients us
- How could they do such a thing?
- How justify special privileges?
- Ethnicity should be celebrated
- Jesus did not know everything
- Saddened by national anthem
- Be careful about our beliefs
- Latent dynamics gone
- Lacks spirit of unity
- Time to get behind Stutzman
- Richly blessed by every article