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Spiritual Leadership Series (Part 3): Learning To Lead

[Part 2 of this series appeared in the print edition of the Winter 2001 issue.]

Interview with Ron F. McManus

It is not unusual for people who are called into full-time ministry to doubt their ability to lead others. They may feel like Moses and Joshua felt when they went through periods of great doubt. A lack of confidence in one’s ability to lead can sometimes be traced to a diminishing desire to learn or by ignoring personal growth opportunities. Unfortunately, some who have graduated from Bible college or seminary feel that the education they received is enough to last them a lifetime. However, a study on the lives of the Apostles reveals that they were lifelong learners. Jesus taught them to rethink and enlarge themselves. They were all leaders and were effective in leading others to reach their world for Christ.

The Spiritual Leadership Series concludes with this final offering. Ron McManus, president of EQUIP, a ministry that provides leadership training for pastors, explores the subject of lifelong learning and its relationship to leadership development.

HOW IMPORTANT IS HAVING AN ATTITUDE
OF LIFE-LONG LEARNING TO A PASTORS’ LEADERSHIP SKILLS?

MCMANUS: First, pastors need to understand that the process they went through to get their ministerial credentials merely created a foundation for learning. Learning is a process that lasts a lifetime. Pastors need to continue to learn how they can be more effective in leading people.

Jesus has sent us out into the highways and byways. Not all believers will come to church, we must go to them. Ours is a hands-on strategy—a way of life.

McManus

 

Pastors are also in the people business. They need to understand people. Pastors need to know the culture in which they are pastoring. In a church there is a corporate culture where people are more analytical in the way they think; there are those who are more relational in the way they think; and there are those who are cause-effect type of people.

Pastors also need to understand leadership principles and continue to grow in this area of ministry. Some pastors spend too little money on their own personal growth and development and the growth of their people. As a result, these pastors do not read materials that will help them.

There are many books that deal with leadership. One is the classic by J. Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Leadership. John Maxwell’s two books, Developing the Leader Within You and Developing the Leaders Around You are books I encourage pastors to read. Pastors need to do everything they can to acquire resources to help them.

A church does not grow past its pastor. The pastor is the lid on the church. If the pastor will grow in leadership, then the ministry can grow. This is why we developed the Foundations of Leadership Program. If I can help pastors grow in their understanding of how to minister and lead people, then the lid is taken off the church.

Pastors also need to understand their giftings. They need to ask, "What are my strengths? What are the areas I need to work on in my life?" I tell pastors, "If you pretend you have all the gifts for ministry at your church, you’re the only one who believes that. Your spouse and the congregation don’t believe it." I encourage pastors to list three or four areas in which they want to read beyond their Bible study and sermon preparation, and then purchase the resources needed to increase their understanding in these areas.

Pastors also need to work on relational skills. Communication is critical in ministry. Pastors need to learn how to become better at relationships and communication.

Some pastors have great pulpit abilities, but no organizational skills. Their ministry can’t move forward until they get their lives organized. They need the resources to help them grow in that arena. Some pastors are great organizers but they need to work on their communication and pulpit skills. Pastors can learn how to be better leaders, but it’s a decision they must make.

Pastors are great procrastinators. Pastors will become what they are becoming right now. They talk about what they want to accomplish in the next 1 or 2 years. But unless they change what they are doing today, it won’t happen. The secret to success in ministry is in our daily routine. What we do daily will determine what we will be. Pastors need to make some quality decisions about what they are going to do daily to become better leaders.

WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR PASTORS AND SPIRITUAL LEADERS TO UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENT GENERATIONS THAT MAKE UP THEIR CHURCHES?

MCMANUS: Until you understand the people you are trying to lead, you won’t know how to connect with them. People in the different groups (boomers, busters, and genXers) think differently; they look at life differently. They have a filter through which they view things. It’s important to understand how they think because it will affect how you present something. If you have a large segment of your congregation who are relational in nature, no matter what you do, you need to put it in a relational frame of reference. Otherwise, they are not going to connect to it. The ministry of the Word and the power of the Holy Spirit can penetrate all cultures and all age groups to bring people to Christ. But to disciple them, you have to know how they think and act.

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PASTORS AND OTHERS WHO ARE CALLED INTO THE MINISTRY BUT WHO FEEL THEY ARE NOT NATURAL LEADERS?

MCMANUS: Many feel they are not leaders when it appears that what they are doing is not making a difference, when the people are not responding to their leadership, or when they have an overwhelming sense of inadequacy. Those are natural feelings and emotions. It’s important for pastors to know that God has called them to ministry. When pastors know they are called to ministry, then three things need to be understood. First, if God has called you, then He will enable you to be an effective leader if you are willing to let God determine your value and not the people. Second, pastors must be willing to acquire resources and grow in their understanding of how to be a better leader. Third, pastors must understand that relationships are crucial to leadership. If pastors understand these things, it will help them gain and keep perspective, and lead others. It doesn’t take but two or three people chewing on you or leaning against you for you to feel that the whole world is against you. In reality, there are many people following and responding to your leadership. That’s why perspective is important. We need a big-picture perspective of God’s call to help us see the positive things that are happening through our leadership.

When I was pastoring I had a carved statue on my desk of Joshua and Caleb–with grapes on their backs–coming back from Canaan. Every time I hung up from a phone call where someone was explaining life to me in a new way, I would look at the statue on my desk and think, This report I just received is different from the one I received from God. While we may feel ineffective and a failure in leadership, the important thing is what we are doing about it. We can continue to grow in our understanding and in our leadership, with a perspective that God is the One who called us, and He is the One who determines our value. No matter if my sermon was or wasn’t good last Sunday, I’m still valuable and I’m still called.

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