Pastoral Leadership

I have written on this topic in the past and I continue to learn more and more each day about leadership.  Sometimes I learn by doing and sometimes it’s simply by observing other leaders and what they do, but more importantly what they do not do.  Great leaders are not born, great leaders are trained and willing to be trained.  Great leaders will admit when they do not know something and they are willing to find the answer, great leaders are always learning.
Leadership is about people, it’s not about managing people it’s about leading them.  Jesus did not manage his apostles He lead them.  He chose each one of them for a specific reason.  He saw their potential and then led them to that potential.  That to me is the number one task of a great leader, lead your people to their full potential.  A leader cannot accomplish this if he or she does not have a relationship with those they lead.
Pastoral leadership is all about relationships.  The priest is the father of the parish and the leader of those people that God has entrusted to him.  This is a sacred task that needs to be taken seriously.  I spoke to a young priest recently about challenges he was having in his parish.  After he went through the laundry list of problems he was having I sat back and asked, “do you love them?”
When I came to this parish almost eight years ago I thought I had all of the answers.  I was filled with the arrogance that many new priests have.  I was going to do it better than the guy before me.  I knew what I was doing and I was going to do it.  It was not until I loved the people, really loved them, that I truly felt I was their pastor.  You see before I loved them I was just going through the motions.  But when I discovered that I needed to love them it became less about me and more about us.  Once I entered into a relationship with them I found, and unlocked, the potential that they had and we have done some amazing things.
How do we do this?  We have to listen.  We need to sit and just listen to what they have to say.  Where are them from?  Where do they hope to go?  What is the story of the parish?  This parish was founded by immigrants who came here to find a better life.  They found that life here and, once they determined to stay, they built a church.  When I say they built a church I mean they literally built the church, stone on top of stone.  They worked all day in the factory and then came to the church and worked.  They loved this place and it shows.
When you listen to the stories you get to know them, on a very deep level.  The joy of a small parish is that I have time to really get to know each parishioner.  Some would say that there should be a line that is drawn between the priest and the people.  I agree with that to a point.  There is a line, but that line moves as you get to know them and fall in love with them.  Once you get to know them then you will see their potential and that is when the development happens.
Jesus worked with His apostles for three years.  We are not privy to every conversation that He had with them but the ones we are show a pattern of development of each person to reach their potential.  They were given opportunities and placed in situations where they could develop the skills they would need.  Of course this did not come to fulfillment until the Holy Spirit came upon them at Pentecost but the hard work was done during those three years of ministry.
Great leaders have a personal vision that they are able to get other excited about.  This vision is developed as they are getting to know the team.  The pastor of a parish needs to lead his people to holiness.  Again I turn to Jesus and the way He dealt with people that He met.  He was stern with them when He needed to be but it was always done out of love and with the vision to show them how to get their life back on track.  Gentle correction and love that is what it is all about.
The 4th Century B.C. teacher Chanakya, teacher of the first Indian Emperor to rule then entire Subcontinent wrote, “the king shall consider as good, not what pleases himself but what pleases his subjects” “the king is a paid servant and enjoys the resources of the state together with the people.”  Great Leaders are servants first, and this is so true with pastoral leadership.  I was reminded recently that Pharaoh of Egypt carried a shepherds crook to lead the people and a whip for the horses that pulled his chariot to defend those people.
Pastoral leaders would be served well to remember that we are servants first.  Jesus came to serve not to be served.  Being a servant means to be able to listen to those we serve, get to know them and love them.  Only then will we be able to lead them.

1 Comment

  1. You have some very good points on leadership here. I think the most important being that leaders serve. More people who want to be leaders need to learn to serve. You can't lead until you serve.

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