Effective Leadership Techniques for Church Leaders

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Effective Leadership Techniques for Church Leaders

Leadership is critical in getting the right people to work toward accomplishing organizational goals and is an important component of organizational behavior.  “Any organization without effective leadership is in trouble.”[1] In the religious sector, many churches see leadership as a challenge nowadays as pastors and other church administrators struggle to meet the needs of members.[2] Jones and Miller stated, “one of the biggest needs in the Church today—all around the world—is well-equipped leadership.”[3] If the Church’s leadership is weak, then the institution’s performance will be very poor.

My experience in the ministry has shown me that all is not well with the pastors who have vowed to serve God. Some pastors sometimes have issues with their church members, not because of lack of education but perhaps lack of insight on leadership techniques. Because of the importance of leadership in today’s congregation, efforts must be made by church administrators to train pastors and other leaders of the Church on how to integrate leadership techniques in their work performance. We must see it as a serious business. As Aguilera, Ron once said, “Leadership development is indispensable for a successful church.” [4] Every church leader must align their values with those of the Church. Anything short of this expectation poses a threat to the success of the clergy.

Therefore, this article intends to answer the question: What are the current effective leadership techniques of church leaders and their impacts on the congregation?

Mindfulness

            Defined as “the trait of staying aware (paying close attention to) your responsibilities,”[5] mindfulness is one of the techniques a leader can use in performing his duties. In the few years of my service, I realized that some pastors encounter difficulties in doing their work. Mindfulness requires paying attention to factors like personal feelings, thoughts, and actions.[6]

Personal Feelings

A leader may have the knowledge and skills to perform his or her duties, but these are inoperable if the leader does not pay attention to emotions. Many leaders have failed because of exhibiting anger toward subordinates. Managing one’s feelings is often greeted with laxity, and ignoring this may result in the creation of a stressful working environment. Truly, mindfulness is one of the tools researchers use to control worry.[7] This is a rational process that remains flexible until leaders can integrate it objectively. Becoming sensitive to personal feelings is one technique to improve an organization, and this cannot be achieved without discipline.

When Paul was addressing the Galatians about the fruits of the Spirit, he mentioned: “…self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23 NIV). If a leader wants to flourish in his or her leadership role, self-control is inviolable. I have seen pastors who have had problems because of anger. James said, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19–20 NIV). In our church where several people meet and crochet together, trouble sometimes takes place. However, what matters most in the organization is the way leaders handle these issues.

Indeed, leaders are expected to develop emotional intelligence to cope with difficult members. Actually, “emotional Intelligence has become increasingly popular as a measure for identifying potentially effective leaders and as a tool for developing effective leadership skills.”[8] Therefore, every leader must be mindful of their emotions as this behavior, in turn, will create an ambiance for a good working environment. As a leader, I realized that the success of my church by extension lies in the good relationship I have with my members. If I treat them as humans, then they will also be much more human in executing their duties.

My church had a school where young Adventists were being molded constantly to become future leaders. In the school, we had a teacher who was always tardy to work, and his irregular school attendance affected his students’ test scores by the end of the school year. Some teachers questioned his attitude and demanded the administration to take drastic measures to solve the problem. Hence, they reported to me. The teachers expected me to reprimand the teacher, but I did the opposite, choosing to have a one-on-one session instead. In the course of our discussion, I discovered that the young man had several personal problems, which included, but were not limited to, the loss of his apartment, loved ones in the family, etc. After listening to him, I gave my advice. I encouraged him to continue trusting in God’s promises and told him that everything will be well soon. A few weeks later, I noticed a big change in his attendance. If I had scolded him, then perhaps, he would not have changed. We need to be more mindful of being more human to our subordinates. Ultimately, the human-to-human approach is a good practice in trying to maximize the concept of mindfulness.

Thoughts

Another way a leader can pay attention to his leadership practices is by instilling beautiful “thoughts” in his memory. Leaders must be mindful of the kind of ideas they generate. Leaders who are perpetually negative in their perceptions perform poorly in leadership. Today, the world is promoting “postmodernism”—a concept that relegates the objectivity of Biblical values. If leaders are not attentive to their leadership processes, then traces of this deceptive idea will arise, which may create problems in the church. Paul put it this way, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8 NIV). These deceptive philosophies are concepts that are not directed by the Kingdom and undefined by Biblical values. Thus, efforts must be exerted in safeguarding our thoughts. For those who do not have a strong grasp of control with their thoughts, do the following:

(1) Prayer. Extreme care must be observed through prayer. The Bible reminds followers to “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18 NIV). In this verse, Paul identified prayer as a part of God’s efforts in encouraging the Thessalonians to wait patiently for the second coming of Jesus Christ. Prayer is a tool that Christians use to communicate to God, and it draws them closer to Him. Ellen White once said, “The path of men who are placed as leaders is not an easy one. But they are to see in every difficulty a call to prayer.”[9]  Ordinarily, humans cannot control their minds. They can do so only by the power of Jesus. Therefore, we all need God’s help to fish out bad thoughts from our minds.

(2) Revisit your thoughts. It is noteworthy that many leaders do not keep a journal of their musings. A journal is a good way to control one’s thoughts as it helps us go through ideas before we decide to act on them. If leaders record their thoughts in writing, then they should match them with Biblical principles, which means that anything that violates God’s rules may be discarded.

(3) Ask coworkers to evaluate your thoughts. Nobody on Earth knows everything. A leader who asks the right questions lives to get good answers. When a leader is humble enough to approach his or her colleagues, then he or she may receive good feedback that may strengthen his or her ideas. There have been several occasions when I consulted people about a particular idea, and the feedback I received enhanced my work. However, one thing that hinders some leaders from asking for help is pride. Hence, every leader must be aware of their thoughts by keeping a collegial working spirit with other people.

Actions

Another major aspect of a leader’s life is the need to be mindful of one’s actions. Actions are the activities that a leader embarks on inside and outside the workplace. The activities of leaders must be driven by work ethics. A leader should pay attention to what is considered right and wrong in his or her respective workplace. As the Bible said, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

Many times, church leaders commit atrocious acts that sometimes demean the image of the organization. There is truth to the saying that actions speak louder than words. The people we lead always check our actions to know whether they conform to what we teach. As in a school setting, “In attempting to mold the character of students, it will be important for the educators to live by those values and beliefs which leverage the establishment of schools. If a teacher wants his or her students to refrain from bad behaviors, it means that the teacher must not be found exhibiting those negative behaviors.”[10] The members are to church leaders what students are to their teachers. Therefore, pastors and other church leaders must live out these virtues.

Communication

Another leadership technique that administrators can practice is communication. It is “the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as, by speech, visuals, signals, writing, or behavior.”[11] Likewise, Olorunfemi defined communication as to how people are linked together and how they function to achieve a common goal. [12]

In the reality of a church administrator, the types of communication channels used by leaders may have either negative or positive impacts on the entire congregation. Most issues faced by church leaders nowadays are connected to communication.

For example, an influential leader of one of the local churches in Africa served as a communication director. He attends church every worship day with all the departmental heads to give announcements regarding church activities in the subsequent weeks. Each of them spends no less than 10 minutes in discussion. As a result, the time for worship lasts more than expected. This type of problem could have been averted if the leaders have been taught how to handle communication more effectively. For instance, church leaders may consider time management in everything they do. It also may not be necessary to allow every department head to come out every worship day to announce plans as it consumes a lot of time, and some members feel bored during such announcements.

The church administrator is a leader who promotes a church’s growth by facilitating the stewardship of communication in the Church. Hence, he should look at how communication is handled at the local church. Furthermore, the content posted on social media should be scrutinized appropriately to align with the mission of the Church.

Motivation

            Leaders need motivation in managing their churches. Motivation is defined as a “psychological feature that arouses an organism to act toward a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal-directed behaviors.”[13]This implies that a leader must discover what makes workers perform their work well, even without being supervised. The leader should also identify factors that rouse the followers’ satisfaction and those that do otherwise.

Moreover, active church members should be commended. Through this practice, the pastor or leader, in a way, encourages good behavior to be repeated. People do well when they are recognized and rewarded for their good behavior. I remember when my local church stewardship became very low. I thought about it several times without finding any solution. However, a few months later, the idea to start visiting the few who were committed to stewardship occurred to me. I discussed it with the church’s board, and we decided to write to faithful members. Those who were consistent in giving were commended, whereas the people who were not committed were also encouraged to do so. A few months after that approach, the results changed. Positive reinforcement is very important in leadership. The church administration should give credit to those who perform well. Encourage the members who attend church programs, participate in church activities, attend meetings, etc. Encourage, encourage, encourage.

Conclusion

            In general, the techniques mentioned above are good tools that can help pastors and other leaders to achieve the goals of their respective churches. This article suggested that church leaders should practice mindfulness by controlling their feelings, guarding their thoughts, and regulating their actions. Leaders should choose to strengthen their communication skills to control church programs. Furthermore, church leaders should inspire motivation by rewarding workers’ efforts. Indeed, we can rest assured that our Church will continue to grow to what God intended it to be if we continue to abide by these principles.

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Notes.

[1] Gordon Richard, Alson Judi A., and Snowden Petra, School Leadership & Administration. 7th edition. (McGraw Hill, 2007), 5.

[2] Van Nguyen, Nghia,  ”Leadership skills development in theological seminary: Crucial factors in creating effective local church leadership” Pepperdine University, 2008.

[3] Forman, Rowland, Jones, Jeff, and Bruce Miller. The leadership baton: An intentional strategy for developing leaders in your church. Harper Collins, 2007.

[4] Aguilera, Ron. “The Importance of Leadership Development.” Journal of Applied Christian Leadership 1.1 (2006): 40-47.

[5] Princeton’s Wordnets s.v. “mindfulness.” on Definitions website, accessed 30 March 2020. definition.net/definition/mindfulness (definitions.net/definition/mindfulness).

[6] Tuleja, Elizabeth A. “Developing cultural intelligence for global leadership through mindfulness.” Journal of Teaching in International Business. 25,1 (2014): 5–24.

[7] Roche, Maree, Haar, Jarrod M., and Luthans, Fred. “The role of mindfulness and psychological capital on the well-being of leaders.” Journal of occupational health psychology. 19,4 (2014): 476.

[8] Batool, Bano Fakhra. “Emotional intelligence and effective leadership.” Journal of business studies quarterly. 4,3 (2013): 84.

[9] Ellen G. White, Christian Leadership. ( Washington DC. Ellen G White Estates 1985), 4.

[10]Edu Nnamdi, “How to think critically as a Christian.” Compass Magazine. 17 April 2019. https://thecompassmagazine.com/blog/how-to-think-critically-as-a-christian.

[11] Freebase, S.V., “Communication.”On  Definitions website, accessed 5 April 2020. definition.net/definition/communication. (definitions.net/definition/communication).

[12] Olorunfemi, F. (2009). “Risk communication in climate change and adaptation: Policy issues and challenges for Nigeria.” IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science (Vol. 6, No. 41, p. 412036). IOP Publishing.

[13] Freebase, S.V. “Motivation.” on Definitions website, accessed 2 April 2020. definition.net/definition/motivation (definitions.net/definition/motivation)

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About the author

Nnamdi Edu

Pastor Nnamdi Edu, PhD is a district pastor for the Rivers West Conference in Nigeria.