God commands that we love our neighbor as ourselves. To do that, we must first love ourselves. In leadership, we must learn to lead ourselves before we lead others. Leadership is one of the three things necessary for a pastor and for a congregation to grow. True leadership is more than positional. True leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.
As a coach, I work with small business owners, nonprofit directors, team leaders, pastors, staff, and the congregations they serve. Coaching is about present listening and asking probing/challenging questions to help individuals and teams visualize and set action plans according to their desires. Although an occasional lesson in leadership occurs to draw out or enhance strengths, answers lie within the individuals or teams. One of the realities I find when coaching pastors and congregations is that the business of the church becomes such a part of life that the spiritual life of the pastor and congregation may take a back seat. The day-to-day business and “God talk” are so deeply intertwined, it happens without realization. This is why talking about spirituality is so important.
Just as leadership development is key, spirituality is another of the three things necessary for a church to grow. Spirituality begins as the foundation to our “why” we are the church—and why each person in the congregation believes in Christ as their Lord and Savior. I have yet to find a congregation that doesn’t “fit” into one of the seven churches of Revelations. The reason I find value in this knowledge is that Christ’s response to the challenges facing each church is to refocus our spiritual life—individually and collectively—back to our relationship with God. We (corporately) cannot make assumptions that church is more than habit. The spiritual “why” of every congregation must begin in the basic knowledge of the calling to ”make” disciples. Again, we cannot lead others until we learn to lead ourselves. Each individual in a congregation must have a relationship with God and must be in relationship with each other. God designed us to be in relationships. The depth and breadth of any one relationship will depend on each individual’s desire and willingness to be in that relationship. The personality or culture of a congregation is what “calls” each member or friend to be a part of the life of the congregation—in relationship with a congregation. This leads me to the third required element: hospitality.
Hospitality is more than friendliness and fellowship. Hospitality is how to invite people to worship. Hospitality is curb appeal. Hospitality is thinking about and knowing our community. Hospitality is building relationships beyond the friend groups and with those most like us. Most congregations have room to grow in areas of trust and abundance mindset—across the aisle in the churches, across the highways between congregations, and between pastoral leaders and the congregations.
It is through refocusing on these three main elements—Spirituality, Hospitality, and Leadership—that congregations will flourish. It is through the lens of these three things that our vision and goals for the future can be accurately identified and developed.
Challenges Facing Churches
There are many changes/transitions and challenges facing our rural and city churches—some of them are the same, and some are different. There are things in this world we, as a church, cannot control. What we can control is ourselves and our response to what is happening in our communities. Congregations need to know they are not the only ones facing a particular challenge. I have yet to walk into a congregation of any size where the main topics of conversation are not finances, youth, and getting members to show up. Congregations need to think creatively and abundantly. To do this, they need to identify choices and know there are solutions. They must embrace Leadership, Spirituality, and Hospitality.