Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

Recent books provide road maps to leadership development


By Derrek Belase

Lisa Greenwood, vice president for leadership at the Texas Methodist Foundation, is fond of saying, that growing organizations need management, and declining organizations need leadership. This moment in time for the church, unfortunately, is a time of decline. It is a time which calls for leadership.

In our local churches, the task of leadership development is ambiguous at best. While the Committee of Nominations and Leadership Development is given this responsibility, the group often only meets once per year, and that is to elect new officers for the coming year. Little intentional thought or attention is paid to developing and nurturing new leaders as well as training those who are currently in leadership.

According to an article on the Discipleship Ministries website, “An effective committee on nominations and leader development identifies, develops, deploys, evaluates and monitors Christian spiritual leadership so that the congregation carries out the ministries for transformation of the community.”

Now, people might ask, “How does this happen?” or “What resources are available to assist my local church in doing this task?” Two recent publications provide roadmaps and pathways for churches of all sizes.

The four authors – two lay and two clergy – have tremendous experience in both secular and religious leadership. Today, all serve in conference positions throughout the U.S. In these books, they apply their vast experiences to the church today.

Church Ecology: Creating a Leadership Pathway for Your Church by Ken Willard and Kelly Brown uses the scientific term ecology as a metaphor for their work. They write, “An ecosystem is a community of living and nonliving components and their various types of relationships interacting as a system for life. (The church) is an interconnected community of people working and serving together as a system for life.”

Every chapter is filled with practical examples from churches with which they have worked, and each chapter concludes with reflective questions to contextualize the work to your setting as well as a prayer.

Grounded in a deep spirituality, the authors write that the concluding prayer “is our way of praying for you and your ministry on this journey to create a leadership development process in your church.”

Important topics such as coaching, covenants, leadership structures as well as approaches to leadership are covered in the nine chapters. They also include a chapter on leadership in the small membership church, an important inclusion for a denomination made up of so many small and rural churches.

Kay Kotan and Phil Schroeder provide readers with a practical, step by step leadership development tool in Launching Leaders: Taking leadership development to new heights.

Using the analogy of developing leaders to learn how to fly, along with a bit of alliteration, they lead a journey through the H’s: helpful communication, holy conversation, healthy conflict, healing candor, humbled confidence and hope-filled collaboration. Along the way, readers will be delighted to learn more about Orville and Wilbur Wright as their first-in-flight experiences provide helpful comparisons.

The first half of the book explores these six concepts (the authors call them “traits and practices of spiritual leaders”), and the second half of the book is a user’s guide for pastors or other leaders to engage church members in a six-week leadership development class.

About the six-week class, the authors reflect, “With this intentional leadership development process, we are hoping to introduce a culture of leadership development.”

Both books are published by Market Square, a relatively new imprint which focuses on effective tools for effective ministry. I highly recommend either of them or maybe both. You will not be disappointed in what you learn, and immediate application is possible for a variety of ministry contexts.


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