If this is the first post you’re visiting on my missional journey, feel free to start at the beginning here
My travels through Europe continued to be fun and interesting. I was able to stay in Europe for a month until the Christian Associates (CA) church planters assessment course. This gave me an opportunity to observe things at the CA church plant in Holland. It wasn’t until years later that I would be able to appreciate the themes of shared leadership that I saw modeled and supported at that small church plant.
One of the biggest surprises and notable differences at the church plant of 200 was how the senior pastor shared the pulpit with his other 3 staff members. He was clearly the better speaker yet only spoke around 50% of the time. While the senior pastor maintained a lead presence and would often do announcements when not preaching, his lack of pulpit presence frustrated me at the time. From my North American perspective having the better speaker teach all the time would be a practical application of specialization and would likely develop larger crowds and support a better Sunday event. In the US it is an approach often used to centralize leadership in the non-denominational church settings.
The different approach at this church plant however was intentional. While the senior pastor led in orchestrating harmony, he considered the team leading as a collective. Years later I would see the value and wisdom of share leadership and a shared pulpit from the missional engagement perspective: he would be freer to be involved in making connections, support existing connections, and further build community. Also, (and I didn’t realize it until years later, but) speaking every week takes a lot of energy and can be draining on the spiritual life of a Pastor.
For someone to be on stage all the time would smack of American popularism and would be counter cultural and counter productive especially to the Dutch culture. There is so much visibility that pastor worship often occurs in the US – a very negative thing in Europe. Instead of all the staff sitting looking to the pastor, a mutual sharing and practice of gifts was modeled for the community. I only wish I had perceived the benefit at the time.
The value of shared leadership also existed in the planters assessment course. The course was very informative and helpful and insightful. I shared some of the challenges I experienced with other leaders with whom I had worked in the US. The coach’s response was very balanced. ‘If you join CA we would want to you express your different ideas and views, but we’d also hope you can allow them to be molded and modified and adapted or delayed. We’d need you to hold those ideas loosely.’ This was a healthy and balanced perspective to be involved and contributing yet not dominant and controlling. That sort of shared leadership is rare in most ministry settings that I’m familiar with in North America. It would be something I would only remember several years later after leaving ministry. I wish I had understood its wisdom earlier.
Live it Out:
What examples have you encountered of shared leadership? What do you think it would look like? What makes shared leadership difficult? What are advantages to it? Why do you think shared leadership is important when thinking about and discussing missional initiatives? What are ways that you exercise shared leadership with your friends and or spouse?