"Team, Leaders, and Congregation" (Chapter 7)Subscribe
Callahan says some significant things about pastoral leadership in a small church setting that run counter to a lot of what we hear about church leadership. I was struck by a comment made by a church member to Callahan about the pastor: "He is one of us. He helps us discover what we do best." This is not the role of the pastor having the knowledge and vision and the congregation learning and getting on board. Rather, it's akin to the leadership approach described by Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk in "The Missional Leader." The role of the leader is to cultivate an enviornment in which the people of God find their place as a community in the mission God has given them. I was intrigued by Callahan's list of the primary competencies of pastors in a small church setting: a good shepherd, a helpful preacher, a wise, caring leader, and a community pastor. In these settings effective pastors learn to love, listen, learn, and then.
The leadership style advocated here necessitates long leadership, providing the time needed to develop a relational network and mutual trust. As I was getting close close to being called as the pastor of a small church, one of the Elders provided hospitality overnight for my wife and me on the interview weekend. He asked some pointed questions trying to discover if this would be a long pastorate or not. If not, he didn't want to invest time in the relationship. Pastoral leadership in a small church means relational leadership, committed for the long term. Anthony Pappas writes, "One of the worst things to befall the small church is revolving-door leadership, especially pastoral. . . . Abrupt or frequent transitions ensure that all available energy will be expended in adjustment and recovery, leaving precious little for mission, evangelism, discipleship, and growth." (Entering the World of the Small Church, 2000, The Alban Institute, p. 9)
Lengthy stays in small church pastorates are not the norm. A study by the Southern Baptist Covention (Ellison Research 2005) puts the average stay for pastors in congregations under 100 in attendance at 7.2 years compared to 8.7 years in larger churches. From a sampling of 33 pastors of EPC small churches, it's about the same in our ranks. The financial realities can make it tough to stay in smaller settings. My wife and I could made ends in a small church setting because she was employed as a teacher. I remember reading a study saying that a key predictor for a pastor staying for a long time in a small church is the satisfaction in the spouse's own employment. (I've lost track of where I read this - if any of you know the reference, let me know.) As I look at what I've written I have to confess that I did not practice what I've been preaching. I was in a small church setting for a year less than the average. It was painful to watch the church I left stop growing, lose members and energy and eventually dissolve. The story is too involved and the questions too many for this venue, but I haven't been immune from all the "what if" questions. What if it had been a long pastorate?
Add your comments
What do you think of Callahan's list of competencies for a pastor of a small, strong congregation?
Callahan says, "One of the advantages small, strong congregations offer is the ability for people to participate--whether children, youths, or adults--in the whole of the congregation, not just the parts" (p. 192). This seems contrary to what many visitors indicate they are looking for - good programming for their children. What do you think?