Our investigation of Leadership on the Front Foot is moving into its final stages. The last section of Zac Veron's book on church leadership deals with strategic issues (see also parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5). There's enough here to spend a couple of posts on.
1. GATHER TOGETHER A CONVERTED LEADERSHIP TEAM
The first of Zac's long-term strategic principles is to gather a converted leadership team. Don't let the non-ministry minded—let alone the unconverted—set the agenda at church. Here Zac gives a brief but personal testimony about how he handled a ‘Mr Over My Dead Body’ in his parish.
Here is one place where Zac's theological colours come shining through. He believes preaching has great potential to set the ministry agenda at church—in particular, preaching the uniqueness and supremacy of Christ and the great solas we love here on this blog (faith alone, Christ alone and Scripture alone).
However, I would have liked to hear more from Zac on how to spot and gather the good guys for your converted leadership team, and in particular, how to play godly politics in your church where needed.
(I believe the idea that churches and leaders should avoid ‘politics’ is naive piety. Politics is simply the art of bringing influence to bear in the decision-making process; it's part of life in every organization. The only question is whether the politics will be honest and truthful or manipulative and misleading.)
2. LEADING A CHURCH THROUGH CHANGE REQUIRES RISK-TAKING AND THOUGHTFUL EXECUTION OF WELL-PLACED STRATEGIC INITIATIVES
Zac's next principle overall is that leading a church through change requires risk-taking and thoughtful execution of well-placed strategic initiatives. The urgency of the gospel means Zac does not want to muck around, and he challenges the idea that a young minister should wait 12 months in a new church before introducing change. Leaders lead, he says! Get on with it.
But his key sentence here is this:
Appropriate initiatives often get quick and positive results, which lead to increasing the trust in the new minister by church members, which in turn gives him the permission and confidence to make other necessary changes to achieve the mission that is on their hearts. (p. 134, my emphasis)
Pick your first changes well! Don't die too soon on the wrong hill. (See Zac's second operational principle, which is number 6 overall, about ministering to people where they are.)
But Zac also explains that you must accept that some new initiatives will fail.
The application guide suggests 13 steps to leading godly change. As an aside, I highly recommend John Kotter's classic article from the business world in the Harvard Business Review entitled, ‘Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail’. He wrote a whole book with the same title, but I found the article enough to grasp the ideas, and I did not come across any obvious theological objections to them. I see this article as a clear influence (but not the sole one) on the application guide, and it's certainly worth the few dollars Harvard Business charges to download it. (I guess cheapskates can Google and find someone else's summary of Kotter's article.)
3. EMPLOY AS MANY PEOPLE AS YOU CAN, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, AND 4. WAIT UNTIL YOU FIND THE RIGHT PERSON BEFORE FILLING A STAFF POSITION
The next strategic principles are complementary: employ as many people as you can as soon as possible, but wait until you have the right person before filling a staff position. Don't wait for all the money to be in the bank before employing an additional person to the church staff. But don't take the not-quite-right person either. In that case, it's better to wait.
The first of these staffing chapters mentions the importance of compatibility of ethos as well as the complementarity of gifts. We don't always just need another preacher like the pastor!
Zac gives his ministry trainee fundraising dinner tips for free here, but reckons he should charge us 20 per cent commission!
The second staffing chapter will be of great assistance to a senior pastor. Ensure you read it if you are hiring extra pastoral staff; each tip is gold. Buy the book for this because I won't tell you it all here.
But one interesting suggestion from Zac is not to give a detailed job description to applicants. I think I have been overly detailed and tight in this previously. But I certainly think it is still helpful to draft a job description, or perhaps a ‘person description with job options’, for your own clarity in the recruitment process.
Zac also want new staff to be in agreement with the church's mission and vision. I would add that it is crucial to ask applicants about their theology. I am amazed how many candidates I have interviewed who have told me I am the first potential employer to ask them rigorous questions about their convictions.
In addition, when you ask about their character and capabilities, ask them to be specific. Rather than ask, “Are you having your quiet times?”, ask instead, “What have you been reading in the Bible in the last fortnight?” Rather than “How is your evangelism going for you?”, ask, “With whom are you trying to share the gospel at present?”
We will finish looking at strategic issues in my next and last post.