Today is the final installment in our series on Zac Veron's Leadership on the Front Foot and deals with his last thoughts on strategic issues for church leaders (see also parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6). Let me encourage you to go out and buy the book; it is worth your while.
5. WORK WITHIN YOUR DENOMINATIONAL LAWS TO APPOINT RATHER THAN ELECT PEOPLE TO CERTAIN POSITIONS OF LEADERSHIP WITHIN THE CHURCH
As far as it's within the bounds of denominational law, you should appoint, rather than elect your church leaders. Zac waits till the end of this chapter before asserting that “Appointing rather than electing people to leadership in the church was practised in the New Testament churches” (p. 161).
And contrary to Mark Dever's congregationalism, which suggests that the congregation has the final say on the appointment of elders, I agree with Zac that in the New Testament, elders are only ever appointed by existing leaders like Paul, Titus or Timothy, or by implication, the existing body of elders. See Acts 14:23 and Titus 1:5 (and compare with 1 Tim 3:1, 4:14, 5:19, and note also Acts 15—especially verses 6, 22 and 16:4, where it's the apostles and elders who decide, rather than congregational vote). We only see congregational decisions for the appointment of those to ‘deacon’ (serve) at tables in Acts 6:3-6 and as a final court of church discipline (Matt 18:17, 1 Cor 5:4-5). Once again, the application guide provides more of the biblical data than the chapter proper.
The application of this in Anglican circles, at least, is somewhat more problematic—although Zac is technically correct with his radical suggestion about parish councils and the frequency of meetings required. I guess it only requires the courage of that conviction to give it a whirl. In the Anglican system in our diocese, it seems one could certainly appoint a council of lay elders with whom you voluntarily shared your eldership responsibility if you wished, while the parish council retained their responsibility for property and finances!
6. DEVELOP YOUR STRATEGIC MINISTRY PLAN WITH THE CORE LEADERS IN EACH OF YOUR CHURCH'S AFFINITY GROUPS
Next, Zac suggests you should develop your strategic ministry plan with the core leaders in each of your church's affinity groups, rather than doing it alone and then presenting it to the church.
Zac rightly uses Proverbs to establish the importance of listening to advice and care in planning. There are some suggestions about strategic planning and vision, and there are five steps towards this goal in the application guide. I would recommend finding something more substantial to read if you want to explore this area.
Notably, the larger question of whether the business language of strategic planning, mission and vision and so on is appropriate in the church is not explored. It also leaves open the question of whether such planning is really primarily an eldership function.
However, the point of this chapter is to encourage collegial planning and to seek wide ownership of plans. This Proverbs-based wisdom makes plenty of sense to me in practice!
7. BUDGET TO EXPAND YOUR MINISTRY EVERY YEAR
Zac's final point in dealing with money matters is that you must budget to expand your ministries every year. Don't let last year's offertory dictate the ceiling for next year's ambitions. I loved this quote: “The offertory cart must follow the ministry horse” (p. 178).
I have found this to be good, general advice, although I think growing churches occasionally need a year where they pause a little bit in terms of financial stretching to catch their breaths. But I guess that just shows I'm not really a visionary entrepreneur!
8. AS YOU GROW LARGER, YOU MUST GROW SMALLER
The second last principle says that as you grow larger, you must grow smaller. This is a chapter about the importance of small groups for prayer, Bible study and care. Zac insists on the advice you may have heard before—that small groups should be changed every year or two. He gives some pretty strong benefits that flow from such a policy, and the application guide presents some good suggestions on how to implement this change.
One again, I was challenged to think that perhaps this is a change that, although often resisted, should be explored more vigorously in the church I serve.
I would add that there are some clear cases where it would not be appropriate. For example, I think of the Bible study in a local retirement village where most member are well over 70, and where it would be completely inappropriate, not to mention unrealistic, to close it down and suggest they attend different groups every year.
9. BACK YOURSELF
The last principle is back yourself: go for the godly dream. This has been the theme of the whole book, really: have the courage of your leadership convictions. Don't die wondering, because strong leaders never give up.
Once again, I am glad the application guide adds this proviso:
Pragmatic principles in church mean nothing if they are not theologically formed, and as such the hope is that you will be a theologically-principled pragmatist. (p. 193)
I think that's a pretty good place to complete this set of posts.
Thanks, Zac, for sharing your convictions about leadership. I've been stretched and challenged. God-willing, I think there'll be some changes in my leadership as a result. But I want them to be theologically formed.