To be an effective leader in pastoral ministry one’s disciplines should develop from within. Consequently, as a pastoral leader in ministry it is important to understand that individuals can positively and or negatively effect how one responds to the environment, the workplace, associates and to one’s self. Therefore, in order to understand what it takes to be a minister in today’s world one should develop their understanding of many insights in order to be effective. In doing so one might encounter a more holistic approach to what it means to be an effective leader, an authority in ministry. The Greek root of the word authority is translated as “the ability to enable one to grow.” Therefore, one ought to consider that a holistic approach as an authority in ministry leadership results in empowerment for all, creating independence, fostering creativity, unifying the commitment to reach goals and utilizing the knowledge and experience of the group.
This paper is no more than an insight into essential interests that a pastoral leader seeking a holistic approach to leadership with the intent to provide growth for his/her members as opposed to controlling and dominating them in today’s globalizing world. First, due to the paradigm shift from human resource development to principle-centered leadership the way in which we approach the concept of leadership needs to be addressed. The human resource development paradigm was formulated on competition and control. This set the groundwork for a hierarchical structure that permeated all facets of society. Leaders were the dominant roles in society.
In ministry the dominant players were the church authority, the Pope, cardinals, bishops, and priests. Further, this hierarchy resulted in the dominance over the uneducated, the poor, women and children within the church. The new paradigm, principle-centered leadership, fosters mutual shaping and symbiotic relationship between leaders and followers. It encourages shared responsibilities and an exchange of goals and values of all parties. Further, the integrity of the group extends beyond the leader through its members and the effects on society. For the church this perspective opens the door for the laity and more so for women of the church to be educated, recognized and involved in the goals of the church. The awareness of this paradigm shift is essential for all leaders in ministry to be effective in their work. This enables them to move beyond the Baltimore Catechism of ministry to embrace the works of Vatican II and contemporary theology.
Second, for leaders to be effective they must first be a servant to those they wish to lead. Robert K. Greenleaf author of Servant Leadership, states that “The servant-leader is servant first” (27). This idea is based on the premise that the leader wants to serve first. The key relationship here is between the leader and the people focusing on the “peoples highest priority needs.” Greenleaf portrays the servant leader as someone who leads within his/her own community but leads with the understanding of how their leadership influences all of humanity.
Servant leadership moves away from command and control toward individual participation from the leader. Leaders are held by an ethical and social responsibility to the community. It is within the community that values are shared by short and long-term goals and visions. Servant leadership is empowering for all involved. Responsibilities are shared due to the participation of the leader. It is easy to say then that a servant leader is effective because it is through their actions that they lead. It is by their word that they are seen. They are the Gospel that speaks to the community and by doing so their commitment to service of others extends globally.
For leaders in ministry it is not difficult to look to the life of Jesus as an example of true servant leadership. The Gospels eloquently express the true meaning of servant leadership. For example, the Gospels share stories of Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, breaking bread, healing the sick and respecting the poor. Jesus’ life was a ministry of servant leadership. As we are called to ministry it is imperative that we indulge in discipleship. Discipleship engages an individual to imitate the practices of Jesus. As one is called to discipleship he/she engages within the world as leaders who serve first and therefore lead righteously both ethically and morally. Furthermore, as servants we are always in the process of change and renewal and open to that change. Greenleaf eloquently states, “If one is servant, either leader or follower, one is always searching, listening, expecting that a better wheel for these times is in the making” (23).
Third, for leaders in ministry to be effective they must have an awareness and/or vision. A vision provides direction and purpose that is imperative to identify with. In creating a vision the vision is clarified by the mission statement. A mission statement is actively engaging the leader to be contributive toward society in a specific way. It propels an individual into making a statement about what one’s goals, purpose and principles are. A mission statement speaks of intent, commitment and the end results desired.
Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People suggests that in organizations “everyone should participate” and “to be effective, that statement (mission statement) has to come from the bowels of the organization” (139). According to Covey this fosters teamwork and honest relations between employees and management. In other words for leaders in ministry a mission statement should engage the people within the community. This would address the dis-ease of the community or unifying point. Without this type of focus ministers continue to treat symptoms and never achieve effective steps in ministry. Without a mission statement that yields the wisdom of the community a minister can lose sight of his/her vision and begin to care for individuals without direction and purpose.
Creating a mission statement is important. It creates a unity with the individual and/or the group. It confirms the vision, the purpose, the commitment, the reason and the solution. A mission statement reminds the participants of what they are trying to achieve. Establishing the grounds to proceed enables the participants to remain on task to success.
Fourth, for leaders in ministry to be effective they must be able to listen. Covey calls the art of listening “principles of empathic communication.” Covey encourages his readers to listen to understand and not to just reply. Empathetic listening enables the listener to “fully, deeply, understand that person, emotionally as well as intellectually” (240). For Covey listening involves your ears but more so it involves your eyes and your heart. Listening is engaging all five senses to be fully engaged with the speaker. In ministry empathic communication is essential to be effective. This form of communication strengthens the bond and creates an atmosphere of trust and honesty.
For leaders to be effective in ministry they must be able to effectively listen. This key element is essential in the art of communicating with others. First it is important that people feel like they are being heard. That someone is paying attention to them builds trust and commitment. Second listening is a skill that an individual can improve on. Thirdly, it is important that personal emotions and biases do not get in the way of listening effectively. One ought to question if listening is so important in the way humans communicate why are we not trained to listen effectively and with compassion for the speaker?
Just imagine if leadership within the Church practiced empathetic listening from the community. Can you visualize the importance this would be for women, minorities and the environment? You can even extend that to undeveloped countries, natural resources, the use of contraception and pluralistic viewpoints. The list does not stop there. The art of empathetic listening breaks the barrier a hierarchical structured society. It tears down the walls of ignorance and prejudice to open the mind and the heart of the listener to be humbled. It is there that humans can effectively relate and change the hierarchical structure to a co-determination mind shift.
This leads us to the fifth and last characteristic of an effective leader in ministry, the collaborative process. The most effective way to create an energizing resource of individuals is to engage them in the collaborative process. The collaborative process is designed to engage each participant equally. It creates an environment that is open, friendly, organized and creative. The collaborative process fosters communication, team-building, creativity, and empowerment for all participants. The process encourages respect for each person. In other words, each individual has the opportunity to speak to the group without being interrupted. This gives everyone an avenue to get their ideas across, to be able to effect changes and/or to voice their opinion on policies that should remain in place.
In ministry the relationship is much different from the traditional relationship where one is more influential than the other. In other words, in a traditional group setting there is a leader to the group who dominates over the participants. Once this relationship is dissolved the leader is seen as a facilitator and equal to the individual or the group. The collaborative process creates intimacy and a level of trust between all individuals. This allows for those who genuinely do not speak to express genuine ideas and concerns which in many cases are very productive to the resolution.
Furthermore, one not ought to question the importance of a leader to foster a holistic approach to leadership in ministry. Here the importance resides in the principle authoritative relationship between the leader and the followers. This relationship is then grounded “in the ability to enable someone to grow.” Therefore, the disciplines of the leader encourage the group to create, to be empowered, to engage in dialogue, to commit and to share equally experiences and knowledge.