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Lesson 8: Quality Leadership

Our churches will be transformed when we place competent leaders in leadership positions and quality teachers in teaching positions. Spiritual gift inventories and assessments are valuable tools in helping people recognize their God given abilities. Sometimes it is better to leave a position unfilled or cancel a ministry rather than put an unqualified person in or do a ministry poorly. In 30 years of ministry, I have seen a lot of square pegs in round holes.

Training is a major responsibility of religious education.

One method of teacher training is the “master teacher” concept. This is where an experienced teacher communicates key essentials to others. This can be done in short-term seminar style sessions.

A second method is providing opportunity for teachers and leaders to attend conferences and seminars, watch videos, and read books. These training tools do not have to be religious in nature.

Some of the best leadership materials I read and listen to are secular. I have subscribed to a monthly CD series from Nightingale-Conant for 10 years. This organization produces its materials for secular executives in leadership and management. I recently attended a one-day seminar on Conflict Management by Richard Pryor. I was the only person there from a religious organization. I read three books at a time. One is a commentary, another is in theology, and a third is in leadership and administration. The leadership and administration is usually a secular text.

Part of my responsibility as Executive Director of Palm Lake Baptist Association was to provide training to our church’s staff and members. I am always amazed at how few people show up at training that will directly help their church to grow. One pastor told me, “I know enough. I can’t implement everything I already know. I don’t need to learn anything new.”

His church has gone from 154 to 45 in two years. I could have told him why.

A third method of leadership training is the apprentice method. A prospective teacher or leader should spend time observing and questioning a quality teacher or leader within the area of his interest. After the prospective teacher is ready and qualified to lead his /her own class, new apprentices should be assigned to each of the two teachers. We should always be training people to multiply the ministry. This mentor relationship may continue even after the apprentice has his or her own class.

Maintaining quality leaders in the church is hard. It is a constant struggle. Bad leaders want to stay in place. Good leaders grow weary and want to rest or move on. Asking someone in a leadership position to “step down” is next to impossible. Even if they are incompetent it is dangerous to “fire” a volunteer leader. It is usually the paid staff member who “steps down” rather than the church member. It is a lot easier to recruit and train members to be good leaders than it is to remove a “thorn in the flesh” want-a-be who thinks he/she is Moses.

If you have an incompetent leader in place, it is sometimes best to work around them. For example, I was in a church where a ladies class had five members. The teacher had been in the church 40 years. She had been teaching this class 35 years. She was old and boring. The class had not grown in more years than anyone could remember. The five members were loyal to the teacher. There were only six chairs in the room. We created a new women’s class led by a new teacher using a different set of literature. We did not disturb the existing class. Within a year, the new class had 16 in attendance. The other class had four and the teacher. One member had died.

For to long, the church has settled for who ever they can find to fill positions. The focus on quality requires commitment of time and resources.

Role of the Pastor in Religious Education
Church members must be guided, protected, and nourished in order to grow. The pastor plays a major part in this process.

Tidwell lists “four basic tasks for pastoral ministry”. 1. Lead the church in the accomplishment of its mission. 2. Proclaim the Gospel to believers and unbelievers. 3. Care for the church’s members and other persons in the community. 4. Interpret and under gird the work of the church and the denomination.”

Effective pastoral ministry cannot end with proclamation. The pastor must lead the church in meeting spiritual, emotional, and physical needs. He is not a “one man show”. The pastor of even the smallest church cannot do everything. He must inspire others to be the “hands, feet, and mouth of Christ”. One of the biblical qualifications for one who aspires to the office of pastor is to be “able to teach” (I Timothy 3:2)

The pastor should “enable” others to express their God given talents for the benefit of the kingdom. By publicly supporting the educational programs of the church, the pastor encourages other to take advantage of training opportunities.