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44 Lessons On Church Leadership
From Lyle Schaller:
A Compilation*

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 198

1. "If the discussion about the budget can be shifted from money to ministry, from economy to effectiveness, and from means to purpose, there may be no ceiling on what Christians will do to fulfill their calling."       
           Parish Planning,
p. 46

2. Members of self-renewing congregations who operate from a balanced sense of purpose 1) know who they are and where they are going; 2) are able to assimilate members by a deliberate, conscious and intentional effort; 3) are more sensitive and responsive to the contemporary needs of people 4) are less interest in continuing traditions, customs and old organizational structures; 5) they know and believe in what their church is doing; 6) expect to overcome crises, no matter how large; 7) have redundant communication--no secrets, and few disruptive surprises; 8) encourage discussion of differences; 9) are not overly dependent on any one leader; and 10) recognize that their church is merely one of many expressions of Christ’s church.
           Parish Planning, pp. 73-75.

3. "The probability of failure in an organization (system) decreases exponentially as redundancy factors [in communication] are increased."
          Parish Planning, p. 225.

4. "Innovation is basically the adding of something new, rather than the reform or replacement of an existing element…. The effective innovator, therefore, emphasizes that what he is proposing is change by addition, not change by alteration, or change by subtraction."
          Parish Planning, p. 86

5. "The effective innovator is the person who is willing to share the credit generously for successes, and to carry gracefully by himself the blame for the failures."
         Parish Planning, p. 87.

6. "[Do not] mistake politeness for agreement. People have a natural tendency to avoid disagreement or unpleasantness and nowhere is this more prevalent than in the local church."
        Parish Planning, p. 121.

7. "The greater the sense of mutual trust, the fewer the limitations on what a congregation can do. The greater the toleration of diversity, the larger the opportunities for ministry and for personal growth through study and response in service."
         Parish Planning, p. 156.

8. "Everyone naturally turns to look to the past for guidance. This is normal and natural, since a person knows the past with greater certainty than he knows the future."
        Parish Planning, p. 170.

9. "You really can’t begin to understand the gospel until you are called on to tell others about Jesus Christ."
        Parish Planning, p. 188

10. The higher the level of conflict, the greater the likelihood that one or both parties will resort to legalism and/or litigation.
        The Change Agent.

11. "In most congregations the internal reward system recognizes and expresses appreciation for the work of lay volunteers with adults, with youth, and with the administrative apparatus of the church. Persons who work with children, however, usually have very low visibility, tend to be overlooked, and are more likely to be awarded dead rats…rather than silver beavers."
        Effective Church Planning, p. 130.

12. Guilt can be induced in congregations by "unlimited tenure systems;" urging people to accept job they do not enjoy and do not want; motivating contributions, attendance and service by Law rather than Gospel; articulating vague goals, i.e. without stating who is responsible and the projected timetable for attainment of the goal; and using the phrase, "We ought to do more…."
       Effective Church Planning, pp. 150-1.

13. The fruits of motivating by pushing the ‘guilt’ button are deep and lasting hostility. Efforts to implement a legalistic approach to motivation appear to produce divisive and destructive conflict. By contrast, efforts to motivate people through an emphasis on a neighbor-centered, loving [Gospel-oriented] approach produces healthy fruits.
        Effective Church Planning, p. 160.

14. "As pastors move away from the old pattern of trying to live up to some idealized model of ministry…and begin to identify, affirm, and build on their own strengths, they tend to develop a leadership style that not only is compatible with a potentialities-based planning model, but they also begin to develop an aptitude for identifying, affirming, and building on the strengths and potentialities of individual members of the congregation."
        Effective Church Planning, p. 170.

15. Numerical growth in small churches happens 1) rarely; 2) reluctantly; 3) only by accepting significant changes; 4) when several members committing themselves to an ‘adopt-a-member’ strategy; 5) when smaller churches find themselves surrounded by a flood of newcomers…who ‘take over’ control of the church and change the style of congregational life; 6) by attracting a disproportionately large number of that three percent of the church population who move into a community and immediately become hard, faithful, and self-starting workers in the church; 7) by committing themselves to a serious study of the Bible with an emphasis on evangelism and discipleship; 8) when the church implements a multi-year ministry growth program which requires that the pastor’s tenure last at least five or six years to finish completely.
        Growing Plans, pp. 16-17.

16. "The greater the lay control in any size congregation, the less likely it is that the congregation will begin and maintain significant numerical growth."
        Growing Plans, p. 18.

17. "I have found no evident to suggest that the commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is any less among the members of the small-membership churches than it is among the members of rapidly growing churches. They may be some difference in how members of different churches express their Christian commitment, but that is a different subject from the depth of commitment."
        Growing Plans, p. 21.

18. "From the days of the New Testament churches to today, orthodox Christianity has experienced great difficulty in reaching and including in worshiping congregations people who have no hope for tomorrow."
        It’s a Different World, p. 39.

19. "Professionals in the church tend to think in terms of functional categories, while the laity often conceptualize reality in terms of relationships."
       Activating The Passive Church, p. 20.

20. When a congregation’s governing body drifts into a permission-withholding stance when new ideas, ministries and programs are proposed, this tends to inhibit the creativity of the members, halt the flow of creative ideas, and encourage passivity.
     Activating The Passive Church, p. 48.

21. "Looking backward and second-guessing the past…tends to be one of the most fertile sources of passivity."
       Activating The Passive Church, p. 49.

22. "Polity and size are the two most influential factors in shaping the role of the pastor and the relationship between the minister and the lay leaders."
       Activating The Passive Church, p. 32.

23. The best place to begin when re-defining a congregation’s role relative to the community is, "Who are the people who are largely overlooked or ignored y the other churches in this community whom God is calling us to reach with the good news?"
       Activating The Passive Church, p. 95.

24. New members are perceived as threats by existing long-term members; perceived as irresponsible; tend to be disproportionately represented in large numbers in ministries; are "assimilated by works"; are less tied to the past; generally more creative and enthusiastic about the congregation and its projects; are often the best evangelists; most aware of the needs the church’s ministry meets; tend to be the best source of leaders for new small face-to-face groups; should be most disproportionately represented on the pastoral support committee since they are most supportive of the pastor.
        Activating The Passive Church, p. 130

25. "In general, every pastor should view that group of new members as 9a) persons with spiritual and personal needs that must be identified, surfaced, and met, (b) creative allies in combating passivity, and (c) potential members of a support group for the minister."
        Activating The Passive Church, p. 130.

26. "Since the first year of a new pastorate is the critical period in combating passivity in a congregation….the evidence strongly suggests that in the majority of cases the newly arrived ministry should accept a more active leadership role…..The most common exception is the severely divided congregation [or the sudden termination of the predecessor]."
        Activating The Passive Church, pp. 132-134.

27. An intentional strategy for the first year of ministry in a passive congregation emphasizes 1) discipleship intentionality; 2) that leaders, including the pastor, lead, 3) the initial months of ministry set expectations of what members can expect over the tenure of the pastor; 4) the pastor is not one who has brought a program with him and will implement it (by himself) for the passive congregation; and 5) that the pastor’s role is to cause things to happen not "doing it."
        Activating The Passive Church, pp. 135-136.

28. The results of pastors who successfully concentrate on the weakness of a congregation include: 1) congregational admiration of the members for the pastor’s work; 2) blaming the predecessor for congregational short-comings; 3) increased congregational flattery for the pastor given in direct proportion to the increased congregational passivity; 4) increased aging and alienation of leaders; 5) burnt-out pastors who, each year, must exceed the previous year’s accomplishments; 6) increasing members’ conviction that getting the "right minister" is the secret to building a strong church; and 7) placing a heavy burden on the next minister who will be expected to top that act.
        Activating The Passive Church, pp. 137-138.

29. "The best strategy for the new ministry facing a passive congregation is to identify, affirm, and build on the complementary strengths of both the pastor and the congregation."
        Activating The Passive Church, p. 139.

30. "The longer the median tenure of the members, (a) the more difficult it is for a recently arrived minister to win the allegiance of the members, (b) the easier it is to launch a movement to seek the pastor’s resignation, (c) the higher the level of financial support by the members, especially in emergencies, (d) the greater the probability that the membership roster includes the names of several alienated and angry older ex-leaders who are dissatisfied with today’s state of affairs, (e) the stronger the resistance to change, (f) the less likely that the congregation will be able to reach, attract and assimilate new members, (g) the stronger the attachment to that meeting place; and (h) the more likely the congregation will display several of the characteristics of passivity…."
          Activating The Passive Church, p. 28.

31. "One of the most effective means of undermining the trust level within a congregation, of lowering morale, of increasing passivity, and of creating disharmony is to create a situation that causes members to believe they cannot trust the financial accountability system of that parish….Once something has happened to create this distrust, the best response is full disclosure."
          Activating The Passive Church, p. 111.

32. First-born children tend to be conscientious, task-oriented, persisted, serious, high achievers and are drawn to senior pastorates in "statistically disproportionately large numbers. Middle-born children tend to be more person-centered, relaxed, and diplomatic. Last-borns tend to be relaxed, casual in dress and appearance, light-hearted, able to concentrate on those tasks which concern them, willing to accept a sub-ordinate position, and often express great interest in change.
         The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, p. 101.

33. "The clearer the expectation [for ministry staff] of this distinction between ‘doing it’ and ‘causing it to happen,’ the better the quality of staff morale and relationships."
         The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, p. 101.

34. A key difference between senior pastors and associate pastors is that, among other things, an associate pastor must often be burdened with the sense that he must be perceived as "good enough" to get promoted to the senior pastorate. The weight of tenure, the impact of titles and rank, age, varying degrees of experience, lay expectations, the origins of the associate pastor position in that congregation all play a major role in shaping the associate pastor position.
           The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, pp. 126ff.

35. The least happy staff arrangements "tend to be those that include two or more first-born staff members or an only-born senior ministry and an only-born associate….The happiest staff combinations tend to be those that include a middle-born senior minister and a middle-born associate minister….The most relaxed and the least competitive staff teams include a last-born senior pastors and a last-born associate minister….The most effective ministerial teams tend to be composed of a middle-born senior minister and a first-born associate."
           The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, p. 102.

36. "The larger the congregation, the more important it is to build a staff that complements and reinforces the priorities of the senior minister."
           The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, p. 81.

37. "In the smaller congregations the role of the patriarch, or tribal chief, usually is filled by an older lay person. The minister is the visit medicine man. Tribal identity is in the laity, not in the pastor. By contrast, in congregations with a multiple staff, and especially the huge and mini-denomination size churches, the role of the tribal chief is filled by the senior ministry. Frequently the corporate identity of the very large church is in the personality of the senior ministry who has served that congregation for a decade or longer."
           The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, p. 41.

38. "The larger the congregation, the more vulnerable that church is to an inappropriate match of pastor and people."
           The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, p. 25.

39. "The larger the congregation, the greater the expectations that institution placed on the senior minister to be the initiating leader."
           The Multiple Staff and the Larger Church, p. 19.

40. "The ability to understand, accept and enjoy the ambiguity may be one of the most important characteristics of the happy and effective pastor of the middle-sized congregation."
           The Middle-Sized Church, p. 17.

41. "In the best of…churches…leaders have created, sometimes over a period of several generations, a rich tapestry of symbols, parables, folk sayings, favorite expressions, beliefs, legends, stories, rituals, customs, and festivals which reinforce the feeling that indeed this is a unique congregation. By contrast, the weak churches are swathed in layers of gray cloth—ready for their funeral. The congregational culture gives meaning to life for many of the members."
           The Middle-Sized Church, p. 30

42. The greatest measurable difference that distinguishes congregations is whether they are accumulating capital or living off the accumulated capital.
           The Middle-Sized Church, p. 33.

43. "Don’t Be The First Associate! Be The Third!"
           Survival Tactics in the Church, Chapter 6, pp. 166ff.

44. "Very few chapters in an effective pastorate extend beyond three or four years."
           Survival Tactics in the Church
, p. 29.

* All of the works referred to above have been published by Abingdon Press, Nashville, Tennessee. Items not in quotations are compilations of Schaller material from the resource cited.

Topical Index    Articles 1-49    Articles 50-99   Articles 100-149   Articles 150-199   
 Articles 200-249    Articles 250-299   Articles 300-349   Articles 350-399 

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:01 PM