More Leadership Training Leads to Less Conflict

Michael DuduitLeadership Leave a Comment

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A pastor friend was telling me about his arrival at his first church after seminary. In school, he was a stellar student, making A’s regularly, writing brilliant theological essays, and learning to parse Greek verbs like a native.

But then he was called to that first pastorate. Upon arrival, he recalls sitting in the pastor’s study in those first moments, looking around, and wondering: now what do I do? He was well-trained to be an excellent theological student, but nowhere in his education did anyone ever equip him to be a leader.

Unfortunately, that’s the rule rather than the exception. Too often we train future pastors well in the classic theological disciplines, as we should, but offer little in the way of preparation for the leadership and management roles that will consume much of their time and attention as pastors. It’s no wonder that half of all new pastors are out of ministry completely within five years of graduation.

Leadership training is the missing ingredient of most theological education, and both churches and pastors pay the price. Our colleges, seminaries and divinity schools do an excellent job of providing ministers with solid grounding in biblical studies and theology, but there is a desperate need for more training in leadership.

A recent survey by the South Carolina Baptist Convention shows that the top four reasons for forced termination of Baptist pastors in this state are all leadership related. According to the 2009 survey, the top factors contributing to pastor terminations were control issues, pastoral leadership considered too weak, pastoral leadership considered too strong, and a church’s resistance to change. Doctrinal conflict and moral failure were far below leadership factors in the list.

Such conflicts between pastor and church often arise because new pastors and other ministers lack basic understanding of organizational leadership. They’ve never been taught the dynamics of how churches work, how to work with volunteers and lay leaders, how to guide a church through change, how to cast and nurture vision, and on it goes.

This urgent need for leadership training was a driving factor in the development of our Master of Ministry (M.Min.) program at Anderson University two years ago which offers nearly 20 percent of the degree in this important area. Students learn basic leadership principles, study church polity and structure, learn about working with staff, volunteers and lay leaders, study how to manage change in an organization, learn about conflict resolution, and study how to shape and cast vision within the church. We want our graduates to understand how churches work and what it means to lead effectively.

One of the great needs of theological education in the 21st century is this missing ingredient of leadership training. We will continue to spill too much blood and waste too many Kingdom resources until we teach our leaders how to lead.

Dr. Michael Duduit is Dean of the College of Christian Studies at Anderson University in Anderson, SC. He is founder and Executive Editor of Preaching magazine, writes a newsletter for nearly 30,000 pastors and church leaders, and directs the National Conference on Preaching.

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