Last week, I was blessed by a conference on Stewardship Leadership where Peter Steinke. Peter wrote Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What. It was one of the top ten books in 2006.
Rev. Dr. Peter Steinke is a Lutheran pastor from Austin, Texas. He has served as a parish pastor for fifteen years, as a therapist for clergy for fourteen years, and a consultant to congregations for ten years. Viewing churches as living, breathing organisms, Steinke evaluates the health of a congregation using family-systems theory.
The subject matter for the days I spent with Dr. Steinke was how to navigate the anxious times we face in the church in the present age.
The triggers for anxiety are many. However, the most prevalent trigger is that any process of change in the church is not succeeding because clergy cannot lead the process. My experience is that the pastor is not alone in the inability to lead the process; church leaders are equally unequipped to enter into the change process.
Dr. Steinke spent a lot of time providing insights about leading in anxious systems. His formula for describing the current situation was HE=RO. The Hostility of the Environment is proportional to the Response of the Organization. When we react we don’t have control over ourselves but when we choose our behaviors we can retain control over our actions.
When asked what was needed to relieve the anxiety in the church today his response was one word – HOPE. The pastor must have hope otherwise church leaders and church members will not have hope. If the church leadership does not believe that a church can become revitalized the members will never believe that there is hope for renewal.
As Christians are we not people of promise and hope? Sometimes it is difficult to see hope at play in our congregations. At times it is difficult to see hopefulness in pastors and church leaders.
My experience is that transformation toward health in our churches is dependent on just a few things:
- Leaders having a clear idea about where they want to go
- A clear mission or understanding of the purpose of the church
- The ability to take some bumps and bruises but to always keep their eyes on the goal
- Leaders with patience
- Recognition that it is not about us but about serving Christ
- Leaders must never be as anxious as the people they serve