Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Leaders Who Last

Rowland Croucher has placed a review of this book by Margaret J. Marcuson on Facebook. What follows is just a part of the review.

Here’s one of the best little (150 pages) books on pastoral leadership with an American mainline church /Alban Institute flavour to emerge in the last decade.

They say every sermon/book should be summarizable in one sentence. Here’s mine for this one: ‘Your pastoral leadership style/conflicts can’t be understood apart from your family-of-origin experiences; so be patient: most changes in a pastor’s approach and a congregation’s responsiveness will take time and sensitivity to that church’s history as well.’

Margaret’s a Baptist, but as a non-fundamentalist Baptist myself, I hasten to add that the people she quotes and the ideas she espouses indicate that she’s a ‘broad church Baptist’ (yes, some of us do actually exist!).

Some of her (and her professional friends’) wisdom:

• When we are less dependent on the approval of others we can be more effective in our ministry (p. 6)

• Carrying other people, until we can’t do it any longer, is the real source of burnout, not overwork (11). We can be the most help by giving people space to find creative solutions to their own struggles (17). Identify who in your family you were trained to rescue so as not to mistake legitimate professional helping with illegitimate family rescuing – which is inevitably tied to unhealthy ways of trying to feel good about oneself (18-19).

• Many clergy are oldest children: they learn early to over-function in relation to others, to take responsibility for them (34-5). Of course not all that we learnt from our families is negative. Ask: ‘What gifts did your parents give you?’ (36). An initial step in looking at our family story is to create a family genogram (37). And remember: the problems with parents is that they had parents (46).

• Clarifying your vocation: Where do I want to go? What energizes me? What future possibilities do I see? What legacy do I want to leave? Do I know what I love to do? Can I do more of it? What was my original thinking in going into ministry? If I had to write down my ministry purpose in one sentence right this minute, what would I say? (73).

• The person who desperately wants to be liked is never the most popular; the leader who desperately wants others to follow is not the most effective (76)

• Teresa of Avila’s daily prayer: ‘Let nothing disturb you, nothing frighten you; all things are passing, God never changes. Patient endurance attains to all things; who God possesses in nothing is wanting; alone God suffices’ (110).

The excellent final chapter on personal spiritual disciplines includes such classical wisdom as: worship in different places and traditions, go outside, find a spiritual mentor, read Scripture devotionally, not just for your sermon preparation.

At the end of each chapter are some very helpful discussion-starters. The ten questions to ask about your church’s history are brilliant (32). I’d suggest this book as an excellent resource for your pastoral colleagues’ support-group.
Alban Institute 2009


Margaret Marcuson said...

Thanks for posting this review, Mike! My hope was to write a book that pastors would actually read, not just think they ought to read.

Mike Crowl said...

Well, we'll do our little best to promote it for you! Thanks for your comment.

Hyldgaard said...

Good post.


Mike Crowl said...

Thank you too for your comment.