The Care and Feeding of Leaders
I learned the hard way that church leaders need personalized care.
—Roy C. Price
I've just gone through one of the most painful periods in my pastoral experience. It revolved around my relationship with one man. From the first time I met him, things were strained. A former leader in our church, he lived in another state for a few years and then returned to his position on the board. In the interim, I had come to the church as pastor.
Early on I sensed negative vibrations from this person. About the same time I began to initiate monthly luncheons with each board member, but he wouldn't meet with me. The end result was that he left the church. Although I leave the matter with God, I'm convinced that had I begun meeting individually with my board earlier, it would have made a difference. I learned the hard way that church leaders need personalized care.
The Power of Personal Influence
"It's so simple! Why didn't I do this before?" I exclaimed to my wife after having lunch with one of my board members. The need for better communication with the board had been apparent, but I hadn't been sure how to go about it.
After considering several options, I had decided to begin having regular luncheons or breakfasts with them individually. No agenda. No pressure. We talked about their areas of responsibility and prayed together. I came away knowing my leaders better, sensing their concerns about the church and about their own lives.
About the same time I read a comment by Richard Halverson: "Whether a pastor is starting a new church or beginning his ministry in an established one, he will find Jesus' fundamental strategy of personally training individual leaders to be the key for a strong, healthy church with an effective outreach."
That made sense to me. In a way, I had always believed it, but I had allowed this productive idea to get squeezed out of my calendar. I rationalized that the leaders were too busy with their jobs and families to spend time with me. But the truth was, I was allowing myself to be swamped with the immediate and had lost my priorities.
Not long ago I had a chance to ask Dr. Halverson a question: "What do you do when you can't get along with a board member?"
"I had such a man on my board once," he recalled. "He was very strong, with definite convictions about everything. He had the kind of wisdom that comes more from experience than from education. We clashed.
"But after many struggles, we came to have a very close relationship. I could go confidently to him and get the support I needed.
"How did this happen? I've learned through the years that struggle deepens intimacy. The approach I've used when having difficulty with a brother is to love him, submit to him, and pray much."
Donald Bubna, pastor-at-large for the Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, tells of a persistently strained relationship with a church leader that began shortly after he arrived at a church in the early '60s. "We had radically different personalities. It strained our ...