Leading the Smaller Congregation – Part 5

Let’s continue our discussion of leading the smaller congregation by looking at the way smaller church leaders differ from those who lead larger congregations.

In the larger church, task-driven leaders are greatly needed. These focused leaders know how to rally people to a cause and they produce results. Quite simply, that challenge demands a leader who gets things done. Another type of leader in the larger setting is one who knows how to motivate people for great impact. These leaders can stand before masses of people and point the way to achieving great goals.

In the smaller church, however, these types of leaders are often frustrated. Things don’t move as quickly, there aren’t large numbers of people that can achieve rapid impact, and often there aren’t sufficient resources to tackle a sizeable list of tasks. There are still plenty of opportunities and a great need for effective leaders—but leaders with a different focus and capacity.

In the smaller setting, leaders must be more relationally-focused. Their task is just as critical, and often more difficult, as they must help a congregation navigate the path of needed change at a pace the smaller setting can manage. In these smaller places, leaders are more accessible to the people and can be more easily steered off course, so these leaders must not only have a good plan, they must possess the ability to stay focused, even when the pace at which they can move must slow significantly. Leaders of smaller churches make a deep commitment to the people they serve. For them, the Church is a group of individuals that they know well, rather than an organization they lead for the collective benefit of a larger group.

In the smaller church, people tend to transition in and out a lot less than in the larger church. So the leader must be able to manage the ups and downs of relationships that often continue in the presence of confict.

For these, and other reasons, the most effective form of leadership in the smaller church is a form of team leadership that doesn’t call for more aggressive leadership styles. As we saw in Part 2 of this series, the “S” and “C” leadership personalities from the DISC profile are the most common among smaller church pastors. These leaders are typically more effective at leading though relationships rather than leading by rallying the troops from the podium.

So, a leadership approach that finds the leader more often with a group around the table rather than standing alone before the people works best. These leaders build influence through relationships and can benefit from the leadership gifts of others on their team.

In Part 6, we’ll look at how to more reasons why team leadership is essential in the smaller church and how to lead such a team most effectively.

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