by Cynthia Woolever
Most church members report a high level of satisfaction with their church’s current leadership. In fact, only a very small number—3%—stated that they believed their pastor and congregation are not a match. That’s encouraging news for churches facing one of the most daunting decisions a congregation can make: finding the right pastor. In Leadership that Fits Your Church: What Kind of Pastor for What Kind of Congregation (Chalice Press, $19.99 paper, November 2012), Deborah Bruce and I (coauthors) offer insights into making a successful match.
The book is based on findings from the U.S. Congregational Life Survey (USCLS). The survey, funded by grants from Lilly Endowment, Inc. and the Louisville Institute, records the views of more than half a million people who regularly participate in worship. In addition, one key pastoral leader in each church responded to a survey about their ministry tasks, job satisfaction, sources of support and stress, compensation, and theological education.
The scope of the USCLS allows for a comprehensive portrait of pastoral leadership, drawing upon a large representative national sample of pastoral leaders, congregations, and parishes; a broad range of denominations and faith groups; the experiences of pastors in congregations of all sizes; and the opinions of both pastoral leaders and worshipers in the same congregations. This book presents a 360-degree data driven view of all that is involved in congregational vitality: the values, commitments, experiences, and perceptions of members, lay leaders, and pastors.
Leadership in the congregational context is particularly complex and difficult. Yet most pastors who participated in the study reported that they are enthusiastic about their ministry and feel they’ve accomplished a lot. High ministry satisfaction can be a buffer against the high stress levels that accompany pastoral work, and can prevent burnout.
We show how a strong match might be made between pastor and congregation. Then, we follow the pastoral transition experiences of three churches: mainline Protestant, Catholic, and conservative Protestant. The book outlines pastor and church types, and then we dig more deeply into the dynamics that yield a successful match.
We highlight several implications for pastors, lay leaders and other members of the congregation, including the importance of:
- Learning from the past by reflecting on the ministry of previous pastors.
- Allowing unstated assumptions to surface.
- Clarity about financial responsibilities.
- Recognizing how conflict damages congregations and pastors.
- Providing ongoing clergy support.
- Identifying and building on strengths.
- Seeking to understand and articulate what God is calling that particular church to be.
Leadership That Fits Your Church is the latest volume in The Columbia Partnership (TCP) Leadership Series.
How can you get your hands on this great new book? Available in Kindle form or hard copy at ChalicePress.com (or call 1-800-366-3383). You can even save 30% off all TCP books, including this one, with the code TCP2012 (offer expires on November 30, 2012).