January 2011

Shift, Step, Step

- Kathi Busch


Do you have the right people on the bus?

One of the most important responsibilities and opportunities we have as pastors is in working with our Nominating Teams. In some denominations the pastor is a voting member of the nominating committee and in others the pastor is considered “ex officio” with the right to speak but not to vote. The opportunity for the pastor to speak at the nominating committee meeting is actually very good news, because “ex officio and without vote” does not mean without influence. If our congregations are to be vital, healthy, and growing, we must have the right people on our leadership bus at any given time (as Jim Collins says in Good to Great). It is critical that the right people are sitting on your ruling board as together you lead the church into the vision God has entrusted to your congregation.

Now, I’m not suggesting that the board be “stacked” with yes men and women who will always agree with the pastor on everything, just blessing whatever ideas and programs they propose—far from it. The pastor is not the only official spiritual leader of a congregation as elders and deacons also function as spiritual leaders of the church. I find that this is often news to many elders who tend to see the pastor(s) as the spiritual leader(s) and themselves as mere managers of the church’s business. Not so! Nominating elders who will understand their role in church leadership is one key to navigating the often turbulent waters of the changing culture in which we are called to minister these days.

One way I have tried to assure that we get the right people on our leadership bus is to articulate clearly for the Nominating Team some basic standards to consider when suggesting a person be nominated as an elder. These criteria do not include such things as how long the person has been a member of our church or whether they’ve ever served as an elder or deacon before. We have three minimum requirements for those nominated to serve as elders and deacons. First, the potential nominee must be known to be on board with our vision statement and supportive of the pastor. That, perhaps, is obvious. If someone is elected to serve on your ruling board who has a bone to pick with the pastor’s leadership or who is not totally committed to the vision or mission statement of the church is a recipe for at best, congregational gridlock, and at worst, congregational disaster.

Second, the person must be actively pursuing “Worship Plus Two,” that is, they must be in worship every Sunday that they are in town and able to attend, PLUS be engaged in ONE ministry activity for their own personal spiritual growth (such as a Small Group, Bible study class, prayer group, or Sunday School class) and ONE area of service ministry (such as a Ministry Team or mission activity). We believe “Worship Plus Two” is a good way to achieve a balanced Christ-following life. In our experience, members who practice “Worship Plus Two” are folks who are growing spiritually. While you can’t always see someone’s spiritual growth, whether or not someone is practicing “Worship Plus Two” is easily observed by the Nominating Team.

In addition to “Worship Plus Two,” we require that those who sit on our ruling board be fully supportive of both styles of worship we offer each Sunday morning. That means that, regardless of their own worship style preference, nominees must be known to be folks who think that both our contemporary and traditional services are appropriate and inspirational ways in which to lift our worship to God. They must be known to speak positively about both services even though they may prefer one over the other.

All of this is meant to make sure our leaders are in good, healthy alignment. Getting the right people on your leadership bus—and then getting them in the right seats on the bus—will make a huge difference in how efficiently and effectively your church can move into the Kingdom vision God has placed in your hearts.



 Kathi Busch is pastor of Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Wilmington, Delaware. She has served as the Moderator of New Castle Presbytery, Delaware.


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