On a recent visit to the national offices of the United Church of Christ, Anthony Robinson stopped by for a conversation about leadership in the church. Tony is editor of the Church Vitality book series from Pilgrim Press and is the author of its first book, Leadership for Vital Congregations.
1. Tony offers words of wisdom to new pastors seeking to build the vitality in their churches: a sense of urgency about transformation is good, but so is patience for the long haul. Listening and learning are important, too, and be sure to watch for those breakthrough moments along the way.
2. Tony reflects on how an Appreciative Inquiry approach can be helpful in the church today, when many congregations see challenges and problems, and then organize around them instead of building on their gifts and strengths.
3. Churches are notorious for resisting change, yet the gospel is all about transformation. What are the necessary ingredients and conditions for transformation in the local church, and what's the role of leaders in the process of transformation?
4. As editor of the Congregational Vitality book series from Pilgrim Press, Tony articulates the hope that church leaders will find in these resources the sound ideas that will support their vital ministry today.
5. Resistance is a sign that we're doing some important work. It's a spiritual discipline to engage resistance and to learn and grow in the process.
6. Tony reflects on the gifts and challenges presented by a more diverse church leadership, including the growing number of women clergy and second-career pastors. More than any other factor, what matters is the leader's inner strength and sense of who they are.
7. How do leaders give themselves away and practice self-care, too? Clergy and lay leaders need to maintain this tension in a healthy way even as they respond to the gospel's call to go the extra mile.
8. Tony sees signs of hope and vitality for leadership in the church today, including openness to transformation and being "unsettled" along the way, courage that perseveres and stands firm, and a diversity that brings fresh thinking.
9. Stewardship is a way of life, not a way to pay the bills: generosity is a spiritual practice at the heart of church vitality. Church leaders are called to teach "the secret of real wealth" – giving it away.
10. What's at the heart of evangelism? Our deepest need, Tony says, is to give ourselves away, so every member of the church must become a minister. That's the rhythm of the church's life: we're drawn together, nurtured and equipped, and then sent back out into the world to serve, to share the Good News, and to invite others to do the same.
11. How long is your mission statement? Tony challenges us to have a strong sense of our church's purpose that animates the life of our congregation, and to be able to state it clearly and concisely. Our vision is built on that purpose, and our use of resources grows out of it.
12. It's a brand new world, a critical moment in the life of the church, and we're no longer part of the "establishment." Leaders and their churches are challenged to "relate to the culture and yet be faithful to the gospel."
13. Spiritual practices nurture vitality in our congregations. Tony affirms the growing awareness and dependence on the Holy Spirit in the life and direction of our churches.
14. What is leadership? Tony offers a contextual understanding of the roles and tasks of both leaders and the congregations they serve.