What Does the New Pope Have in Common with Other Church Leaders?

  1. People are projecting onto him. No doubt it’s harder when millions of people globally focus their hopes and dreams on you – but it’s a challenge whether you are leading a global church, a congregation of 50, or a family. See my blog post after Obama’s first inauguration.
  2. He’s leading an institution which is slow to change. I once said that in church “everything takes five years,” and my colleague Israel Galindo said, “I think you’re too optimistic.” With the worldwide Catholic church, it’s probably longer.
  3. He brings his own story with him. I haven’t learned too much about Francis I yet, but his multigenerational family history affects how he will function in his role.
  4. However he leads, someone will be unhappy. If he can make peace with this, he’ll do better. (No doubt he already knows this.) Pastors who understand this and don’t take it too seriously do better.
  5. It doesn’t begin or end with him. We’re all part of a parade of church leaders, and if we can remember it’s not all about us, it’s better for the church and for us. (No doubt he already knows this, too.)
  6. He’ll need a spiritual life, and will likely find it hard to make the time. This is the paradox of church leadership: you can’t do your job without a life of prayer, and your job can make it hard to sustain a life of prayer. It’s worth doing it anyway.
  7. A sense of humor will serve him well. When you’re dealing with the church (big C or little c), sometimes it seems like the choices are laugh or cry. Laughing is better.
  8. Presence is more important than correct doctrine, worship and liturgy or good management (as important as these may be). If he shows up comfortable in his own skin, he’ll have a greater long-term impact. This is true for any leader. A calm presence is a powerful force, and a gift from God to the church and the world.

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