What’s the Difference between Administration and Leadership?

Pastoral leaders often overfunction administratively, paying attention to all the details of the worship service and the church office, even proofreading the bulletin at times. They want to make sure all the committees and teams are doing what they need to be doing. But I often see clergy underfunction in the area of leadership: stepping up to say, “Here’s is where I’d like to go.”

You may hesitate to make a strong statement about direction. Sometimes this is driven by fear. You wonder, “If I say where I want to go, what if they don’t want to go there?” Or, you feel it is arrogant to chart a course. Your natural inclination may be to say, tell me where you want to go, and I’ll take you there.

The conversation about vision and direction needs to start with the leader. The conversation often won’t happen unless the leader starts it, and a self-defining statement is the best place to start: “Here is where I’m headed.” Often people are waiting for us to say something which we never say. People are appropriately dependent on leaders to lead. So if we wait for them to say something, or if all our leadership retreat events are organized around asking them what they think, we leave them hanging. Now, leaders must earn the right to make these statements. In pastoral ministry, this takes several years. (See Israel Galindo’s worthwhile post on vision.) And the conversation does not begin and end with our view, of course. In congregational life, that’s just the beginning. We can only lead the willing. But we do need to articulate our own view, our sense of God’s calling for our ministry and for this ministry we are leading. And then we need to pause, and take time to listen, recognizing that if we wait for every one to say, ‘Great, pastor! Count me in!” we’ll never get anywhere. We look for for a critical mass so we can begin to move forward together.

Where are you heading as a leader? How clear are you on your own calling? How clearly have you said so to those you lead?

2 replies on “What’s the Difference between Administration and Leadership?

  • Margaret Marcuson

    Thanks for pointing out the importance of the leader position, Israel. The fact of our occupying that position appropriately by articulating the vision is probably as important as the content of our vision, whatever that might be.

  • Israel Galindo

    Good entry Margaret. I’ve seen that timidity to offer vision on the part of leaders many times. While there are a multitude of reasons for it, you are correct to point out that vision is a function of leadership. Therefore, regardless of a leader’s discomfort in offering vision to the congregation or organization he or she leads, the leader will do well to remember that articulating the vision is “not about you” personally. Leaders need to offer vision because that is what the system needs of the person in the leader position. You’ve described the consequences of failing to do so.


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