Thinking Strategically About Your Next Leader

By Mary Frances, Senior Associate Consultant

I remember when I was interviewing for my first call.  Someone asked me how long I thought I would stay, should I receive the call.  My answer was pretty standard, “Typically a first call is in the three-to-seven-year range,” I said.  One of the committee members was crestfallen.  She said, “I thought you would be here to marry my children!”  That was 20 years ago and none of her children are married yet.

We tend to have lots of notions, romantic and other, about who our leaders should be and what we expect of them.  But what if, instead of some set of unclarified, unspoken expectations, we entered into a call process with a clear idea of where we were headed and who we needed to take us there?

Last year I consulted with a congregation doing just that kind of work.  They were about to enter the call process; completing all the forms the judicatory sent to them.  Yet they wanted to be sure about what they put on those forms and how it would serve them in the future.  It turned out this congregation had lots of empty nesters and their child, youth and family ministries were dwindling.  And, so as we talked, they sounded like most churches in their situation.  “We want more families with kids,” they said.  And, I thought, “Doesn’t everyone?”

And then we looked at the data.  I pulled up a Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report for their area and found that they were actually right on track.  While the congregation didn’t have a lot of young families, the community was teeming with them.  Somewhere along the line, this congregation had stopped connecting with these younger families, but they had done a great job of it in the past, and with the right leader, they could again.  We talked at length about the strengths this kind of leader would need in order to lead them back to an outward focus.

And then we turned our attention to their second priority: a Spanish language service for the growing Latino population in their community.  Again, we dug into the data.  And after peeling back a few layers, we found that the predominant Latino population was second generation and, therefore, most likely English speakers.  It might not hurt to have a new pastor who spoke Spanish, but it didn’t have to be a requirement.  Instead, they could look more deeply at the ways they could connect with the Latino community and still offer a separate service that fit their needs.

Looking beyond the basic demographic information can help inform what you need in your next leaders.  What are the needs of your larger community?  Who is God calling you to be in relationship with your neighbors?  FaithX can help you take that deeper dive and prepare your congregation for what comes next.