Methodist Missional Meta-Questions: Leadership


Here's a starting place for some conversation over the next week or so, taken from a paper I've written for the upcoming United Methodism @ 40 Consultation that will be held at Candler in August.

I'd be very interested in your feedback...

Leadership: Catalytic and Itinerant verses Relational and Stable: Methodist societies, on the one hand, and congregations on the other required two different kinds of leadership and means of deploying leaders. In the late 18th century, Methodism was focused primarily on spreading its systems across England. Accordingly, the kind of leadership Methodist societies needed was charismatic, catalytic, task-oriented, and focused on basic community organizing more than on building long-term personal or institutional relationships. The strategy of itinerant leadership-- the regular redeployment of Methodist leaders to other places of service—was ideally suited for such tasks.

Congregations, however, were and are a very different kind of animal. Congregations are much more focused on institutional stability and forming long-term personal and institutional relationships that ensure the place of the congregation in the hearts of its members and in its surrounding community. Accordingly, congregational leadership is generally expected to be trustworthy, relationship-oriented, and focused perhaps more on preserving or upholding core community values than on starting new initiatives. For this reason, longevity in pastoral leadership has become a significant predictor of the growth and sustenance of congregations. Likewise, frequently itinerating leadership may be less than ideally suited for such tasks.

John Wesley was an ideal leader for Methodism, but not for the local parish. The reverse is also true, that many persons suited for leadership in parish or congregational ministry may find themselves challenged and frustrated if they were to try to take on leadership in something so fundamentally different in its design and purpose as was early Methodism. Both of these two forms of leadership—of movement and institution, if you will—are necessary to maintain, build and multiply a full expression of Church as body of Christ. But it is important that the kind of leaders and the means of deploying them be appropriate to the kind of structures each is seeking to lead—whether paracongregational discipleship/missional structures or congregations.

Peace in Christ,

Taylor Burton-Edwards