New DS, DCMs Urged to Provide Leadership, Not Management

September 03, 2009

By Vicki Brown
Associate Editor, GBHEM Office of Interpretation  

New district superintendents and directors of connectional ministries should be critical boundary negotiators who can help local churches, districts, and Conferences align with mission, said a senior consultant for the Institute for Clergy and Congregational Excellence.
But the Rev. Gil Rendle warned the new group of leaders not to expect to make anyone happy. "Don't forget [that] you are not going to be rewarded, and [that] when you get done, no one is going to be happy. Take satisfaction off the list as a criterion for leadership," Rendle told the group attending a training event conducted by the Council of Bishops, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM), and the General Board of Discipleship (GBOD) at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina.
He told some 70 new district superintendents and 10 directors of connectional ministries that they are called to an important and historic leadership role within The United Methodist Church, but he warned that it is a changing role.
"It is no longer only a managerial role. You are no longer called to make appointments that will make clergy and churches happy," Rendle said. Instead, good leaders should ask if churches and clergy are doing the right things.
Superintendents oversee the total ministry of the clergy and churches for ministry and mission within their district. Directors of connectional ministries oversee the program development for the Annual Conference.
"Like it or not, leadership has been redefined for us," Rendle told the group. He said the church is moving from a managerial style of leadership, which seeks to answer the question, "Are we doing things right?" - to a leadership style that seeks to answer the question, "Are we doing the right things?"
That means "you are no longer asked to replicate the work or style of your predecessors," Rendle said. He asked the group to imagine the difference if, rather than expecting leaders to influence the community to follow the leader's vision, we were to look for leaders who influence the community to face its problems.
Rendle was the first of four speakers who would discuss the Four Areas of Focus affirmed by the 2008 General Conference - his topic Area of Focus being "developing principled Christian leaders."
District superintendents in particular have a powerful tool in their ability to set the agenda, Rendle said. "You can walk into a church and a Conference and take them to the less comfortable place," Rendle said. And that less comfortable place is where change happens, he added.
"You have the power to help people find a better story to live," Rendle said - a story that moves from the "safe middle" in which we all like to live.
Rendle said when he was a pastor in The United Methodist Church he was taught how to make members, not how to make disciples. And making disciples can be uncomfortable for churches.
In helping churches align with mission, Rendle told the group they won't be seeking conformity. "You will be continually raising the question of purpose. Alignment is helping everyone find their own spot."
Bishop Jane Stewart Allen Middleton, episcopal leader of the Central Pennsylvania Annual Conference, told the group that many of the points Rendle made were reflected in the ministry of Jesus, who consistently moved into different settings and found a way to speak truth to those on the boundary.
She said Jesus always asked if the mission field was being served.

(Also read Vicki Brown's stories on the Health and Poverty presentations at the Lake Junaluska event:
Church Needs to Be Present in Health Care Debate and Starting Small Can Make Big Changes in Ministry With the Poor.)