Confusion frequently abounds regarding the functional role of the official Leadership Team of the congregation. Congregations and leaders themselves seldom seriously consider the diversity of expectations surrounding the roles of church leadership. Think about the different perspectives present within a congregation regarding how leaders, whether that be the elders, council, pastor, session, board, or vestry, are to function in that place. The role confusion is rampant across denominational lines, and affects both small and large congregations. Role confusion even exists within the leadership teams themselves. At best, the storms of diverse expectations can slow down and discourage even the most capable leaders. At worst, leadership effectiveness is shipwrecked by diverse expectations.

Surface Core Expectations

The sharper the defined role and function of the Leadership Team, the clearer the sailing can be for the congregation. Begin by surfacing the expectations in this area and working toward focusing your stated role and function. Ask your team to individually spend a week praying and thinking about the collective roles and functions of your leadership team. Have each member attend a meeting with a list of the leadership roles/functions for your team. Have each individual present verbally share their list as someone logs the information, creating a master list of all the role/function expectations of the group. This exercise may graphically reveal one or more of the following; 1) a diversity of individual perceptions regarding the functional role of the leadership team; 2) the collective weight of the task should your team decide to attempt to effectively execute each of the roles you have identified; 3) a tendency of your team to focus on management functions and issues rather than on providing spiritual, directional leadership in the congregation.

Sort Expectations

The more your Leadership Team can hone and sharpen your functional role, the more effective you will be. To what function or functions is God calling your team? Commit to intentionally discerning the most important functions for your Leadership Team for this particular time in the congregation’s life. Prayerfully reflect on the composite list the group generated. Look at what your team spends its time doing. Does your behavior reflect your stated role and function? Are the things you are doing as a team leading you toward your stated target? Encourage the group to spend a week or more praying over the composite list of functions. Which of these functions are most important?

At a second meeting, the composite list can be easily and quickly sorted into a rank order listing by allowing each team member to cast five votes for the five most important functions on the list.

After discerning the group’s priorities, it will take collective diligence to ensure that your team does not fall back into the mire of long established counterproductive meeting and leadership habits.

Decisively think through the following questions: Which functions could another team or group in the congregation address more effectively than the Leadership Team? Given the time you spend together each month, which items on the list can the team reasonably expect to address on an ongoing basis? What are the top three items on the composite list in terms of their strategic importance to the congregation? What items on the list does the team need to “quit cold turkey”?