What I’m Learning in HOPE Network

Grady D. King, D. Min


The call went something like this.

Church Leader: “Could you help us find a minister?”
Me: Tell me about your church.
Church Leader: “We have some good people. We just need the right minister.”
Me: Why would a minister with the characteristics you describe want to come? Sounds like you are wanting Superman with the qualities of Jesus?”
Church Leader:  (Nervous laugh)–“No, just someone who is a good fit. The sooner the better”
Me: Well, head-hunting is not what we do.  Rather, we are committed to a holistic process of looking at the church, leadership dynamic, values, mission/vision, etc.
Church Leader: “Oh, I’ll need to get back with you after talking to the other leaders.”

HOPE Network is about mentoring leaders, guiding churches and interim ministry. By interim ministry, we do not mean only “fill-in preaching” before the next minister arrives. Interim ministry is so much more than preaching on Sunday or simply being a resource to give names and send resumes of potential candidates. It’s a process of self-examination often subverted by the false notion, “If we just had the right minister,” as if their superman tights are just under everyday clothes.

We, in HOPE Network, are constantly learning.[1]  There are, however, some common themes that are essential to congregational health and growth.

  1. The Elder Group Matters
    • Good group processes: a behavioral covenant, decision making, discernment, conflict management, gift based shared leadership, managing person and group anxiety.
    • A spiritual focus: learning, sharing and praying together, vulnerability and capacity to engage in difficult conversations with respect and humility
  1. A Compelling, Biblical/Theological Vision
    • Church surveys consistently reveal members asking, “Where are we headed?” “Why are we here?” In essence, what is our vision? This is the responsibility of leadership.
    • What does a gospel shaped people look like in the church and the world?
      HOPE Network is about mentoring leaders, guiding churches and interim ministry. By interim ministry, we do not mean only “fill-in preaching” before the next minister arrives.
  1. Be Intentional about Growing Disciples
    • The metrics of faithfulness need to shift from counting attendance and contribution only to equipping for discipleship and being on mission with Jesus.
  1. Deal with “Well-Intentioned Dragons”[1]
    • Every church has them–sincere, well-meaning Christians who leave ulcers, strained relationships, and hard feelings in their wake. They don’t intend to be difficult; they don’t consciously plot destruction or to breed discontent among the members. But too often, they are allowed to dominate ministers and/or elders’ time and energy.
    • Churches also have not so well-intentioned dragons who breathe out fire (threats, lack of self-control, manipulation, and passive-aggressive behaviors).
    • Leaders who take a position/stand, stay calm, and remain connected is essential to health and stability.[2]
  1. Realistic Expectations of the Minister
    • Unrealistic expectations are pre-meditated resentments (Charles Siburt)
    • Be clear about the role/responsibilities/authority to lead and about any expectations for the sake of the minister, his family, and the church.
    • The minister has gifts as well as limitations. Gift-based, shared ministry is about the church being the church empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  1. Followship is as Essential as Leadership
    • Leaders can only lead people willing to follow.
    • The call of Jesus is to surrender, submit and serve.
    • Self-willed, entitled people have difficulty following anyone but themselves.
    • See the booklet FELLOWSHIP by Tim Woodroof.[3]
  1. A Bigger Gospel
    • The gospel of the kingdom involves the redemption/reconciliation of all things in heaven and on earth.
    • It is life giving in word and deed.

Many churches were struggling pre-COVID and one thing is for certain, the future will not be like the past. COVID does not threaten the kingdom of God. Individual congregations have life cycles. Church leaders are called by God to lead making the most of the time/opportunity—redeeming the time (Eph 5.15).

The time is now to lead, follow or get out of the way—for the sake of the kingdom.

Lord, help us!

[1] Over the past four years, I have learned some things from doing interim ministry in six churches averaging 7-9 months, facilitating interim season seminars in four churches and consulting with ten others in person. I am not alone, there is a team of interim ministers who share learning and work on increasing capacity.  We have served churches ranging in size from 40-1,200 members.

[2] See Well Intentioned Dragons: Ministering to Problem People in the Church, Marshall Shelley, Bethany House Publishers (1994).

[3] See Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, Peter Steinke, 2006; Playground Bullies: Courageous Strategies for Dealing with Bullies, Grady D. King.

[4] https://interimministrypartners.com/followship/

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