Principles of pastoral presence and leadership within the congregational emotional system
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This project is designed to provide a framework for thinking about pastoral leadership in a congregation. This framework takes the form of four interlocking leadership principles that have their foundation in Natural Systems Theory and Creation Theology. Each of the four chapters of this project is dedicated to one leadership principle. In order to lay out the theory of the principles and then move toward practice of them, each chapter has four sections: a definition of the principle; biblical images of the principle; an exploration of the principle when exercised in a congregation; and recommended ways a pastor can work toward functioning according to the principle.
Chapter One presents an analysis of the leadership principle "Know Your Self". Self is given a broad definition to include both the body and the mind of the human being. A self is spiritual, but also an integral part of nature. Knowing self, in Natural Systems terminology, is the work of self-differentiation. The concepts of self-differentiation and self-definition are addressed in this chapter to emphasize the importance of a thinking process that is inseparable from self-regulating action. The thinking process, focused on one's own being and responsibility, is a principled precursor to leadership actions.
Chapter Two explores the leadership principle "Take a Position". Position is described in terms of location within a congregation's emotional system. A congregation's emotional system is not defined in terms of the "feelings" of participants, but as an amalgam of the deep forces that drive people in their relationships (e.g. forces that compel people to gain emotional closeness or distance with leader and other members of the congregational system). A pastor simultaneously takes positions in two basic levels of a congregation, the micro stratum (individuals and families) and the macro stratum (realm of ideas for the congregation). A pastor exercises this principle in order to cast vision for the congregation as a whole and lead it to a new state of being. Taking a position focuses on the Natural Systems concepts of self-definition and leading a system during shifts from one state of homeostasis to another.
Chapter Three describes the leadership principle "Stay in Touch". Staying in touch is the art of maintaining a self-differentiated and self-defined presence within a congregation when anxiety begins to rise within the system. A pastor's visionary leadership often initiates a flow of anxiety within the congregation. This chapter explores how a pastor can effectively lead a congregation by functioning as a challenging, less anxious and engaged presence in the congregation. De-triangling, regulating one's reactions to others, and attending to feedback are three Natural Systems concepts operative in the exercise of this leadership principle.
Chapter Four focuses on the leadership principle "Stay on Course Despite Sabotage". It provides an analysis of sabotaging behavior and the systemic forces behind this reaction to leadership. Sabotage is characterized in terms of emotional reactivity to change by members of a congregation rather than a thoughtful response to visionary leadership. Staying on course is a leadership effort dependent upon knowing self, taking a position, and staying in touch during times when resistance to progress becomes subversive. Helpful analogies from immunology are provided to demonstrate how the abandonment of secrecy and use of memory strengthen congregational identity.
This project is intended to provide pastors and other ministry leaders a practical and thought-provoking framework, based in Natural Systems Theory, for exercising less anxious and visionary leadership within a congregation.