Leading the Church by Serving the Mission: Reimagining Servant Leadership
In 1970, Robert Greenleaf coined the phrase, “servant leadership.” In his book of the same name, Greenleaf argues that leaders must demonstrate unconditional grace and acceptance toward those they lead. Greenleaf’s ideas are still popular today among leaders in both the business and social sectors, but especially in the church. Consequently, many pastors are reticent to use termination as a management technique in favor of attempting to rehabilitate problematic employees. The result, however, is that churches are hindered from achieving their mission by leaders who are more focused on either meeting the needs of their staff or maintaining pleasant relationships than on fulfilling the vision of the church. This thesis attempts to provide a new model of servant leadership that calls on clergy to be devoted to the wider mission of Christ.
The thesis begins by evaluating the crisis that servant leadership creates in the church and the subsequent anxiety that is introduced into the congregation. It then explores a survey administered to clergy across ten denominations that illuminates many of the internal and external barriers in the church that prevent pastors from terminating their staff. Subsequently, the thesis attempts to redeem some of the aspects of leadership that seem to be in tension with the servant leadership model, such as power and authority. Finally, the thesis outlines a new model of servant leadership that retains the best qualities of the servant leadership model but reorients the clergy’s service toward the ultimate mission of the church.
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