Today it’s common for cultural leadership models and motives to overtake our Christian churches and organizations so that the way we do what we do is not the way of Jesus and his Apostles.
It breaks my heart when I see pastors (and other Christian leaders) lacking in confidence and calling from God when they are with their elders, Board members or other leaders. Instead of facilitating community, cultivating an attitude of serving one another, and leading in Scripture meditation and prayer they readily cede their spiritual leadership to business leaders because of their wealth, giftedness, success, and power.
Of course, spiritual leaders do need to learn from capable business leaders and call on them to bring their gifts to the church. But these successful men and women may need to be discipled to Jesus by their pastor. As gifted and effective as they are at their jobs they may not know how to cultivate a community that keeps looking to the risen Christ as the smartest, most capable person in the room. They may not have the spiritual knowledge and discernment that is the most important aspect of any decision.
The Apostle Paul said, “I magnify my office!” (Romans 11:13) Pastor, do you do this? Do you enlargen your ministry as a spiritual leader? We pastors are the ones to provide spiritual leadership in our churches and organizations. If we are not up to the challenge then we need to get help so that we can be trustworthy and confident with this responsibility. It is our calling from God.
The Leadership of Soul Shepherding
My responsibility is to co-lead the ministry of Soul Shepherding with my wife, which we’ve been doing since forming a 501c3 nonprofit in 2009. Each year our ministry has grown, but in our fifth year we are happy to be a small nonprofit with a budget of under $200,000. Our goal is grow an organism not an organization.
Essential to the ministry of Soul Shepherding is that our Board of Directors (the original group is pictured above) operates as a Christ-centered leadership group, which has some important distinctives. Pastors, elders, and nonprofit presidents have asked me about this and so it seemed like it was time for me to share publicly in an article the insights we’ve developed and have been using with our Board.
If you are a spiritual leader I pray that God will help you to do a better job then Kristi and I have yet done. We’d love to hear about your experience because we’re still learning from Jesus Christ, our Leader in life and ministry.
Being a Christ-Centered Board of Directors
Kristi and I lead the ministry of Soul Shepherding and at top of our priorities is to be part of a Christ-Centered Board of Directors. This means that we look to the Lord Jesus to be the Chairman of the Board and the Leader of the ministry. Practically speaking, what does this look like?
First of all, we express this in the vision statement of Soul Shepherding, established by the Board: “We cultivate intimacy with Jesus for pastors and leaders.” The main purpose of the Board is to oversee the implementation of this vision.
Kristi and I lead the Board to submit to the Lord’s leadership of our lives and our shared ministry. At the same time the Board leads us in that we do not have a vote on any legal matters or major decisions regarding finances and operations. The Board prays and listens for Christ’s leading of Soul Shepherding, doing this together at meetings and privately.
The Board helps us and the ministry stay true the vision of Soul Shepherding, grow the ministry as God leads, and make the big decisions (especially precedent setting ones) on how we prioritize our time and any new ministry projects we take on. The Board helps to make sure that we stay strong spiritually and in our soul care and marriage — that we continue to live the message we teach.
Before each meeting Kristi and I prepare and send to Board members the pre-work consisting of Soul Shepherding Ministry updates, calendar items, and discernment points. Members review these discussion points and hold them before the Lord.
Meetings begin with refreshments and connecting informally. Then Kristi or I lead a time of community in Christ with Scripture meditation, quiet prayer, and praying out loud for one another and for Soul Shepherding. Usually this is the first half of the meeting.
Then we help the Board to do the business of Soul Shepherding in the same spirit as the devotional time, seeking to be guided by the Spirit of Christ, the Leader of Soul Shepherding. Our goal is to integrate spirituality and business. We do not use the word “agenda” because we are not straining to “get all the work done” or “make something happen.” We are trusting the Lord Jesus to lead our meeting and abandoning outcomes to him.
Business is done in a conversational and prayerful way with Board members encouraged to comment or ask questions of Kristi or I about any of the ministry updates or calendar items. Then there is discussion about the discernment points. During the meeting Board members may share ideas and concerns and when decisions are needed they cast their vote.
Board meetings end after two hours. Any important discernment points or other matters of business that are not resolved before the end of a meeting are carried over to the next meeting. Occasionally, Kristi or I may ask members to share their opinion or cast their vote on an issue between meetings via e-mail or phone.
Normally decisions are not made unless the Board votes unanimously. However, the Board may proceed on a decision with a simple majority voting in favor of a decision.
Board Member Responsibilities
It seems it’d be helpful for me to emphasize the most important assignments that go with being a Soul Shepherding Board member:
- Vision: Guide Kristi and I, and the ministry as a whole, to remain aligned with the vision of Soul Shepherding: “We cultivate intimacy with Jesus for pastors and leaders.” Vision suffers erosion unless carefully guarded!
- Discernment: Function as a discernment community, a company of counselors. What are the major things that God is leading us to do?
- Soul Care: Monitor the well being of Kristi and I as individuals and as a couple. Observe and ask us if we are living our message. If we go down in burnout or a moral failure so does Soul Shepherding.
- Finances: Maintain the financial integrity of Soul Shepherding, ensuring trustworthiness and and fostering investor confidence.
- Participate: Experience the Soul Shepherding methodology for yourself, including at Board meetings. The experience of Board needs to be of the same nature as the ministry: abiding in Jesus together and bearing fruit.
Board Member Qualifications
Obviously, a very significant issue for any Board is seeking God’s guidance on picking Board members. The way Soul Shepherding does this is that Kristi and I recommend prospective Board members to the Board. Then candidates enter into a discernment process with the Board in which they learn more about our ministry and being a Board member, pray for God’s leading, and visit at least one Board meeting. The existing Board members discern as a group if they believe a candidate is a good fit and then vote to approve or not the addition of a new member.
- A character that is Christlike and “above reproach” as prescribed in the Bible for elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9)
- Personally growing in their intimacy with Jesus and discipleship to the Lord (ideally they have experienced the ministry of Soul Shepherding)
- Readiness to serve as a spiritual leader, humbling self to be led by the Spirit of Christ rather than a “make it happen” mentality (or eager to learn how to do this)
- Strategic thinking and discernment
- Chemistry with existing Board and it’s way of being together and conducting business (see above)
- Want to contribute their gifts to Soul Shepherding (e.g., knowledge, contacts, or finances)
- Able to commit to regular two-hour Board meetings (about 8 per year). Meetings are normally scheduled one to three months in advance so that everyone can be present
More Help on Spiritual Leadership
We have a number of Soul Shepherding articles on the subject of leadership. For instance, “Ask Jesus to Lead the Meeting” goes into more detail, including Scriptures, to describe our philosophy of spiritual leadership.