Thoughts on Authority in Leadership (An encouragement to read Ken Callahan)
I’ve been trying to be continually reading about leadership and have found the book Effective Church Leadership by Kennon Callahan very helpful. Now, truth be told, most of the titles of Ken’s books are fairly uninspiring. They sound like old school books that are outdated and no self-respecting young pastor would be drawn to them by title alone. Well, let me state something here at clearly as possible. Ken’s books are revolutionary to leadership in the church, despite what you think when you look at his book covers.
I have been to two one week seminars by Ken now and have left each one with a whole new perspective on leadership and the local church. They have been the most helpful seminars i have attended in my life. Ken is in his 70’s (i think) and gets the missional church while being able to talk at length and with great wisdom about the nature of leadership, how people respond to leadership and why the many ways we try to lead in the local church just aren’t the best. If nothing else, Ken’s books on Giving and Stewardship have radically transformed The Well’s view of giving and generosity. As you look at the titles, remember, the titles are old school, but the books are so very helpful. Joe Myers (don’t worry, we’re in the midst of redesigning Joe’s site) and I (Joe is the one who introduced me to Ken) are trying to find a way to get a few young missional / emerging type pastors down to Atlanta to Ken’s seminar next year. If you want to see some of his books, go here. If you are a pastor, I can’t recommend his finances books enough.
Like I started to write, his book Effective Church Leadership has been helpful. In one section, he writes about the nature of authority and how we grow leaders in our congregations when we do well at not only handing out tasks, but authority. He writes,
“Two principles help. First, the greater the range of authority, the more likely the level of leadership competencies is to grow. The more fully persons are given authority, the more likely they are to develop their leadership competencies.”
He goes on to write,
“The church is not particularly good at doing this. One of the pivitol reasons the church loses competent leaders daily is because it is perfectly willing to give them a multiplicity of responsibilities but virtually no authority. People tend not to continue participating in organizations that stifle their own growth and development.”
he writes later,
“One of the best worst things churches do is to give people a list of responsibilities without authority.”
Of course, he writes that this could be a risky venture. We could possibly give people more authority than they can handle. But, we can be sure that such an environment will nurture leaders and its possible that some won’t be able to handle it. If we just give out responsibility we can be sure that such an environment will nurture passive behavior and that there will be very little risk that some won’t be able to handle it.
Anyways, I thought these were helpful thoughts as we seek to understand how to empower people to participate in God’s work in the world…