Too much. Too soon.
It’s a mistake made by many church leaders. Changing too much, or changing it too soon.
It is not the domain of only the fresh-faced, recent seminary graduate. We older guys who should know better are not immune. Heart a-racing, grand vision driving us, “Onward” we insist, often to folks who still aren’t sure who should be leading the charge or if there should be a charge at all.
Part of the leadership challenge is correctly answering the “When?” and “How Far?” questions. When should I try to lead out in an endeavor and how far can we go before people lose heart for the goal, strength for the journey, trust in the leader, or faith in the Lord? These questions can be partially answered by answering the “How Much?” question. How much Pastoral Leadership Capital does one have to spend, and how much of it can be spent at any given time?
I’m borrowing the idea of capital from the worlds of finance and economics as a metaphor. Jesus did a similar thing in Luke 14:
For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish.’ (vs. 28-30, CSB)
Jesus was not insinuating to be a disciple you must first determine whether you have enough money to build a tower. Nor am I insinuating a direct correlation between the business world and ministry. But, there is a relationship between capital, Leadership Capital, and Pastoral Leadership Capital. In this post, Part 1, I hope to lay a foundation. In Part 2 we’ll look more in depth at accruing and spending Pastoral Leadership Capital.
A brief, but helpful definition of capital comes from the online Business Dictionary:
Wealth in the form of money or assets, taken as a sign of the financial strength of an individual, organization, or nation, and assumed to be available for development or investment.
Capital refers to financial assets or the financial value of assets, such as funds held in deposit accounts, as well as the tangible machinery and production equipment used in environments such as factories and other manufacturing facilities. Additionally, capital includes facilities, such as the buildings used for the production and storage of the manufactured goods.
In short, capital refers to assets or their value, including cash or cash equivalents, that can be used to grow the business or make other investments. In personal finance, capital is your house, car, bank accounts, investment accounts, gold bars, and the pirate loot buried in your crawl space. These are items of value that can be leveraged for buying something, further investing, remodeling your kitchen, paying off debt, etc.
Leadership capital builds on the concept of financial or economic capital as resources with value. One business writer described “leadership capital” as
all the political, personal, intellectual, physical and monetary assets you can bring to bear in meeting challenges.
Restated, leadership capital is the sum of all the resources that you 1) can access and 2) have the authority to spend. It may include access to capital as defined above, but not limited to it. Leadership Capital includes influence, relationships, wisdom, politics, and other intangibles. I would argue that, in most instances, Leadership Capital includes more intangibles than tangibles.
(There’s even a Leadership Capital Index by which one’s worth to an organization can be measured.)
Pastoral Leadership Capital
In my opinion, Pastoral Leadership Capital shares some components of business-oriented leadership capital, but likely gains more through the relational experiences unique to pastoring. Pastoral Leadership Capital is gained through ministry in times of grief (funerals, loss of jobs, loss of health), times of joy (visiting during new births, weddings), personal discipleship, compassion, long-tenure, and other life-sharing events or journeying together spiritually. In most instances, this differs from business.
When a pastor says, “I think God is leading us to…” make a certain change or take on a certain challenge, perhaps unconsciously, the congregation evaluates whether said pastor has enough capital to “buy” their involvement. Has he “earned” the right to ask for their support and lead the endeavor? The pastor may have intellectual capacity, understand the church’s power dynamics, and be of sound financial mind. But, how long has he been on the field? Has he walked them through the valley of the shadow of death? Has he earned trust?
If not, the pastor may be leading on hopes and wishes rather than capital.It is unwise to attempt deficit-spending with pastoral leadership capital, because in leadership you cannot spend what you do not have. In the financial world this is called “overextension.” In the ministry world it is often called “looking for a new church.”
Next week: Pastoral Leadership Capital, Part 2: Accruing and Spending It
Featured image credit, reversed and edited for size. Thanks to Art Rogers and Jay Sanders for reviewing this article and making helpful suggestions.