Pastors are entrusted with the care of a flock by the Good Shepherd and are called to be faithful to this task. But pastoring seems to be getting more and more difficult. In Pastoral Leadership: For the Care of Souls, Harold L. Senkbeil and Lucas V. Woodford present a set of practical tools for church leadership and strategy. In this interview with Senkbeil and Woodford, we discuss the theological framework at the heart of this book.
Lexham Press: Who did you have in mind when you wrote this book?
Harold Senkbeil: Not only pastors who are interested in sharpening their leadership skills, but lay leaders in the church who so often make crucial decisions for their congregations by defaulting to the mindset of the business world, failing to grasp the spiritual essence of the church’s life and work.
Lucas Woodford: We collaborated together for the benefit of both pastors and lay leaders in developing their leadership aptitudes and skill set. But the primary point of doing so was because we had the precious souls of a congregation in mind who would be the recipients of this leadership.
LP: What sets Pastoral Leadership apart from similar books?
Senkbeil: This book is a cross-generational dialog between Lucas and me.
Readers gain from my experience of five decades of ministry in the parish, the academy, and parachurch work as well as Lucas’ broader perspective both as pastor and regional overseer (bishop) of multiple pastors and congregations.
We each wrote two chapters, collaborated on a final chapter, and Lucas’ voracious reading habits result in a very helpful resource section including his annotated comments on the good, the bad, and the ugly in current church leadership literature.
Woodford: This book takes an honest look at the dangers of over emphasizing leadership to the exclusion of soul care and the Lord’s mandate for mission and ministry, while simultaneously offering practical concepts, models, and tools for leadership in a congregation.
LP: What does healthy pastoral leadership look like? What does it not look like?
Senkbeil: The two of us share the view that pastoral leadership looks more like pastoring than administrating. What a pastor does as leader is of one piece with what he does in soul care.
Woodford: Healthy pastoral leadership is like skillfully riding a horse, where one ensures to neither fall off on the side of an extreme business and organizational mindset, nor fall off on the other side through willful ignorance about leadership tools, skills, and organizational principles.
LP: What does God want for pastors and from pastors?
Senkbeil: God wants them to receive his gifts in Christ Jesus so they can pass them on to those they serve in Jesus’ name.
Woodford: Our Lord desires for pastors to receive his tremendous gifts of grace and mercy so that they might then regularly, joyfully, and passionately give them to those they serve.
LP: Has the nature of faithful pastoral leadership changed over time?
Senkbeil: While the context of ministry in a post-Christendom world has shifted radically, the text of God’s Word has not. Faithful ministry today leads souls to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd in his word over the cacophony of an increasingly pagan culture. Context and text are the twin polarities of faithful pastoral leadership; we need to textualize people without contextualizing the message.
Woodford: Just as a modern day shepherd who leads his sheep has different accoutrements to accompany his care of those sheep than those of Jesus’ day, so modern day pastors have different technological and organizational tools to assist them in leading their flocks today. However, the core nature of pastoral leadership will always remain the same. Namely, the constant and perpetual leading of souls to the quiet waters and green pastures of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
LP: Why should a (probably very busy) pastor pick up Pastoral Leadership?
Senkbeil: It’s a short, compact summary of how to do effective leadership without sacrificing your identity as a curate of souls or losing your own soul as a pastor.
Woodford: We strove to write succinctly, concisely, practically, and narratively so that a busy and over burdened pastor might be able to pick up this little book and immediately see himself in it and be compelled to apply its short and sweet encouragement.