On my desk I have an article posted behind my computer by William H. Willimon. In the February 17, 2016 edition of The Christian Century, Willimon wrote an article titled: “Why leaders are a pain.” When I was hired in my current job as program coordinator for ministry recruitment, I was enthusiastic about finding and encouraging the leaders of tomorrow to answer their call to ordered ministry in The United Church of Canada.
I was sometimes surprised to find that not everyone else shared my enthusiasm. Some people wanted ministers that would offer pastoral care, and hold their hands and the church, while it declined and slowly died; they did not want leaders that were going to come in and change things, challenge their set beliefs, or rally them into action. As Willimon points out, “Leaders are needed only in an organization that is going somewhere” (italics added by me). There are many in the church that don’t want to go anywhere.
It is easy to point fingers and say, “they don’t want to change.” But the reality is that we all struggle when the rules are changed, when expectations are altered, or when we suddenly find ourselves on an unknown road with no directions. But that is exactly what the call to Christianity and ministry leadership is all about.
I have recently been reflecting on how Christianity is really a movement. Jesus is always on the road, travelling with his disciples. Last Easter Sunday I heard the Road to Emmaus story anew: Jesus is revealed in the breaking of the bread but the scriptures are revealed while walking on the road, in conversation. I think this is important to remember as a church, and especially among church leaders, during this time of change and transition in The United Church of Canada.
Leaders are a pain because they inspire us to move and do and change the world, and won’t just let us be in our old, comfortable way.
—bcorlett [at] united-church.ca (Rev. Bronwyn Corlett), Program Coordinator, Ministry Recruitment.