Essential ingredients for pastoral leadership

Posted Apr 09, 2015 | Pastoral Excellence Network


By Israel Galindo

Israel GalindoI enjoy the Facebook group "Things they didn't teach us at seminary." Apparently, there are a LOT of things seminaries don't teach and which seminarians don't realize they need to learn. Certainly, that's as it must be. No formal educational program can teach everything one needs to know, in whatever field or profession.

Still, it begs these questions: What is it is that ought to be taught? Or, what is most necessary to be learned? Where is the balance between our theory and our practice of ministry? Or, what are the fundamental skills needed for effectiveness and success?

Trilling and Fadel, in 21st Century Skills, Learning for life in our times, cite a study that lists eight essential skills for the twenty-first century leader. They are:

Oral and written communication
Critical thinking and problem solving
Professionalism and work ethic
Teamwork and collaboration
Working with diverse teams and partners
Applying technology
Leadership and project management
Emotional intelligence

Reflecting on my own professional experience, that list seems spot on (and I'm hard pressed to add anything to the list aside from "appreciation for the aesthetic," a quality that can be embedded in several of those skills). My assessment is based not only on reflection on those skills that have made me effective to one degree or another, but also on what tends to get leaders stuck and ineffective. Upon further reflection, I must confess that only two items on the list were learned during my formal educational experience. Even then, I did not achieve a level of passable competence until the post-formal educational experience in "the real world."

The nature of these skills is that they are multidimensional, multifaceted, integrative, and acquired and honed over time. In other words, there are maturational and experiential dimensions to these skills that result in capacity, know-how, and competence. For example, it's doubtful one can achieve a high degree of professionalism and work ethic without a corresponding high level of emotional intelligence. With a lack of critical thinking skills, one's ability to do effective project management is limited. And we can write volumes on the outcome that is the integration of leadership, emotional intelligence, teamwork, and working with others. Emotional intelligence rarely comes without some maturation, and, good writers and public speakers emerge after countless hours at the craft—with just the right balance of successes and failures to yield expertise. One piece of good news is that no one needs to be an expert in any one area, or even several areas, but effective leaders have some level of competence in the cluster.

The notion that we don't learn everything in school, whether university or seminary, is merely a confession that learning is a lifelong necessity. One of our greatest liabilities is that along the way, despite years of being students, we never learn how to learn. So, if I were to add one more critical skill needed for effectiveness and success, it would be: being a lifelong learner who has learned how to learn.

Join us in the discussion: What do you have to add to this? What gaps have you noticed in your education for ministry and your practice of ministry?

Join us for a PEN Talk, a free webinar, with Israel Galindo on Thursday, April 23, 2015, at 2 pm EDT. Go to:

Israel Galindo is the Associate Dean for Lifelong Learning at Columbia Theological Seminary.

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