What Skills Do Church Leaders Need?

I’ve started working with my presbytery to develop new leaders, new skills, and new worshiping communities.

Leadership development requires someone to decide on a set of skills needed by leaders (say, public speaking) and mechanism for imparting those skills (say, a list of books to read). So what skills to church leaders need today, and what kind of mechanism do we need for developing those skills?

My sense is that today’s church leaders need fewer of the skills our predecessors relied upon for building and maintaining the mid-20th century church, things like program administration, budgeting, and staff management. Not none of those. Fewer of them.

Instead, I think we probably need to get better at things like making connections with existing communities, groups of people who are already organized around something that matters to them. We need skills for listening to those people and experimenting with ways to add value to their work. We need these skills if we’re installed in a congregation as much as if we’re starting a new worshiping community as much as if we’re performing validated ministry work outside a congregational context.

How do you develop those skills? Surely there are books. But I’m kind of obsessed with cohorts at the minute. I participated in a year-long cohort recently, and now leadership development cohorts are all I think about: a small group of people gathering for a season to work together on particular areas of development under the leadership of a skilled facilitator.

Am I overly giddy about cohorts?

Am I dismissing those mid-20th century organizational skills too quickly?

And what about those books? What do church leaders today need to be reading? What are you reading?