I suppose what makes her stick out all the more is that she's a pastor--and she's also a girl. For the majority of evangelical churches, that is an oxymoron. But that's not the point of this post. I'm simply naming the elephant in the room. For three years now, Carla has been modeling to me what it means to use leadership gifts in a feminine, life-giving way. I'll be forever grateful.
She's currently on staff at Grace Point Church of the Nazarene, where she serves as our Evangelism and Discipleship pastor. Here are some of her perspectives on leadership and change in today's church.
While churches all over are instituting formal leadership programs, Carla's approach is organic. She's been reading a book titled The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations—and she's come to see herself as a connector. By spotting the good (and the gifts) in individuals in the church body and bringing them together with people or ministries they may have synergy with, she's decentralizing church leadership. This is a non-forceful approach that offers opportunity by suggestion or invitation.
On Mentoring and Discipleship:
When Carla and her husband Chuck came to be pastors at our church five years ago, they joined a 75-year-old church with history and habits. Carla soon realized that instead of injecting discipleship opportunities mainly into the lives of well-established members, she'd get farther by inviting in new converts and attendees and discipling them from the start.
This led her to begin teaching a Sunday School class for seekers, new attendees, and those who don't feel comfortable elsewhere. She also started a BASICS class that she calls the DNA of the church: a 5-week opportunity to investigate the importance of the Bible, Accountability, Service, Intercession, and Community in our spiritual walk.
The approach: grow leaders from the bottom up, and they will in turn lead others to enter life with Christ.
Advice for New Church Leaders:
Carla's helpful advice for new pastors—when they interview you, they say they want change. Most likely, they don't. Go slow, come in and love on your people, understand their history, and eventually change will happen. "If they know you love them, they will follow you to the moon."
Current Reading List:
-Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
-On God and Christ: The Five Theological Orations and Two Letters to Cledonius by St. Gregory of Nazianzus
-Christianity in Action: The International History of the Salvation Army by Henry Gariepy
-The Sower: Redefining the Ministry of Raising Kingdom Resources by R. Scott Rodin & Gary G. Hoag
Find Rev. Carla Sunberg on facebook.
Pastoral leadership perspective #2 coming soon: Jim Kane
Your turn. How do you feel about the new trend toward decentralized leadership? Any other ideas about effective discipleship efforts in the church?