Posted by: morgan1965 | March 4, 2009

Leading in Times of Crisis

A recent edition of USA Today  [March 2, 2009] contained an interview with management consultant Ram Charan. When I am reading an article or book about leadership from the perspective of the  private sector, I want to discern the implications  for pastors and people in ministry. Quite frankly, I have learned a lot about leadership in this manner. This article did not disappoint me.

The heading for the interview indicated that chaotic times call for CEOs to show optism. It was not this statement that arrested my attention. What caught my attention was Charan’s response to a question about whether the CEO should express his/her fear to employees and shareholders. Should the CEO just put on an optimistic face?

Mr. Charan said: Leadership is judged in times of crisis. This response, perhaps, has twofold implications for the pastor of a congregation. First,  the pastor is expected to have the leadership capacity to lead a congregation through a crisis, or through the storm. From a faith perspective, a pastor shares his/her faith in the future, and articulates the belief that a congregation can indeed weather the storm. This belief is couched in the reality that God is in the middle of a storm. It is Jesus who calmed the angry seas in the midst of stormy weather. In a congregation, it might be a conflict crisis, an economic crisis, a building crisis or a membership crisis among other things that create a crisis.

Second, the pastor will encounter people who are facing a personal crisis. It might be a crisis of doubt or anxiety. It might be the crisis of illness or death. It might be the crisis of vocation or the loss of a job. For some people it might be the crisis of marriage or divorce. In the midst of a personal crisis, parishioners often turn to the pastor for help in walking through the storm.

One’s ability to lead in the storm is a true test of one’s leadership capacity. Has your leadership been put to the test and judged in times of crisis? How can the pastoral leader be ready to lead in the midst of a storm? Perhaps it is a matter of one’s faith perspective and the depth of one’s hope and belief in the future. We always have the assurance that God is with us, and God not only will prepare the way, God will lead us on the way.

The pastor, then, needs the prayers of the worshipping community. The pastor, therefore,  needs to spend much time in prayer, meditation, bible study and listening to God. Leading in a crisis is difficult, but it is possible with God’s help.

The pastoral leader must articulate current realities, while at the same time offering hope. The congregation can and will work with the pastor in defining problems and identifying solutions. But, they expect the pastor to provide the appropriate leadership, especially in the midst of a crisis. Now, that is the test of leadership.


  1. Great Post. I too wrote some thoughts on leadership. Hope you will stop over and check it out and share your thoughts too. God Bless, Robin

  2. There are three books I’m am slowly reading about leadership that discusses these areas.
    1) Leadership from the Other Side by Bill Easum
    2) A Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the Age of the Quick Fix by Edwin H. Friedman
    3) Extraordinary Leadership: Thinking Systems, Making a Difference by Roberta M. Gilbert

    These three books, for me, challenge to move ahead into mystery and not lose nerve, but trust that the answers will come from sometimes the most unexpected places in most unexpected forms. Throughout history, the God we serve choses the weakest, the least (earthly) equiped, the unassuming and overlooked, but God brings change through them in God’s direction. How often my own opinions and especially internal fears overlook the very answers God sends.

    God, by the Holy Spirit, help me be aware and begin to release me from the tyrany and blindness of internal fear. Open my eyes, my ears, my heart to see, hear and follow Your wisdom, call and direction.

    Don Moen wrote a song from his own grief at the loss of his nephew called “God Will Make a Way.

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