Skip to main content

If we are going to transform the classis into a force for congregational renewal, we’re going to have to rethink some things. As we’ve been studying Crabtree’s book, The Fly In the Ointment, we’ve been learning that “middle judicatories” must change if they are to be healthy expressions of denominational life, AND healthy support systems for congregations.

In Chapter 5 Crabtree challenges classis leadership with a description of the skills needed at the regional level.

Skill #1 Sharpen Strategic Thinking
Getting “above” local strategies means being able to identify the issues and pose the questions that will enable local leaders and congregations to develop good strategies. High quality assessment tools are needed to help congregations see where there is disconnect or dissonance, identify what needs to change, and deal with the conflict that comes with change.

Skill #2 Offer a Portfolio of Strategic Options
Since there is no “one size fits all” solution, regional leaders need to be able to offer a range of cases, stories, best practices, indicators, that will help congregations understand their situation, devise strategies appropriate to the situation, and give suitable leadership. Otherwise congregations are like the cowboy who jumped on his horse and rode off in all directions.

Skill #3 Leadership Development and Training
Not surprisingly, what’s needed here is the ability to “train trainers” – knowing adult learning principles, using them well, setting free the gifts of leaders who may not always be easy personalities.

Skill #4 Measurement
The regional leader must establish the criteria for success and a method for measuring it. The false dichotomy between quality and quantity in congregational life must be broken by regional leaders who know how to integrate these aspects of planning. (Example of a quantitative measure: number or % of first time visitors in worship. Example of a qualitative measure: morale, that is the level of energy and enthusiasm in the body.)

Skill #5 Resource Allocation and Development
Keen discernment and competent assessment are both part of this skill. Broad learning and perspective facilitates good allocation decisions. Fund raising expertise doesn’t hurt either.

Skill #6 Uncover Opportunities
A regional leader uncovers opportunities BEFORE they become visible to the larger community. Congregational leaders focus on the opportunities before them; regional leaders must learn to discern emerging opportunities when they are not yet apparent to busy local leaders.

What do you think? Are these the “right” skills we should be looking for in our classis leaders? I must confess these 6 skills don’t seem very dynamic, or unusually insightful. But I wonder what would happen if we began choosing classis leaders based on these 6 skills? Would classis become more helpful? More attractive? Do you have a story about leadership at the classis level?


Karl, perhaps I missed it, but did you ever define or identify who these regional leaders are?  or these regional leadership positions? 

Karl Westerhof on July 31, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

John, I've been pretty vague about that, intentionally I guess.   When I use that phrase I mean people who are in positions of official or informal influence at classis, members of the Classis Interim (or Executive) Committee, people who have formal positions such as clerk, and people who are in paid positions at the classis level, which may include stipends, honoraria, or paid positions, volunteers...  in short any and all folks in positions of leadership and influence at the classis level.

John Zylstra on July 31, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Thanks Karl for your answer about who these regional people might be.  I would just refine your point number 4 a bit, that it is not a regional leader who will necessarily define success, but that the congregation ought to do that, either at congregational level, or minimum at the council level, perhaps with facilitation by a classis person.    Half of the success of "success" is ownership by the local congregation, and they need to create their definition of success in their own context. 

Karl Westerhof on July 31, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Yes.   Right.   Really competent facilitation should mean that the congregation does its own work.  

As I read Crabtree in this chapter, I got to thinking that he is envisoning a more elaborate support structure at the classis level than we are used to.  But I think the leadership strengths he is identifying are useful for discussion by classis leaders in any case.

Let's Discuss

We love your comments! Thank you for helping us uphold the Community Guidelines to make this an encouraging and respectful community for everyone.

Login or Register to Comment

We want to hear from you.

Connect to The Network and add your own question, blog, resource, or job.

Add Your Post