Shared Leadership

“If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.”
–African proverb

Team leadership is not an easy task—but it is a biblical frame for congregations. And the theological reason is a sober one. Namely, shared leadership might actually create a space for God to slip in and be acknowledged as the real leader! After all, he is the one who calls us into community and gives us gifts for the sake of the body. But listening and following God by listening and following each other is hard work.

What might be helpful for good team leadership? Following the work of two researchers, Frank LaFasto and Carl Larson, may I suggest these characteristics of effective teams: [1]

  1. Effective leadership teams will have a clear goal that points beyond the here and the now. Many church leader teams can unintentionally slide into keeping house and hoping to pacify upset members and lose a larger sense of mission.
  2. Effective leadership teams are comprised of competent members who trust one another. Everyone has a part to play in pursuing the clear goal. And everyone can be trusted to faithfully play that part.
  3. Effective leadership teams are comprised of both elders and ministers who share in a clear goal. Way too many churches have elder groups and staff groups who are not really working together for the sake of the same The left hand and the right hand need to be in sync with each other. There are many ways to achieve this, but all too often the relationship between elders and ministers is distant and disconnected.
  4. Effective leadership teams flourish in a collaborative environment. Healthy teams practice honesty and forthrightness in interpersonal relationships. They also are able to share differing opinions and ideas with each other without becoming defensive. They recognize the value of robust conversation and interaction as ways in which God works within the team.
  5. Effective leadership teams work with the constant call of pursuing God’s preferred future. Like the first characteristic above, effective teams recognize that today is one step closer to God’s tomorrow. To pursue God’s future means that the team seeks excellence, doing the very best with what is on hand today.

Is shared leadership hard? Of course it is. Any time I have to lay down my agenda to embrace something beyond myself, I am required to relinquish control. However, in pursuing shared leadership, I am also practicing the spiritual discipline of deferring to others. In so doing, our leadership teams and our churches may well discover that God has something truly wonderful and transformative to share.

Blessings as you lead!

[1] Adapted from Carl Larson and Frank LaFasto, Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong, 1989, SAGE Publications, Inc.


Dr. Carson Reed is Vice President for Church Relations at Abilene Christian University and Executive Director of the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry. He also serves as the Director for the Doctor of Ministry Program and holds the Frazer Endowed Chair for Church Enrichment in the Graduate School of Theology. Through the Siburt Institute, Carson does consulting work with congregations and church leaders across the country. His teaching and research centers on leadership, preaching, and issues surrounding faith and culture. Carson and his wife Vickie have been married for over 30 years and have four grown children.

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Author:  Publish Date: January 26, 2016

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The CHARIS website hosts conversations of and about Churches of Christ. In partnership with the ACU Library and the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX), the website is supported and led by the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at ACU. The Center’s mission is to renew Christian spirituality through engagement of Christian heritage, at Abilene Christian University and beyond. The views expressed on the CHARIS website are those of the various authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of Abilene Christian University or CHARIS at ACU. Questions or comments about the CHARIS website can be directed to charis @

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