Author Archives: Carson E. Reed

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.

Ministry in Turbulent Times

Tragedy haunts headlines. Another week brings another shooting. Political dysfunctions and chaos spread across the globe. Often, closer to home, we deal with the quieter but deadly realities of epidemic drug use, the rise of suicide and a youth culture that is saturated with anxiety. All of these are present as congregations seek…

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Relationships and Leadership

I recently participated in a learning workshop with faculty from a half-dozen seminaries and schools that train persons for ministerial leadership. One thing that came very clear in the reports we heard and in the conversations that followed was the vital role that relationality plays for effective leadership and care in congregations. Relationships…

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Partnering with Churches and Ministers to Discern God’s Call

On any given day the Siburt Institute is working with about 75 churches that are looking for a minister. That number is in addition to the congregations that use our automated MinistryLink network service. And twice a month an eight-member team meets to review requests from search committees for names and resumes. So…

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Elders and Ministers: Working and Praying Together

Earlier this year the Barna Group published a major report on the status of ministers. [1] The report is full of great information, challenging insights, and valuable data that would help congregational leadership teams support and empower their ministers. One small section of the report focused on elder-minister relationships, and I want to highlight…

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Renewal in Your Church

New Testament scholar Kavin Rowe, along with Gregory Jones, recently released a small book entitled Thriving Communities: The Pattern of Church Life Then and Now. [1] Rowe has done a great deal of scholarly work on Acts. Utilizing that knowledge he offers some remarkable and convicting observations about the life of the early…

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An Update and Reflections on the Church Health Assessment

When church leaders seek a meaningful place to assess the health of their congregation, where do they turn? Late last summer, the Siburt Institute launched the Church Health Assessment (CHA) to provide just the resource. The CHA is an online research tool designed to measure a congregation’s health in nine critical areas. Those…

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Emotional Intelligence and Leadership

In my frequent work with church leadership teams, I find that a constant challenge for ministers and elders is the way they address the relational dynamics that are constantly present in a congregation. When all is said and done, a critical component of leadership is how to relate to people! One way to…

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Who Decides Who Decides? Developing an Action Plan

Elders and ministry staff can easily get sideways with each other when it comes to who decides who decides. Clear decision-making processes are vital for healthy leadership, and having written guidelines can help. However, the conversations that help to set guidelines can often become complex! Adapting the research of Richard Chait, I offer…

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Interpretive Leadership: Seeking God’s Preferred Future

Last month we explored leadership as relational work—shepherding to nurture emotional and spiritual well-being. This month we turn to another dimension of leadership: paying attention to God. In any group or organization, one of the critical aspects of leadership is asking the important questions, “Where are we headed?” and “What is our goal?”…

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Job Description for a Shepherd

In a recent Saturday retreat with an elder group, some familiar questions were raised: “What does it mean to shepherd the church?” “How is it supposed to look?” These are good questions that congregational leaders often raise. Elders want to be good shepherds, but they often acknowledge a lack clear definitive practices that…

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Nuremberg Funnel: Reenvisioning the Work of Leadership

In a newly published book titled Teaching and Christian Imagination, the authors present a common image that satirically exposes the limitations of mechanical knowledge acquisition. [1] In Europe—particularly in Germany—the image is called the Nuremberg Funnel. Imagine a funnel stuck into someone’s head while a teacher is stuffing all manner of knowledge into…

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Dimensions of Leadership

The noted theologian Jürgen Moltmann remarked that in “every period the church has a duty to be clear about its commission, its situation and its goal.” [1] These three things – mission, context and purpose – are very significant for congregational leaders. And each of these things can quickly and easily be lost…

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Not All Problems Are Alike!

Congregational leadership is often comprised of various problems that call for attention. Everything from sorting out a new insurance policy to discerning the next step for pursuing God’s mission can be on the table. Following the work of Speed Leas, [1] it can be helpful to recognize that not all problems are alike;…

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Looking for Millennials, Part Two

Two months ago, I offered some insights from the work of William Sachs and Michael Bos [1] on the ways in which churches can knowingly or unknowingly distance themselves from young adults. These researchers also point toward some distinctive values that congregations might focus on to remain open to young adults. Naturally, not all young adults…

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Siburt Institute – Mission Revisited

As September approaches, the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry begins its fifth year of ministry to leaders and congregations. Our executive team held its annual review day in May, and we were inspired by the development of new services and encouraging stories from people and the churches where they worship and serve. We…

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Looking for Millennials … In All the Wrong Places

A conversation I hear repeatedly in many congregations is the lament over the loss of younger adults. Even many of the younger adults who do remain within the congregation seem to be less than fully engaged in the life of the church. The question I’m often asked is, “Why?” I don’t know that…

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Gratitude as a Leadership Practice

I’ve been reading a new book on interpersonal communication. [1] I found it surprising that the authors, Quentin Schultze and Diane Badzinski, begin the book with a chapter on gratitude. Why gratitude? Schultze and Badzinski argue that communication emerges out of our character, and our character is forged by our attitude toward God…

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What is Ministry?

Sounds like a simple question, doesn’t it? And because of its simplicity, the question can often be left unexamined. However, I want to suggest that simply assuming we know what ministry is can quickly paralyze church leadership groups! The answer to the question about the nature and purpose of ministry can take many…

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Leading in Anxious Times

In teaching a graduate course at ACU on Church Leadership, I enjoyed reading once again a wonderful book by Peter Steinke entitled Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times. Steinke offers wonderful insights into realities of congregational life and highlights the challenges leaders face. More than that, Steinke presents cogent wisdom to guide leaders to be non-anxious…

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Common Dysfunctions of an Elder Group

Team leadership is biblical and it creates a space for God to work communally. But team leadership can also foster all kinds of dysfunctionality! Aubrey Malphurs, in his book, Leading Leaders, offers five ways in which church leadership teams slip into patterns that are not healthy for partnering with God’s desires for a…

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Preaching as Leadership

One leadership function that is often not recognized as leadership is the practice of preaching.  What usually commands attention when leaders talk about leadership are things like vision-casting, pastoral care, and identifying meaningful goals that extend the mission of the church.  But preaching, not so much! Yet every week in nearly every church,…

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Three Circles of Leadership

To practice leadership effectively requires thoughtful imagination and the capacity to see beyond current patterns of behavior. I think that, left unexamined, leadership can quickly devolve into a reactive set of actions prompted by whatever crisis the day brings. So leaders become fixers; we fix the problems so that the trains run on time and…

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Do As I Say

Doing and saying should line up—at least that is what common wisdom suggests!  “If you are going to talk the talk, then you should also walk the walk,” is another way of getting at the importance of aligning our speech and our actions.  Thus, as disciples of Jesus, we often press toward holding…

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Discipleship, First and Finally

“Ministerial leadership is, first and finally, discipleship.” – Lesslie Newbigin Returning to his native England after 50 years of missionary work in India, Lesslie Newbigin was stunned to see the decline of the church in the west. So instead of settling into retirement in 1974, he launched a second career as a missionary…

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Pay Attention to God

A growing number of church leaders are discovering that the congregations they serve are in crisis. Add to that nagging realization the almost daily news that Christianity is being nudged to the sidelines, and it’s enough to foster anxiety in even the most calm of leaders. Alan Roxburgh, in his new book Joining God, Remaking Church,…

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A Few Thoughts on Mentoring and Leadership

In the past few weeks I have had two great conversations with other leaders about the practice of mentoring. As I hung up from one of those phone conversations, I happened to pick up Mark Searby’s new book, The Resilient Pastor (Resource Publications, 2015). Mark is a friend who teaches at Beeson Divinity School; he…

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When Leaders Listen

A few days ago I walked out of a two-hour oral defense for one of our Doctor of Ministry students. His doctoral project, which he successfully “defended,” focused on the development of leaders. One of the unintended results of his intervention was the deep communal connections that took place when people are called together to…

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Leadership in Global Perspective

I just returned from speaking at an international conference on ethics and leadership held in Leuven, Belgium. Scholars, church leaders, and business leaders came from Europe, Africa, and Asia. The theme focused on the rapid changes in the way leadership is understand in all kinds of contexts. Although I made a major presentation,…

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Elders: Representatives or Leaders?

Author Larry Osborne raises an important factor for the vitality for elder groups as they lead congregations.[1] He notes that congregational leaders often assume that their job is to represent the various interest groups and constituencies of the church. So Jack speaks for the older folk and Jim understands the young families and so…

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Leadership Remix

Recently I was reading an essay by Mark Lau Branson entitled “Forming God’s People.”  He makes the assertion that I’ve been thinking about a lot since I read it.  He states that leadership is generally a secondary question.  Rather than asking “how am I supposed to lead,” he offers a compelling alternative.  The…

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