Alternative Models of Leadership

ABCUSA > Learnings from the Mission Summit and Mission Table > Alternative Models of Leadership

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from Mission Summit Conversations (June 2013)

  • Insights
    • Dealing with the perceived loss of not having a full-time pastor is key.
  • Challenges
    • How to manage expectations of the role of the pastor in changing environments – environments that make it increasingly difficult for small congregations to maintain full time pastors, in particular.
    • The need to encourage “more user-friendly and available theological training” as viable alternative strategies, which include expanding Christian ministry certificate programs and efforts that highlight affirming everyone’s giftedness in the work of ministry.
  • Experiments
    • What would churches look like if they were not so “pastor-centric”?

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from the Mission Table (November 2013)

  • Insights
    • Psychological screening is important. Seminaries often see more of ordinands than the denominational committee does, so they need to be in on the evaluation too.
  • Challenges
    • The role of seminaries seems central, so they must be in on the conversation.
    • The traditional definitions of “Pastor” will give us the kinds of churches we already have. That’s not good enough.
    • New structures that encourage new pastoral leadership models will need to be constantly updated as they adapt to new realities. There’s not one answer for all times and places.
    • Why would a pastor re-think how they lead if the only employment is for those who do it the old way?
    • How can the ABC ensure value from seminaries? If we require seminary, we should police the quality of what our future pastors are getting.
  • Experiments/Projects
    • What meaningful ways can the denomination train leaders after they graduate seminary?
    • Regions/associations need to find ways to continue education about new generations and different cultures. The terrain changes as pastors age or move to a different church, and they need continuing and specific training.
    • We don’t have enough support systems in place for bi-vocational pastors, student pastors, and part time pastors. They need things that full time pastors don’t. Let’s find out what those things are and find ways to provide them.
    • The answer is not no standards, it’s particular standards- particular to the needs of the congregation, the gifts of the pastor, etc.

Read the full notes:

Mission Summit Conversations:

Mission Table:

Summary of Insights, Challenges and Experiments from the National Leadership Council Meeting (April 2014)


  • The traditional models of pastoral leadership are dramatically changing.
  • In several regions 75% of open churches are unable to afford a full time pastor.
  • Can we learn something from the African-American model of training and mentoring new candidates of ministry?
  • This topic also has implications for ordination. This model does not fit into any of the 3 tracks to ordination.
  • We need alternative education and recognition of persons pursuing alternative models.

Next Steps

  • We need to work at identifying those who might fit into a new model of ministry.
  • We need to reframe this topic with positive language rather than implying that a church is somehow “less than” because they cannot afford a full time pastor.
  • How can we train persons who might respond to this type of ministry?

Views expressed are the sole opinion of conversation participants. They do not express the views of American Baptist Churches USA, or individual American Baptist churches. Conversation notes and summaries are shared to allow American Baptists and friends to easily review and use these Mission Summit Conversations and the Mission Table learnings as they wish.