August 2017 E-news from the Siburt Institute

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 to help congregational leadership teams support and empower their ministers. One section focused on elder-minister relationships.

Most ministers reported positive perceptions of the relationship between themselves and elder teams. However, several other indicators suggest some critical weaknesses. Namely, only 44 percent of those surveyed noted the relationship between elders and ministers is a “powerful” one, and only 34 percent said that they engage in “frequent prayer together.”

If only one in three ministers can say they pray regularly with elders, and only four in 10 have solid relationships with their elders, it is no small wonder many churches are in decline or are struggling with mission and the future.

The Barna report cites a research project in Scotland highlighting this point. There, researchers discovered that churches whose members pray missionally and make prayer an integral part of their mission are more likely to be growing churches. Indeed, the leading difference in this particular survey between growing churches and those that are flat or declining is praying specifically “for the challenges of living faithfully in a post-Christian culture.”2

Additionally, larger churches (250 members or more) are twice as likely as smaller churches to have a strong partnership between elders and ministers. Likewise, ministers are much less likely to burn out in contexts in which ministers and elders are working well together, ministers are truly appreciated by elders and there is clear decision-making authority

All of these factors suggest how critical it is for ministers and elders to work together and to spend a great deal of time in prayer. What steps might you take in your congregation to foster strong and prayerful relationships among your elders and ministers?


[1] The State of Pastors: How Today’s Faith Leaders are Navigating Life and Leadership in an Age of Complexity. Barna, 2017.
[2] Ibid., 70.


Church leadership and a crazy ostrich

A recent encounter with an aggressive ostrich led Steve Ridgell, an elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ in Abilene, Texas, to reflect on church leadership. In his CHARIS post, he writes that this bird reminded him “that I am never really in charge, that people are messy, and that this world is not my reality.” Ridgell also is director of ministry with Hope for Life, a Herald of Truth Ministry, and author of Can I Tell You a Story?

Does starting a Christian school fit the mission of your congregation?

The National Christian School Association (NCSA), an educational organization comprised of more than 120 secondary schools affiliated with the Churches of Christ, invites congregational leaders to explore the feasibility of their churches planting or housing Christian private schools. A school might be a wholly managed ministry (discipleship, community outreach, etc.) or a rent-paying tenant of the church.

“Both models – a church-owned school or a tenant school – have a place in our communities and are valuable to both church mission and school vision,” said NCSA president Kelly Moore (pictured at right). “Over the years, we have witnessed congregations experience positive impact on mission advancement, as well as financial stability.” The association supports and accredits Christian schools across the United States, stressing academic excellence in a Christ-centered environment. To learn more, visit or email

Countdown to Summit 2017; app and music are live

Summit 2017 is almost here! The Summit team has once again brought together an exciting variety of speakers, topics and events, including the first Summit Film Festival. You can get all the details by accessing the newly updated ACU Summit app. If you downloaded the app in 2016 and kept it on your mobile device, the updates should have posted already. If you don’t have it or did not receive the updates, you may download it for free in the Apple store or Google Play. Program booklets will be available at the event. In the meantime, you can view the Summit 2017 programming information online.

Among so many great offerings, the Summit Team is excited to amplify the sounds of United Voice Worship (UVM). An a cappella singing group with members from across Texas, UVW is dedicated to honoring Jesus Christ by promoting intentional dialogue among people of different backgrounds. UVW will be leading worship on Monday at Summit and will offer a mini-concert before the evening theme session in Cullen and then an expanded concert following the session.

Summit will take place Sept. 17-20 on ACU’s campus and explore the theme Ancient Scripture, Future Church: The Choices We Make and the God We Serve. For more information and/or to register, visit the Summit website.



“Critical judgment does not change anyone or anything in the universe. If you dislike someone or react negatively toward a certain behavior, it does not change the person or the behavior you are judging. When you judge another critically, you do not define that person. You define yourself. Your harsh judgment says something about you. It describes your likes and dislikes. Accusation – “you, you, you” – is really about “me.” – Dr. Peter L. Steinke, Healthy Congregations: A Systems Approach

“So much of a pastor’s work involves feeding others, reaching out to their needs, giving of self, teaching, and sharing one’s time and energy in service to the church. Therefore the pastor needs friends. Friendship tends to be intrinsically valuable; it is engaged in for its own delight. In friendship, the pastor, who has so often been giving to others receives, and is nourished by others.” – Dr. William H. Willimon, Calling & Character: Virtues of the Ordained Life

July 2017 E-news from the Siburt Institute

Renewal in your church

New Testament scholar Dr. Kavin Rowe, along with Dr. L. Gregory Jones, recently released a small book entitled Thriving Communities: The Pattern of Church Life Then and Now.1 Utilizing his scholarly knowledge of Acts, Rowe offers some remarkable and convicting observations about the life of the early church, particularly in light of the tension between the church and the larger culture. He says that Luke’s story is that God “aims at nothing less than the construction of an alternative total way of life – a comprehensive pattern of being – one that runs counter to the life-patterns of the Greco-Roman world.”

What might Rowe’s observations mean for us as Christian leaders today? Let’s take a look at seven big themes in Acts:

  1. The early church constantly built and nurtured networks of disciples and communities.
  2. The early church did not remain hidden but made sure there was public witness to the gospel – whether at the temple in Jerusalem or in the pagan temples in places such as Ephesus and Athens.
  3. The early church cared for persons at the margins; the Grecian widows in Acts serve as an example.
  4. The early church taught and articulated faith as a living reality that gives life.
  5. The early church understood conflict as simply a way of identifying what was really important.
  6. The early church recognized that suffering is part of the journey.
  7. The early church engaged in prayer as a fundamental practice.

These identifying markers of the early church as observed in Acts might be worth consideration for leaders and congregations today by asking these questions:

  1. Are we actively forming and nurturing groups of disciples through Sunday school or small-group ministry?
  2. Does our church find ways of making the gospel message public in our community?
  3. In what ways are we caring for persons at the margins?
  4. Does our church teach the core fundamentals of the faith in a way that gives life and meaning to our congregation?
  5. Are we willing to explore conflict as a path to our future (or do we avoid it)?
  6. Are we prepared to suffer or to relinquish strongly held ideas, possessions, or status for the sake of God’s will?
  7. How well do we practice prayer as a way of life in our church?

I will be the first to admit that these are hard questions. But I also think they reflect well the witness of the early church as seen in the book of Acts. Maybe asking such questions and engaging in a close reading of Acts might well be a useful exercise for leaders in your congregation.

Renewal begins with God’s work. And in many cases, God is simply waiting for a church and her leaders to get serious about seeking a new and vibrant day. I can’t think of a better thing to do than to let the witness of the early church guide us.

Blessings on your work of leadership!


[1] C. Kavin Rowe and L. Gregory Jones, Thriving Communities: The Pattern of Church Life Then and Now, ed. Alissa Wilkinson (Durham, NC: Duke Divinity School, 2014), Electronic Format.


A glance at 2016-17

The Siburt Institute is excited to share with you its 2016-17 Year in Review. The institute’s team members cherish the many opportunities afforded them to serve and fellowship with congregational leaders across much of Texas and the nation. The Year in Review highlights new initiatives such as the Congregational Health Assessment launched in 2016; long-standing traditions, such as the ElderLink events established in 2000; and so much more, including the second year of the Contemplative Ministers’ Initiative. While there’s no way to tell all the stories and experiences that constitute the Siburt Institute in just a few pages, the document will allow you to meet a few of the people who serve and are served by the work to the institute.

A witness to leadership

In his latest CHARIS article, “I Saw a Captain in Action,” Steven Brice reflects on his experiences at Oak Gardens Church in Dallas, Texas, where he recently completed his tenure as the spiritual formation pastor. He speaks of the church’s journey through a time of transition that could have easily been very choppy waters had it not been for the skillful and thoughtful leadership of the congregation’s senior pastor, Dr. Paul Day. Brice highlights lessons learned along the way as he witnessed Day embrace, share and actualize a vision for Oak Gardens “to become a safe church for the unchurched.”

Siburt Institute matching gift challenge

The Siburt Institute for Church Ministry recently launched its first-ever major fundraising campaign when a generous donor couple offered to match up to $50,000 for any amount raised by the institute. The first five years of operating funds were graciously covered by a few donors who believed in the mission of the Siburt Institute from its inception in 2012. The challenge grant campaign now opens the door for everyone who wishes to see our efforts to resource and support congregational leaders across the country continued. If you wish to partner with us, we invite you to make a gift at and your gift will be matched 100 percent!

A peek into the world of refugees

The Summit 2017 team invites you to a special exhibit at this year’s event designed as a small window into the lives of the nearly 65 million refugees in the world today. The Global Refugee Medical Mission experience will provide images and pre-recorded narration that reflect what many refugees might encounter on any given day.

To view, go to Room 115 in the Onstead-Packer Biblical Studies Building on Sept. 18 or 19, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; or Sept. 20, 9:30-10:30 a.m. A host will provide instructions about the self-guided exhibit that’s expected to take about 15-20 minutes to complete.

Summit 2017 will be Sept. 17-20 on ACU’s campus. Registration is free and highly encouraged, allowing the Summit team to appropriately prepare for your arrival. For more information, visit the Summit website.

Theres still time to register for Randy Harris events

  • Summer Weekend Intensive Bible Course, “Christian Ethics in a World Gone Mad: How to Cope and Even Thrive,” Aug. 4-5, ACU’s Hunter Welcome Center. Registration is $60 and includes meals. Register by July 31.
  • Ministers’ Lunch Hour With Randy Harris (A Lunch and Learn Event), “Does the Church Matter?” 11:30 a.m., Aug. 29, ACU’s Hunter Welcome Center. The cost is $15 and includes lunch. Register by Aug. 22.



“The word vision and the word see are related. If people cannot see, there is no vision. One of the best things any leader can do is to create simple pictures of organizational dreams and goals. But the leader cannot create these dreams and goals if they are not first pictorial in the leader’s mind. Without clearly drawn maps to the future, the organization remains hamstrung to the past.” – Dr. Calvin Miller, The Empowered Leader: 10 Keys to Servant Leadership

“People do not follow programs, but leaders who inspire them. They act when a vision stirs in them a reckless hope of something greater than themselves, hope of fulfillment they had never before dared to aspire to. And hope is passed from person to person. God-given visions of hope are shared, shared by leaders who see the vision with people who don’t. But sharing is more than talk. Hope bursts into flame when leaders begin to act.” – Dr. John White, Excellence in Leadership: Reaching Goals With Prayer, Courage & Determination

May 2017 E-news from the Siburt Institute

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 explore this critical aspect of leadership is through the lens of emotional intelligence, a theory popularized by the work of Daniel Goleman more than 20 years ago.In short, emotional intelligence reflects the capacity to monitor your emotions and the emotions of others, and to utilize that information to shape your words and actions. To say it another way, emotional intelligence is paying attention to your emotions and to the emotions of others in ways that help you effectively interact with others.

Following Goleman’s work, emotional intelligence focuses on four different competencies:

  1. Self-awareness – what is going on inside you.
  2. Self-management – emotional self-control and adaptability.
  3. Social awareness – attentiveness to others and the capacity for empathy.
  4. Relationship management – capacity to attend constructively in conflicted situations, with loss, or with the need to inspire, build teams or develop others.

When talking about emotional intelligence, I occasionally receive some pushback. What about intellectual intelligence? What about knowing what to do? Obviously, knowledge and skills are incredibly important. However, knowing what to do and helping others do the right thing are two different matters. As Goleman notes, intelligence might get you the job, but emotional intelligence will help you keep it!

At the heart of human experience is the way our emotions shape our doing and being. Even the simplest of interactions in our families and congregations are fraught with emotional fields. Each of Goleman’s four competencies is critically important for leaders to develop. Beginning with self-awareness, effective leaders stay tuned to their own emotional state. To be self-aware is to be able to identify the feelings and thoughts surging within our own bodies. Once leaders are aware, they can explore constructive avenues for how to appropriately manage their own emotions instead of letting their emotions manage them.

Moving beyond the self means attending to others. Social awareness calls upon the leader to remain attuned to what others are feeling. It is not always easy; so much of what a person is feeling is communicated nonverbally. Once some assessment of a person or a group’s feelings has been made, wise leaders turn to managing their influence in the relationship.

The language of emotional intelligence may seem a little distant to congregational life. But in many ways, the witness of Scripture reminds us that being a Christ follower means that we practice virtues (2 Peter 1) and embody the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5). Maybe, as church leaders, we can begin to imagine how important our emotional intelligence really is to the health and mission of our congregations!


[1] Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence, (New York: Bantam, 1995).
[2] I have explored this elsewhere. See Carson E. Reed, “Motive and Movement: Affective Leadership Through the Work of Preaching.” Journal Of Religious Leadership 13, No. 2 (September 2014): 63-82. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost (accessed May 2, 2017).

You can find more of Siburt’s e-news bulletins at this link.

March 2017 E-news from the Siburt Institute

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?” Such questions shape strategic thinking and mission.

However, as congregational leaders, the question is quite different. The difference is critical, and it is one of the reasons why church leaders often find themselves frustrated and uncertain. The usual practices of leadership in organizations do not apply to the big question.

As the church – as God’s people – the big question is not, “Where are we headed?” but “Where is God headed?” This turns the task of vision work and strategic thinking on its head. Great congregational leaders are not necessarily savvy visionaries or brilliant communicators or great strategists, though these are wonderful gifts he uses. Instead, great congregational leaders are first and foremost prayerful disciples intent on knowing his will for their own lives and for the lives of the congregations they have been called to lead.

Because Christ is the head of the church, and because God is redeeming humankind through the witness of the church, the task of leaders is to pay close attention to God’s leadership. One way to speak of this is with the term “interpretive leadership.” To pay attention to God, congregational leaders are constantly engaged in interpretive work – listening to the Word and listening for the Spirit’s prompting so they might follow.

Here are some examples of what interpretive leadership looks like:

  • Leaders spend time in Scripture interpreting the voice of God, first for themselves and then for the church.
  • Leaders interpret contextual realities – what is happening in our town, our city and our culture that 1) creates opportunity for the gospel to be heard or 2) requires the response of God’s grace.
  • Leaders also are interpreting the story and legacy of their own congregations. They ask, “When have we been faithful to God’s will and purpose, and when have we turned inward and been negligent to his prompting?”
  • Leaders prayerfully listen and watch for the work of the Holy Spirit. If God is up to something, then faithfulness requires us to follow along!

If you are a leader in a congregation, I suggest the best and most important thing you could do for your congregation is to commit yourself to being a prayerful disciple. In order to grow – to really grow as teams of leaders – the challenge will be to create space for leaders to find good ways of asking and exploring the questions, “What is God up to in our community?” and “What is God’s preferred future for our church?”

I believe that in times of renewal God will raise up such leaders. Will you be in that number?


ACU’s 2017 Ministers’ Salary Survey

Every year, Abilene Christian University’s Siburt Institute for Church Ministry provides an ongoing service by collecting compensation data from ministers in Churches of Christ and publishing the results electronically. The late Dr. Charles Siburt initiated the Ministers’ Salary Survey in 2004 as one of his many efforts to build congregations and their leaders.

We value your input! If you are currently in a paid ministerial position within  the Churches of Christ, please take a few minutes to complete the survey. Thank you in advance for completing the instrument, which should take under 15 minutes. Please feel free to pass on the survey link to any other person fitting the above description. Our secure link protects your privacy by avoiding the need for your email address or any other identifying information.  The deadline to complete the survey is Tuesday, March 7. This will allow us to publish our findings on our webpage by May 1.

Thank you for all consideration given to taking the survey.


Dr. Carson E. Reed
Vice President, Church Relations
Executive Director, Siburt Institute for Church Ministry
O. L. and Irene Frazer Chair for Church Enrichment
Abilene Christian University