Leading Through Grace

A Place for Grace

Church should be a place of forgiveness and renewal, but unfortunately some churches are far more judgmental than they are graceful. In fact, in “The Jesus I Never Knew,” Philip Yancey tells of a prostitute who’d been renting out her 2-year old daughter to men. She made more money in an hour than she could earn all night.

Shocking as this was, when a Christian asked her if she’d ever been to church her response was even more shocking. “Church” she said, “Why would I ever go there? I was already feeling terrible about myself. They’d just make me feel worse.”

Leadership and Grace

Grace is the function of leadership, and it’s important for leaders to ensure that behavior in the church is aligned with grace. By definition grace is unmerited favor, and making church a place of grace and not condemnation is critical.  When it exists, grace increases trust and good will in the church.  It deepens relationships and results in church growth.

Lessons on Grace from our Founding Fathers

A clear example of how this works is found in a story about two of our country’s most esteemed leaders, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.  They’d had a lifelong friendship, but they also had differences, so for a period the two were estranged.  However, they reconciled and began a series of 158 correspondences between 1812 and 1826.

The strength of their friendship is evidenced in an incident that occurred in 1823.  A series of letters that Adams wrote earlier were reprinted in the newspaper.  Adams had been critical of Jefferson, calling him a “duplicitous political partisan.”  The newspaper obviously tried to stir up trouble, but Jefferson responded with grace and forgiveness by writing the following to Adams:

“Be assured, my dear sir, that I am incapable of receiving the slightest impression from the effort to plant thorns and to sow tares between friends who have been such for nearly half a century.  Beseeching you then not to suffer your mind to be disquieted by this wicked attempt to poison its peace, and praying you to throw it by.”

So relieved was Adams that he insisted Jefferson’s letter be read aloud to his entire family. Jefferson extended grace to his friend and that gift demonstrated his love and admiration for Adams. Jefferson’s actions depict what good leaders do; they forgive by disassociating actions from the person’s value. It reminds me of what philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said in Works of Love:

“Through forgiveness love covers a multitude of sins. Silence takes nothing away from the multitude of notorious sins…forgiveness takes away that which still cannot be denied as being sin.  So love strives to hide the multitude of sins; but forgiveness is the most outstanding way.”

Growing the Church Through Grace

In our church leadership consulting we encourage pastors to practice forgiveness. When leaders forgive mistakes, they demonstrate value for people beyond their actions.  In a very real sense, extending the gift of grace breaks down barriers and deepens relationships. Using Kierkegaard’s description of forgiveness, Jefferson demonstrated not only that he valued Adams, but also that he loved him.  Unfortunately, the prostitute needed this, but sensed she wouldn’t experience it in the church. Effective leaders embrace grace through forgiveness.  That doesn’t negate accountability, but trusting people and giving them grace does cover a multitude of sins thereby motivating church members towards deeper engagement in the church body.

To Enhance Member Engagement, Acknowledge Member Contributions

Have You Said Thank You?

You’d be surprised at how many pastors want to build church growth through more engagement from their members. Yet, simultaneously they do a poor job of acknowledging their contributions. In fact, in many cases they take those contributions for granted. Whether it’s a regular giver, a staff member, a Sunday School teacher or ministry volunteer, they rarely if ever are thanked. And if they are acknowledged, it is usually in perfunctory ways.

Value Contributions and Build Trust

What may start as a trusting relationship often fails when people take each other for granted. That usually boils down to a failure to acknowledge the value and contributions of another individual.  Building trust requires not only giving people meaningful assignments, but also treating them well as they perform them.  An important part of that is making an effort to acknowledge their contributions.

Learning From John Wooden

John Wooden is arguably the most successful college basketball coach ever.  In the 1960’s and 70’s he guided UCLA to ten national championships in eleven years.  When I interviewed Coach Wooden, he explained that it was essential to acknowledge contributions of all players, regardless of how small their role was.  He illustrated this point by sharing an analogy,

“I’d say, ‘We’re like a powerful automobile and this player, maybe Jabbar is the powerful engine.  You now, are a wheel; and you over here are a nut that holds that wheel on.  Now which is most important?  What good is that engine if we don’t have wheels?  What if you don’t have nuts holding that wheel on?  You also need somebody behind that wheel, inside, directing it or you’ll go in circles.  You all have an important part.’  And I made a special effort at practice to let those who aren’t playing know how much I appreciated them.”

Finding the Right Way to Say Thank You

Appropriate recognition can be verbal or written, but occasionally it must go beyond that. Sometimes people who make significant contributions, need to benefit in some way from the fruits of their labor. It could be a bonus for staff or a nice dinner or trip for a volunteer. It says simply that we value and thank you for your contribution. At our church, one volunteer gave thousands of hours over several years to help acquire land and then build a new church. The church acknowledged his contributions with a trip for him and his wife.

While trips or bonuses aren’t always possible, acknowledging people in special ways is important. Simply stated, it builds trust and engagement. Assuming leaders endeavor to maximize staff and volunteer potential, they should recognize also that getting more out of a relationship sometimes requires giving more. In our church leadership consulting, we remind pastors that when people begin to trust and give they start to move out of the realm of contractual obligations and into the realm of covenantal ownership and engagement.

The Power of Covenants

True, covenants are far more complicated than contracts.  They require willingness on the part of leader and follower alike to respect, trust and give rather than just receive from the relationship.  In essence, it means acknowledging the contributions of each other, but it also means sharing talents, resources, work, problems and even revenues. That creates a long-term environment of mutual trust and engagement that promises not only to prosper and strengthen the church but is also a strategy on how to grow church membership.

Track Your Progress for Fundraising Growth

Often our firm is called on to conduct a planning study prior to a capital campaign. This used to be called a feasibility study, but our studies encompass far more than whether or not an organization can raise a certain amount of money. That is part of the study, but our studies also include much more.

The Necessity of Reviewing Key Operations

Just because you are in a capital campaign, doesn’t mean that the rest of your operation shuts down.  On the contrary; if the plan is effective it will incorporate strategies for all areas related to fundraising. This includes public relations, donor relations, operations and in particular, annual giving.

In fact, often the most important funds a nonprofit organization raises each year are its annual funds. That’s why we ask organizations for three-year trends. Among those trends we request the following report on source of funds:

  1. Foundation Giving – We want to know what foundations have given to you over the past three years. Even if it is nothing, that tells us something. We are then better able to help you develop strategies to improve in this area.
  2. Corporate Giving – What have local and regional corporations given? This includes co-branding, which normally comes from marketing budgets.
  3. Board giving – Here we review both the participation rate and the average gift.
  4. Non-board individual giving through direct mail – Direct mail is frequently not tracked. Organizations simply send out mailings without considering how they might be improved. We have our clients track the cost of the mailing (materials, postage, etc.), gross revenue, net revenue, response rate and average gift. We also have them test as much as possible and we encourage clients to send mailings at least 6 times per year.  Finally, we recommend that each mailing have a theme. That might sound like a lot, but believe me it’s not.
  5. Non-board individual giving through solicitation of major gifts – It normally occurs through face-to-face solicitations. This is really where the action is or should be in the development office. Even though it’s labor intensive, it is the most productive and least expensive form of fundraising. We track the number of solicitations made over each of the last three years, the number of “yes” or “I’ll consider” responses and the percentage of those to the total. It should be at least 70% or more, and if it’s not we usually conduct some cultivation/solicitation training.
  6. Bequest giving– If you have a good program, you should receive bequests. However, if you don’t ever mention bequest and other planned giving opportunities, the likelihood of receiving them is not high. We’ve had several of our clients who had zeroes in that column for years, but with a few key strategies we’ve also helped them begin to fill those columns up. It takes both discipline and patience, but most donors have far greater capacity to give in their death than they did in their lifetime.
  7. Special events-We review special events to determine cost and net revenue. We try to advise our clients on ways to keep the cost of the event under 50%.
  8. Giving levels– Starting at $100,000, we work our way downward and analyze giving amounts at various levels including $50,000, $25,000, $10,000 to $100 and below. We’re looking for gaps at each level and strategies to improve.

Measurement Equals Positive Changes

Now we usually look at all of these areas in organizations who are planning for a capital campaign, because they need to be sustained and hopefully improved during the campaign. However, organizations would do well to track these items regularly to help ensure long-term success and sustainability. Remember, very little changes until it’s measured.

Using the Board as Part of your Major Gifts Team

A Study on University Fundraising

I recently conducted an informal study, the findings of which I used to make a point. The board of one of my nonprofit clients kept pushing staff for improved fundraising results.  Though the staff was small, they were already producing at a high level, and they were doing so without much help from the board.

Several of the board members cited university examples of fundraising excellence, which led me to my idea for the study in the first place. Accordingly, I picked a university to study from which I received a degree, and I found something quite revealing. That university currently had over 250 professional development staff, and that number was exclusive of any support personnel.

A Contrast in Nonprofit Fundraising

With the development and support staff combined, this nonprofit had less than 2% of the professional staff the university had. We were then able to use this information to help make the case (successfully) that board members needed to be involved.

In a sense, board members and other volunteers become an extension of the nonprofit organization’s development team. They have to do so! Why? Because if the board, those closest to the nonprofit organization, aren’t willing to give and get involved, it’s difficult to expect others in the community to do the same. Actually, board involvement occurs in a variety of ways, and that is happening with increasing frequency. But let’s look at just two of the responsibilities (give and get) that often get neglected:

Two Key Responsibilities of Board Members

Give – According to a recent study by Board Source, 60% of chief executives identified fundraising as the area most in need of board improvement. While 85% of organizations report having board giving policies, only 60% of nonprofits have 100% of their board actually giving. That has increased from just a few years ago, but there is still much room for improvement.

One easy way to kick this off is to start the year with a peer-to-peer board campaign, in which every board member is asked by a fellow board member to make a commitment in a face-to-face solicitation.

Get – The most effective kind of fundraising comes from face-to-face solicitations. In fact, 70% of the time a peer visits a peer in a face-to-face solicitation the answer is “yes.” That far surpasses a good direct mail response rate, which is about 2%-3%. However, to get board members involved there is work to do. Specifically, it will help if you can:

Take away some of the fear of fundraising through orientation and training sessions in which you create a clear case.

  • Include subjects like how to schedule the appointment, how to make the case, how to make the ask and how to handle objections
  • Develop prospect lists and ask Board members to make selections and add to the list.
  • Accompany board members on initial calls to help coach them.

Board Members Must Ask

On average about 42% of board members provided names for letters and calls, but only 22% of board members met in face-to-face meetings with potential donors and only 26% of members accompanied others on a call. This lack of involvement is sometimes associated with not being asked, but often it is associated with anxiety about asking. In our capital campaign consulting we also recommend including board giving and fundraising expectations in the initial board orientation. That way, it is not a surprise when you ask for their help.

Other Ways Board Members Can Help

Another element of getting is getting influence and new friends for the organization. To that end we suggest that board members be asked to help by hosting receptions. True not every board member is gifted in making face-to-face solicitations, but most board members can host home receptions for friends and associates to introduce them to the nonprofit organization.


Increasing Your Fundraising Success by Retaining Your Donors

Donor Retention Rates

When we conduct a fundraising audit/planning study there are at least 27 different reports that we request. One of the most important elements we obtain is a report on donor retention.

More specifically, we review donor retention rates over a three-year period. We are looking to see both how that compares to the national rate of 46% and what the non-profit organization might do to improve donor retention.

Of course, retention rates vary depending upon the kind of institution it is. For example, retention rates in private higher education average closer to 70% while social service agencies tend to have lower retention rates.

Acquiring New Donors is Costly

Why do we analyze this? Well first, according to Giving USA, acquiring a new donor is about 5 times as costly as it is to retain a current donor. Second, the actual return from newly acquired donors is about 1/3 of what it costs to acquire them in the first place.

Simply stated, acquiring new donors is much more costly and time consuming than keeping them. One of our higher education clients had a retention rate of just 34% over a three-year period. That means that each year 66% of their donors had to be recruited. The task was overwhelming for the development staff.  They had to raise over $4 million in unrestricted funds annually, and a good portion of that came from new donors.

Tips to Enhance Donor Retention

So what could be done and as fundraising consultants what did we tell them? The following are a few tips that will enhance your donor retention and should also increase your annual giving:

  1. Be thankful to and for your donors, and acknowledge their gifts promptly. I have found organizations that take one or two weeks or even more time to acknowledge gifts. Right off the bat you are telling donors their gift isn’t very important. We suggest that our clients acknowledge gifts within 48 hours and encourage them to move towards 24 hours.
  2. Be accountable to your donors as good stewards. Tell them how much you raised and for what purposes you used the funds. People want to know that their gift makes a difference. Show them how they have been a partner with you in your work. Share stories of lives that have been touched.
  3. Communicate with donors on a regular basis. How? A good communication program includes direct mail, newsletters, social media, information receptions, telephone calls and more. Remember, it is much more to your advantage to keep a donor than it is to lose one and have to recruit another.
  4. Pay attention to what projects your donors support and target your requests for specific purposes. Not all people are motivated by the same projects, so the requests should vary.
  5. Seek to engage donors in meaningful ways. One of our theatre clients did an excellent job of creating community with donors. For example, they regularly invited top donors to visit with playwrights prior to the opening of a show or the creative director before the season opened. In addition, they would invite selected donors to provide reviews of certain live performances. They also sent donor welcome packs to new donors.  These strategies were key in increasing donations and improving donor retention.

These are just a few strategies, but together they can make a significant improvement in your funding. Measure your donor retention rate and then work to improve it. That is really where the action of caring and building strong relationships begins!

Starting to Think of Some Foundations as Individuals

Source: Giving USA 2016 (Highlights)

Published by The Giving Institute, in cooperation with Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Total Foundation Giving

Last year, according to Giving USA, 16% of the total philanthropic support came from foundations. In dollars, that amounts to $58.46 billion of the total $373.25 billion.

Often, when people think of foundation giving, they also think of a process that involves a foundation board, a written proposal according to the foundation’s guidelines and where possible, a formal presentation.

Structure of Family Foundations

While that is true in some cases, in almost 50% of the cases that is not the process that is used. It is much less formal. That’s because an increasing amount of the foundation giving totals come from family foundations, and the vast majority of family foundations do not have an Executive Director or a formal process. In fact, while some foundations do have a board of directors, many of them are operated by just one or two people who make all of the decisions.

Likewise, the largest category of foundation giving is giving from independent foundations (75% of all foundation giving), which includes family foundations. In fact, in that category, more than 64% of all giving was from family foundations. That’s more than $28 billion.

Advice on the Ask to Family Foundations

However, there are a few points you should consider as you approach family foundations for fundraising support:

  1. Make sure you know the person making the decisions, and then try to connect with him or her through someone who is close to that person.
  2. Understand what their interest is and try to match your project with their specific area of interest.
  3. In general, foundation support for operations is declining while support for specific projects is increasing. We often tell clients to carve out specific projects from their operations and seek funding for some of those.
  4. Don’t just look to community foundations for support from donor advised funds. For the first time in 2015, donor advised funds managed by the top three commercial providers (24.1 billion) exceeds those funds held by 274 community foundations (22.2 billion).

Do Your Research

While all of this information is important, you must have a beginning place. As fundraising consultants, we advise clients to start by first gathering information about family foundations in their individual cities or states.  That’s because a good portion of those family foundations will make donations right there in the area in which they live. It stands to reason that people tend to give to organizations or people that they know, and the closer to home they are the more organizations and people they will know.

Well, how do you find the names of people who have family foundations? A good place to start is by examining the 990 reports in your state. Each foundation must file a 990 annually. They list not only foundation assets, but also the principal, past grants, and where appropriate, any additional board members.

Of course, once you figure out how many family foundations are in your area and who runs them, the next step towards increasing donations is to develop strategies to inform, cultivate and eventually solicit these foundations. Sure it takes work, but a few hits will make it well worth the effort.


GIVING USA, Philanthropy in Review

Source: Giving USA 2016 (Highlights)

Published by The Giving Institute, in cooperation with

Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Thank you

A special thanks to everyone who came out last Friday to hear Len Moisan’s presentation on the results of Giving USA 2016.  Also, thanks to the Center for Nonprofit Excellence for coordinating the event and Metro United Way for being such gracious hosts.

We trust that you found the data informative and applicable to your own development operations.  We also hope that you are already finding ways to implement some of the strategies we discussed to enhance your fundraising efforts.

A Few Statistics

With 2015 being the most generous year ever that presents much optimism and opportunity for local nonprofits.  Americans gave $373.25 billion to charitable causes last year and that was an increase of over 4% compared to 2014.  The top five sectors that continue to receive the largest share of total giving are:

  • Religion (32%)
  • Education (15%)
  • Human Services (12%)
  • Foundations (11%)
  • Health (8%)

Specifically, all four categories of giving experienced growth.  Those include:

  • Giving by Foundations: +6.5%
  • Giving by Corporations:  +3.9%
  • Giving by Individuals: +3.8%
  • Giving by Bequest: +2.1%

More than likely your nonprofit has received support from several of these sources.  However, some categories maybe more than others, so how can you maximize your support from as many of these sources as possible? The following are a few of the key strategies we discussed.

Strategies to Consider

  1. Put a renewed emphasis on individual giving
  • When conducting capital or annual campaigns, organizations tend to neglect giving from individuals.
  • On average, individuals give 88% of the total giving each year.
  • Of the total amount given, 71% came in direct gifts from individuals.  However, individuals also are the ones who make bequests and nearly half of the gifts from foundations came from family foundations, again, controlled by individuals.
  • The most effective form of solicitation is still face-to-face visits.  In fact, 70% of the time a peer visits a peer in a face-to-face solicitation the answer is “yes”.  However, it is still important to have a full program that includes social media, direct mail, special events and more.

More to Come

This is the first in a series of blogs that will continue to present strategies that you can apply to your own fundraising efforts. The next blog will focus on Starting to Think About Some Foundations as Individuals. 

Remember, The Covenant Group is here to help you create and implement strategies to grow your fundraising. We have worked with hundreds of nonprofits to accomplish their strategic planning, capital campaign and fundraising goals.  Our associates have raised over $1 billion in our 20-year company history.  Contact us to put our experience to work for you.

To Improve as a CEO, Operate Like a Pastor

It’s not uncommon for pastors to be admonished to operate more like a CEO, but seldom is a CEO admonished to operate like a pastor. At first glance it would not appear that pastors and CEO’s have much in common. Yet, if they’re effective, the best pastors and their churches have a great deal to teach CEOs.

For example, in 2006 Bob Russell retired as pastor at Southeast Christian Church after over 40 years. During his tenure the church grew from 125 to more than 20,000 members. When asked about the Church’s success, Bob would respond simply that it was God’s blessing and “keeping the main thing the main thing” (preaching, teaching and living the Gospel). Translated, success means understanding the purpose and keeping it in the forefront of everything we do.

For many years Bob reinforced that purpose so it was commonly understood and embraced by a majority. The mission was printed in church literature and posted around the church. Also, the pastor regularly taught on the scriptural basis for the mission, and organized church ministries around it. Bob said he also challenged the church to achieve big goals through strategic planning every few years. This kept them focused and moving in a positive direction.

To ensure the congregation understood it all, Bob also offered eight one hour classes entitled, “What We Believe,” for new members. They learned about the church mission and doctrines, but they also learned what was available to and expected from them as members. Bob commented:

“People learn up front what they can expect from this body. It gives them an opportunity to plug into the values of this church. And we say, ‘Ok, here’s what we stand for; here’s what you can expect from the pulpit.”

With 20,000 members and 300 employees, the church long ago outgrew his ability to control everything. Bob explained how he adapted:

 “When I started I had 125 people. I could visit the hospital, counsel marriages. I knew everyone’s name. And then it started growing beyond my control. I could panic, feel like I am losing it and clamp down, or I could change.  I had to change and become an administrator and then eventually a shepherd of the staff and the leaders of the church.”

Bob noted that another part of church growth is recruiting the right staff and volunteer leaders and then giving them freedom to use their talents. He explained,

“90% of leadership is finding the right people. You get wrong people and it doesn’t matter how much direction you give. Get the right person and give them responsibility, resources and encouragement, its amazing what they’ll do. You can’t smother people and box them in. (You must) give them freedom to do what they’re gifted to do.”

Clearly, if pastors intend to lead, then their duties must expand. In Bob’s case he’s a model of leadership for any organization. Granted, the mission and dynamics of a church are different and there are probably as many power wielders in the pastorate as there are leaders. Nevertheless, as far as communicating, knowing how to motivate church members, building consensus and leading around a common purpose are concerned, CEOs could learn a thing or two from effective pastors like Bob.

Overcoming Obstacles With Vision

Leaders must overcome obstacles almost daily to advance their respective missions. So how does that happen? Well, I thought a quick look at how a few survivors have done it might be helpful.

Frankl’s Perspective

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl provided a vivid look at his struggle for survival in Nazi prison camps. He noted first that it was important for him to have a strong sense of purpose that could transcend his circumstances.

Lessons From A Survivor

Frankl’s insights reminded me of my father-in-law.  In 1941 George Rogers’ recruiting officer, convinced him that the Philippines was a poor man’s paradise.  George enlisted and soon boarded a ship. He arrived in “paradise” with six other men from the 4th Chemical Company.  As it turned out, George was the only survivor.

Two months later Pearl Harbor was attacked and then the Philippines.  The troops went first to Manila and then to Bataan, where they fought for five months. Finally, in April General Edward P. King surrendered.

Surviving in Harsh Conditions

Some 76,000 Americans and Filipinos marched over 100 kilometers in scorching heat and no food or water. The troops had rationed food so they were weak and suffering from sickness.  Men carried sick friends but as they fell, they would be shot, stabbed or run over by tanks.  On the march alone, 10,000 men died.  Then George and others were loaded into steel boxcars and shipped to Camp O’Donnell in temperatures reaching 120 degrees. By July, 1500 additional Americans and 25,000 Filipinos died.

George was shipped to Japan and forced into hard labor at a steel mill.  For over three years, he had a starvation diet that left his 6’3″ frame weighing only 85 pounds.  He endured beatings, humiliation, Malaria, dry Beriberi, amoebic dysentery, helping bury 1,600 Americans, and much more at the hands of his captors.

Keeping the Vision Alive

Yet, he was neither defeated nor lost hope. When I asked what sustained him, he described two things.  First, George believed in God.  That faith bolstered him with an optimistic understanding that despite his circumstances, God still had a purpose for George. Evidently, prisoners who lacked a transcending purpose were quickly overwhelmed and died.

Vision that Transcends Circumstances

Second, George developed a vision for the future that transcended his present circumstances.  After the war, he would go back to St. Louis, marry Barbara Randall, graduate from St. Louis University, secure a good paying job and raise a large family.  George also discussed this vision with a friend from St. Louis.  He kept it alive and the meaning it provided helped sustain him:

“You need something to look forward to,” said George.  “Our news was old. We didn’t get correspondence, so having something to look forward to was helpful.  And having someone who also knew the Randall family helped too. We talked about the beautiful Randall girls, and I was going to marry Barbara and eventually I did that. I also graduated from college, have 5 wonderful kids and to this day I still have my hair and teeth.”

George’s experience offers would be leaders a powerful illustration of how a strong sense of purpose and a clear vision can sustain a person or an organization in the midst of hardship.  George’s vision and philosophy have not only helped him survive, they have also prospered him with faith, family and prosperity that he still enjoys at 97.

How Vision Affects Fundraising

When we counsel clients on strategic planning, part of the stakeholder retreat includes the creation of a vision statement.  This statement answers who the organization wants to be or become and by when? A well-defined vision plays an important role in increasing fundraising effectiveness and capital campaign success.

Leading is Transforming

Lessons from A Christmas Carol

Leadership and leader-follower relationships, are about transformation of people and organizations for the better. That clearly was the theme of A Christmas Carol.  As a result of being led by spirits of Christmas past, present and future, Scrooge was transformed.  These mentors led him through a series of purposeful and sometimes painful experiences that changed Scrooge’s life.  Through their guidance He came to an understanding of his own selfishness and the needs of others around him. Eventually Scrooge   chose to use his resources to transform the lives of others because he himself had been transformed.

Defining Transformational Leadership

James MacGregor Burns called this transformational leadership.  Leaders recognize higher needs in followers (love, hope, meaning, esteem) and engage them fully by seeking to meet those needs and convert followers into leaders.  According to Burns,

“transforming leadership raises the level of human conduct and ethical aspiration of both leader and the led. Leaders engage with others in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality.”

Though leader-follower relationships begin with transactions, they shouldn’t end there. As leaders earn credibility and trust through their transactions, they also gain more power to influence and elevate followers in transformational ways. According to Burns, moving followers, “to higher levels of motivation and morality,” is one of the primary evidences that leadership exists.  It implies regard and respect for and commitment to followers.

Jesus as a Transformational Leader

Over more than 2,000 years, no leader has influenced more people or changed the world more profoundly for good than Jesus of Nazareth.  In Jesus we have what is arguably the best example of a transformational leader.  Witness His relationship with His disciples. Jesus understood they had both intrinsic value and very human needs.  At their first encounter He engaged them in a transaction He initiated, filling their boat with fish. That clearly elevated His credibility. Jesus also made other promises to disciples; He delivered on those promises and His credibility grew. His genuine regard for followers was manifest in the many acts of love, kindness and service He extended to them.

Relational Dynamics are Key

These relational dynamics demonstrated His commitment and eventually transformed His disciples.  Actually, His actions deepened their commitment both to Jesus and to the common purpose they shared with Him. By teaching, healing, challenging and loving these mostly uneducated and sometimes cowardly followers, Jesus transformed them into courageous and committed leaders.  His mission and values became their mission and values.  In fact, so powerful was the transformation that they boldly carried on the organizational mission in ways that cost most of them their lives.

Yet, the power to lead and transform didn’t come through any worldly position Jesus may have held.  Instead it came through the relationships Jesus shared with them and the love, commitment, respect, sacrifice those followers experienced. It is a clear illustration that leadership is not a position; it’s a relationship with enormous potential to achieve and transform for the better. In our church growth consulting we encourage this type of leadership for pastors. While they may be tempted to wield power, would be leaders must recognize that transforming individuals and organizations requires them to understand and act on the needs and wants of followers. This approach shows them how to motivate church members. And when they do that they’ll be leading and helping to maximize church growth.