Author Mike Bonem: Five Practices of Great and Godly Leadership

Date Posted: 3/24/2016

Consultant Mike Bonem recently taught over 100 leaders how relationships, planning, mental models, and change can be leveraged to produce Godly leadership and church vitality.
While the Bible provides the core foundation for daily life, it does not say much about how to stretch the church budget, whether or not to change the worship service schedule or how to have an effective welcome center. Therefore, consultant and author Mike Bonem looks to best practices in the business world to supplement biblical wisdom in developing dynamic leaders within the church. Addressing over 100 Texas conference lay and clergy leaders in early March, Mike said, “I don’t believe that secular leadership principles are inherently evil or contrary to Scripture, and if we are unwilling to use solid business principles in our leadership style then we may be limiting the church’s potential—and shame on us!” He also acknowledges the other extreme from no business insight to an over-reliance on business practices…so business oriented that God is left completely out of the equation.
As the author of Leading from the Second Chair and In Pursuit of Godly Leadership, Mike believes Christians have a tremendous stewardship responsibility as leaders. “Wherever they are serving, leaders have the potential to help others grow in their faith and the potential to reach those who do not know God,” he adds.
The Challenge of Change
Although people inherently seek stability and predictability, and perceive change as chaos, Mike knows that organizations that do not evolve at all often die a slow death. “Just the mention of the word “change” can threaten someone’s sense of comfort and power,” he adds, “and it sometimes implies that we’ve done something wrong, but we can’t lead without change!” The challenge with change in churches is amplified since churches are volunteer-dependent (no power of the paycheck), tradition-rich, may have an assortment of confusing governance structures and not be accustomed to seeking feedback. “Mental models – the images and assumptions we use to interpret our world -- cloud our progress because we all have our own mental models and may not realize the models others are acting from,” he says. He suggests that the most important reminder for church leaders is to constantly clarify the mental models to seek agreement on WHO we are here for – members or the rest of the world? “Churches are odd organizations in that they don’t exist solely for the personal preference of members but for the benefit of nonmembers who seek truth.
Five Practices of Godly Leadership
“The past is always present,” Mike shared, which can make it hard on churches to move on after a crisis or employment issue.

  1. Spiritual/Relational Vitality
The secret to vitality is a deep relationship with God, according to Mike. “We are all equal at the cross,” he adds.
  1. Strategic Discernment
Godly leaders try to keep everyone on the same page, often by narrowing down the focus to just a few initiatives that will make a bigger difference. “Leaders often have to build the bridge at the same time they are walking on it,” he adds. He reminds leaders that data is important, but does not trump God’s timing.
  1. Supportive Systems
“Imagine the leader that is pushing a boulder up the mountain over and over versus one that establishes steps, patterns and processes for recurring responsibilities.” Mike suggests that metrics play a role here in that people do pay attention to the things they measure, whether that be church attendance or how engaged members are in ministries.
  1. Coalition of Leaders
Mike believes, “There is enormous untapped leadership potential in the pews.” This is a community of encouragers that help the pastor feel support. Many members give their leadership gifts away to big organizations that recognize their abilities, so my advice is to get to know what is important to them as high level leaders and how to help them make a difference in their local congregation. Some of these leaders will help overcome resistance. “Getting others’ opinions can be messy but it is very valuable,” he adds, “and necessary to implement systemic change.”
  1. Courage
He urges leaders to be courageous but not reckless. Most importantly, leaders with a strong spiritual foundation will have the courage to pursue their Godly vision with deep spiritual conviction.
Rev. Vickie Simon, Somerville UMC was inspired by the leadership event. “Best of all I loved that he tied so many principles together in a compelling package,” she shares. “As a second career pastor who came from a corporate background, I agree with Mike in his core convictions that, ‘secular business principles are not inherently contrary to Scripture.’ Artfully applied, they can be very useful tools for a pastor in a leadership role.” 
She believes that "good planning is good stewardship, because you are being proactive about time and investments."  Adds Vickie, “I believe that without a vision the church does die.   I also agree with his reference from Reggie McNeal's concept that success comes when we strive for God's will for the church and not come forth with our own vision and then ask God to bless it."
For churches to go forward, she notes, “there needs to be an understanding and a tolerance, from both the conference hierarchy and the congregation, that risk and failure are present in the life of a church as well as a corporation. Risking a new launch of a new ministry or a new church start may not always work the first time; however, if lessons are learned and new insights are gained all is not lost.” 
Vickie also champions the idea that a group of people truly committed to a common vision is an awesome entity.  “Instead of having individual ministries in their own orbits, having them all in alignment, unified with a clear vision of God's intention and will for the body of Christ, is the most exciting approach to ministry I can think of!  In fact, that prospect is the reason my church will now be exploring VCI!”  

Dr. Mike Deaton, pastor of Columbia UMC, says, “I thought Mike Bonem offered some real insight on leadership roles and it started with the title, Pursuing Great and Godly Leadership. When we, as pastors and coaches are faced with the choice between deep change or slow death, particularly during the Vibrant Church Initiative process, we have to remember who we are serving and it is most certainly not the status quo.”

“Because of the many positive responses to Mike’s  presentation we have asked to  continue to serve as a resource to the Texas Annual Conference in Congregational Excellence in the area of leadership development,” adds Rev. Mike Tyson. “We are in the process of planning additional leadership development activities that will include additional experts in the field.”