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One hundred church members — a few with children squirming in their laps — gathered online for the Church of Christ Annual Leadership Conference, hosted via Zoom by congregations in Trinidad and Tobago.
The meeting originally was scheduled as an in-person assembly but was moved to the Zoom teleconferencing platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Don’t Just Manage; Lead” was the theme.
In the midst of a global pandemic, when most Churches of Christ are limited to online worship and Bible classes, it’s easy for issues of church leadership to fall by the wayside, said Gyasi Ambrose, who moderated the meeting.
It’s also easy for ministers and church leaders to become discouraged, said Dominic Dos Santos, who spoke on the topic of “Burnt-out Leaders.” Santos, director of the Trinidad School of Preaching, discussed signs of burnout and offered suggestions to help re-energize leaders.
Mahase Bissoondath, minister for the San Juan Church of Christ in Trinidad, spoke on “Personal Development for Today’s Leaders.”
“Why did God create the church, and what is it that he wants the church to accomplish?” Bissoondath asked. Church leaders must ponder those questions as they consider their role.
Leaders should work with their congregations to develop strategies for growth, physical and spiritual, Bisoondath said. They also should develop tools to measure and monitor growth and be ready to make adjustments — much like the changes made to the conference itself.
Participants logged into the Zoom meeting from the islands of the Caribbean, the U.S. and Canada. Some asked questions about how church leaders should deal with members who seek to usurp the leaders’ authority. Others sought suggestions for motivating church members to greater levels of service.
“Some leaders are afraid they’ll lose control, so they do not allow people to develop … You are not working for man. God is the one who determines the context of your service.”
“We call it a ‘worship service,'” Bissoondath said, but merely attending isn’t “service.” He stressed the need for church leaders to cultivate the talent in their congregations. Ministry, he said, is “using your God-given abilities, your passion, to do the things that God has commanded us to do. People need to understand what they have been blessed with and what may need development.
“Some leaders are afraid they’ll lose control, so they do not allow people to develop because if they do they’ll feel threatened. You are not working for man. God is the one who determines the context of your service.”
If church leaders help Christians use their talents to serve the Lord, “they will always want your service,” he said.
Michael A.T. Stewart, minister for the Church of Christ Canaan on the island of Tobago, spoke on “Disruptive Leadership” — a good kind of “disruptive” that motivates congregations to grow, evangelize and plant new churches.
Too many Churches of Christ in the Caribbean are “splits, not sprouts,” he said. And far too many are comfortable where they are, not motivated to grow.
These churches need leaders, not just managers, Stewart said.
“People want to change only when the pain of change is less painful than the pain of staying the same,” Stewart said.
Sometimes, it takes a crisis for congregations to adapt, he said. But adapt they must.
“Either we suffer the pain of discipline,” he said, “or we suffer the pain of regret.”
The conference ran three hours past its scheduled time, but 80 people remained until the end.
“Thank you so much, because I needed this,” said Marsha Flament, a member of the Dale City Church of Christ in Virginia. “I am normally very fired up and inspired, and let me tell you, I’m now doubly so.”
Another participant said, “My sister has been begging me to get on Zoom. I thought it was a vehicle!”
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