Servant Leadership: Practices
“Context: Focusing on Congregational Systems” (SL#65)
by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:3 - Charting Your Course

The context for servant leadership is indeed more than just the immediate task or event, but the many parts of the whole. Because of this, the servant leader today takes into consideration the external and internal systems of the congregation.

1. Focusing on Congregational Systems Thinking

Servant leadership takes the discipline of “systems thinking” into the context of choosing leadership styles to match situations.

. . . a conceptual framework, a body of knowledge and tools, to make the full patterns clearer, and help us see the invisible fabrics of the whole. We go beyond focusing on snapshots of the parts, and see how to change the whole.--The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge, p. 7

2. Family Systems, Subsystems, and Leadership

Servant leaders should include the “family systems approach” in their examination of ministry leadership context. This section adds to the tools provided in “systems thinking.” Ronald Richardson (see Study Abstract in SL#66) and others have developed a family systems theory we now adapt to the congregation:

List at least three family systems leadership roles within which you could improve your “situational leadership.” Talk this over with coworkers or family members.

3. Contextual Systems Leadership Applications

There are strong influences for you to apply the same leadership pattern to every situation and to see the congregation only one part at a time. However, could you apply the insights of this concept to the following leadership situations within your congregation? These are just examples; select, or state, your church’s situation. Make leadership notations:

Servant leaders pay attention to changing congregational systems/situations. How well do you do?

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© 2006; hosted and copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc. For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at
Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership