As congregational leaders, we are usually generalists in many aspects of our job. Yes, we are trained in seminary, gifted by the Holy Spirit and formed by years of practice to be dependable preachers, competent worship leaders, good administrators and empathetic pastoral caregivers. But most of us are not trained as financial analysts, certified public accountants, graphic designers or kindergarten teachers.

During the pandemic, however, clergy are doing so much more on their own. Some senior pastors are leading youth groups because it’s too difficult to fill the youth ministry position right now. Other clergy are poring over weekly financial data to evaluate the long-term impact of lower attendance.

The complexity of modern congregational management often demands much more from an individual church leader than he or she could possibly know — or have time to learn. Leaders who are trying to solve complex problems and advance significant visions need to know where to look for and how to tap into expertise.

An expert, according to Google, is someone “who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.” Experts have breadth and depth. The etymology of “expert” comes from the Latin word “experiri,” the past participle of “try.” An expert is one whose perspective is shaped by what they have tried and found to be successful in the past.

When we are leading through uncharted territory, as we all are, talking to experts can get us unstuck when we are stuck in our thinking. While relying too heavily on experts can be problematic, we benefit by making connections with people who have expansive knowledge and experience. We quickly realize that experts can take us farther faster, with less effort (and probably fewer mistakes). The good news is that the experts we need — in finance, construction, law, human resources, and project management — are often in our congregations. They are happy to go the extra mile to share their knowledge to benefit the congregation and support the staff. We just need to be willing to ask.


Resources

What is expertise?

By Fernand Gobet, Ph.D., and Morgan H. Ereku


Before you go…

What problem has you feeling stuck these days? Try asking an expert for 30 minutes of his or her time. Ask a thoughtfully prepared question, and when the meeting is over, you’ll wish you had called them sooner.

Here’s an idea: Think about the toughest three challenges you face right now. Pick one challenge and schedule an appointment in the next 30 days to talk to an expert in your congregation. Take copious notes, and ask the expert to hold you accountable for taking action in the new year.

Welcome to 2022! As always, you can reach me and the Alban Weekly team at alban@duke.edu.

Prince Rivers

Editor, Alban at Duke Divinity

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