David Hansen on Church Leadership

David Hansen on Church Leadership

July 19, 2017 by

This month our Courageous Storytellers Membership Site is focused on leadership. Communicators don’t always think of themselves as leaders, but you definitely are. This month we have a number of resources that explore how you can more fully embrace your role as leader, even if it’s not in your job title. Here on Church Marketing Sucks we’re diving deeper and exploring some of the challenges that church communicators face as leaders.

This week we talk with David Hansen. He’s the pastor of Spirit of Joy! Lutheran Church in The Woodlands, Texas, where he lives with his wife Megan, their daughter, and their herd of cats. David also serves as the director of communication and innovation at LEAD (Living Everyday as Disciples), where he helps other congregations experience renewal and revitalization in their ministry.

You don’t have to agree with your pastors. But you do have to understand what they are trying do to.

What’s the most helpful thing you’ve learned about leading a team?

At the heart of how our team functions are two important learnings:

The first is to understand how important the relationships among the team are. I think we often focus on the work we do together. The shift for me is to focus on the work we do together. We have to nurture and care for those relationships as a team—share our joys and passions, our worries and concerns in a safe and intentional way.

The second is to understand that the organization will look like the leadership team. The organization will grow insofar as the leadership team is growing, it will tend to the deepening of faith inasmuch as the leaders are deepening their faith together. And so we carefully think about what practices we want to see in our community members, and those are the practices we implement together among our team.

It seems like not doing everything yourself is an important part of leadership. So how do you delegate and successfully recruit volunteers?

All the research points to people volunteering because: 1) they trust the leaders, and 2) they understand and believe in the mission.

Part of trust-building as a leader is showing that—as leaders—we believe in the mission ourselves. It has to be more than a thing that we give lip service—more than something we are committed to when we are “on the clock”—but a part of the way we live.

The second part is consistent, crystal-clear communication of the mission. It has to be embedded in every aspect of what we do—every volunteer opportunity.

Our members have so many opportunities vying for their time and attention. If they are going to give of their time and energy with us, it begins once they are passionate about the mission we share.

One of the biggest challenges facing the church is increasing divisiveness and combativeness in the broader culture.

As a church pastor, how do you handle disagreements with staff or volunteers who may question your approach? What advice do you have for communicators who may find themselves clashing with their pastor?

Pastors can (I can) sometimes be guilty of under-communicating with staff—of not explaining the big picture of why we are approaching our work in a certain way. From my side of the equation, this is one of the pieces I try to focus on to prevent/handle these disagreements. I also try to model the understanding, patience, and trust that I would like to see from staff. More intentional face-to-face conversations about the work we share can help with both of these.

One of the best things I think communicators who are clashing with their pastors can do is to clearly communicate. Ask for a sit down. Ask your pastors lots of questions about what they are trying to communicate, and why.

At the end of the day, you don’t have to agree with your pastors. But you do have to understand what they are trying do to, and how they would like to see it done. In fact, some of the best collaboration is done among people whose disagreements strengthen their final product.

What’s the biggest challenge in church leadership today?

One of the biggest challenges facing the church is increasing divisiveness and combativeness in the broader culture. As the ideological and political divides grow in our society, they can easily become replicated in our ministry—creating congregations that are more defined by where they fall on the political/ideological spectrum than by their theological convictions.

As a communicator, I work to keep our messaging focused on our mission to help avoid this problem. In our official communications, we keep the main thing the main thing. As we create community, the disagreements over controversial topics become less divisive as we remember our primary purpose and the things that unite us.

People volunteer because they trust the leaders and they understand and believe in the mission.


Check out our Courageous Storytellers Membership Site for more help with leadership. Seriously, the site is packed with resources to help you step up and become a better leader. Join today!

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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2 Responses to “David Hansen on Church Leadership”

  • Meredith Gould
    July 21, 2017

    Love pieces that invite me to think. Thanks, David…and Kevin, of course, for posing these questions. Still thinking but some preliminary thoughts.

    While I agree that divisiveness and combativeness in the broader culture is at all-time levels, I think I’d say the challenge for the church is finally recognizing and owning how that already exists within the world of church. I believe today’s political climate is revealing divides that have been there all along–and we don’t want to see that, especially in a social institution (religion) anchored in a theology of welcome and hospitality.

    As you might predict, I also think it makes to start with what unites us rather waiting for divisiveness to abate. Maybe I’ve misread/misunderstand the trajectory of your argument? Entirely possible! I blame not enough coffee, too much sugar, and the need to nap.

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    • David Hansen
      July 26, 2017

      Great response, Meredith.

      I agree these divides have always existed in the church – however there was a time when it seemed that we could focus more on the uniting mission across other disagreements. The divides have become more divisive.

      But the how we got here, or the how things were before, or what caused it are WAY less important to me than the “what do we do now” question. And on that, we agree 100%. :-)

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