Jan 20, 2022

ChurchPulse Weekly Conversations: Jenni Catron on Strategic Leadership in the Church

Recently on ChurchPulse Weekly, Jenni Catron (Founder of the 4Sight Group) sat down with David Kinnaman to discuss why strategic leadership matters for the church, leadership lessons from the Great Commandment and how to take a proactive approach with your vision in times of crisis.

On Strategic Planning for your Church
In a year with constant adapting challenges, vision and strategy are essential for leaders navigating murky waters—yet very few pastors (just 31 percent) consider strategic thinking among one of their top giftings. 

Catron highlights why this mindset is essential for any leader, especially those within church ministry. She says, “To me, strategic planning is just partnering with God to achieve the mission. It’s the “how” part of the equation […] Strategy is just putting feet to that vision.”

Any church leader, regardless of giftings, can take steps to be intentional in building out and naming strategic actions for their church. For those who are more comfortable with strategic planning, Catron warns, “You might be tempted to just double down on that, [but] it might be missing some connection to mission.” For these leaders, she suggests, “Go back to reconnecting your team with that purpose–here’s why we’re here, here’s why it matters, and now, here’s our plan to work towards that.” 

For leaders less familiar with strategy, she suggests, “I think there’s a bit of education for your team where it has to become a bigger part of our culture. […] You have to help your team understand, ‘Our heart has not changed. This is who we are. This is why we do what we do. This is our mission, but how we do that has all been shifted.”

[barna-ad offset=0]

On Leading with Different Strengths
Recent Barna research shows that over half of pastors (54%) agree they’re challenged in managing distinct and opposite viewpoints within their church’s congregation, and political polarization is only one of the many challenges pastors are navigating in this season.

As the problems pastors face grow in complexity, Catron shares how she’s used lessons from the Great Commandment to take a multi-faceted approach to leadership that meets the complex needs of this season.

She says, “As you dig into [the Great Commandment], the implication is that we’re being challenged to love God and love others with our whole being, with everything in us. The heart, soul, mind and strength really reflects our whole being and bringing that to this act of loving God and loving others. 

These four dimensions—heart, soul, mind and strength—each represent a key aspect of leadership: relational, spiritual, strategic and vision. While she’s seen many church leaders tend towards relational and spiritual leadership strengths, she encourages them to see the necessity of all four dimensions on a team. 

She concludes, “Heart, soul, mind and strength are all necessary for us to lead well […] When all of those are working together, I think some of our best leadership emerges.”

On Rediscovering the Sacred Call of Leadership
Catron shares, “I was probably in my late 20s, early 30s when I really started to wrestle with this concept of leadership […] We have the power to change or affect the lives of people that we are entrusted to serve and lead, and there’s a sacredness to that which I felt was missing in some of the leadership conversations and circles I was a part of.”

As leaders recognize the weight of their responsibility, Catron encourages them to prioritize returning to their mission and vision as they face new challenges. She says, “What I’m encouraging leaders right now is we’ve got to move back to being proactive […] The unknown is kind of our new reality, and we need to step into that and lead in it, versus sit back kind of in a more reactive posture.” 

She says, “That’s really what leadership is about: having this posture of loving people and then leading them towards whatever God is calling this group of people to do together.”

Comment on this article and follow our work:
Twitter: @davidkinnaman | @barnagroup
Instagram: @barnagroup
Facebook: Barna Group
YouTube: Barna Group

About the Research
The research for this study consisted of an online study conducted July 2021 with 433 U.S. Protestant pastors. The margin of error for this sample is plus or minus 4.7 percent at a 95 – percent confidence level.

Featured image by Mark König on Unsplash.

About Barna
Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.

© Barna Group, 2022

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

Get Barna in your inbox

Subscribe to Barna’s free newsletters for the latest data and insights to navigate today’s most complex issues.