Power Isn’t a Bad Word

In the church (and often in the wider culture) power carries with it unwanted baggage. But effective leaders use power to create positive change and thriving environments. Power in the positive sense is what the shepherd wields to encourage his flock to move to safe pastures, where they can get all they need to thrive. Jesus describes Himself as a good shepherd (or a leader using power in service of goodness), and a good shepherd “sacrifices his life for the sheep,” intent on “giving them a rich and satisfying life” (John 10:10-11). In practical terms for today, power is the authority we need to support, train, supply, encourage, and influence our ministry team members. In other words, there is such a thing as good power…

Power often gets a bad rap because it’s been used indiscriminately and abusively by so many so-called leaders. But real leaders are not people who subjugate, denigrate, or tear down their team members with their abuse of power. Likewise, an assigned position of power doesn’t necessarily make you a leader—it’s about how you use your power. A day before CNN’s new CEO Chris Licht stepped down after a scathing article about his leadership was published in The Atlantic, he vowed to “fight like [heck]” to win back the trust of CNN staffers. But an NPR media commentator observed: “When you lose the trust of the people you’re leading, you’re no longer a leader, you’re just a boss.”

Power is a really good thing in the hands of the right leader—someone who uses their power to benefit their team. The shepherd uses his crook to gently guide a wayward lamb just as a ministry leader uses their power to clearly communicate encouragement to a group of volunteers. The right person, yielded to the guidance and good purpose of the Good Shepherd, will use their power to make the lives of the people they lead better. These leaders develop environments that support the personal, professional, and spiritual growth of the people around them. In this kind of environment, power is used for the betterment of those being led—creating stability and reassurance in the minds of every follower. The way the leader uses power encourages trust, strengthens relationships, and enables more effective, positive forward movement.

Simply put, the ethical, loving application of power will ultimately benefit the leader’s relationship with those being led. It will also create positive forward momentum that will encourage continual growth and development in all people. This is real change—the goal of every leader. 

Your Prompt:
Consider the power you wield as the leader of your team or congregation—how can you effectively use this power to make the lives of the people within your team or congregation better? What steps will you take to thoroughly identify the possible impacts you could have to effectively support, train, supply, encourage, and/or influence your team or congregation?

Jason Bland is a certified leadership coach, trained in Vibrant Faith’s Ministry Leadership Coaching School. His coaching and consulting approach is focused on helping leaders find the solution that fits their unique personal & professional strategic goals.


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