The Disciplines of Spiritual Leadership

Recently, I was coaching a pastor, and he made an interesting discovery. He wondered what it would look like if his spiritual journey was more closely connected to his leadership practices. His curiosity intrigued me—maybe I’ve assumed this merger happens naturally (and I’m sure it does, sometimes). However, this pastor wanted to be more intentional about the process, enough that he’d begin to see fruit resulting from this convergence of his spirituality and his leadership. We can be spiritual, and we can be leaders, but does that make us spiritual leaders? What is a spiritual leader, anyway? 

A few years ago I read The Four Disciplines of Execution by Chris McChesney. In the book, he outlines four meaningful disciplines (the shorthand is 4DX) to help leaders thrive. Embedded in these four practices are spiritual principles that guide our leadership, but also empower us to grow as spiritual leaders. Before we dive in, a disclaimer—as ministry leaders, it may seem like this 4DX approach is more suited to the corporate world. But the truths McChesney is exploring are universal and work in any leadership context, including spiritual leadership…

  1. Focus on the Wildly Important Goal (WIG): This is about concentrating your best efforts on one or two goals that will make all the difference. As ministry leaders, live this out by identifying the critical areas we need to focus on for a set period. But don’t simply brainstorm your WIG’s—approach this in prayer, inviting others from your staff team or congregation to respond to how the Spirit of God is leading your church. Ask the Spirit to help you envision something beyond your current ability that will require a step of faith.
  2. Act on Lead Measures: Lead Measures are activities that drive the achievement of the lag measures (WIG’s). For example, this could involve identifying activities such as improving community outreach programs, increasing member engagement, living into greater stewardship, ministry with young adults, or missional experiences. Each of these areas would need clear tasks for reaching your goals. With prayer as your precursor, seek to discern what is an area of greatest need.
  3. Keep a Compelling Scoreboard: Everyone plays differently when they are keeping score, and a team scoreboard is a powerful motivator. You can create a visual scoreboard for your teams to drive engagement and motivate progress toward the goals. Jesus leaves the 99 sheep safe on the hillside to go after the one that is caught in the brambles. He’s counted every hair on your head. He’s “keeping score,” and we can do likewise. Here’s an opportunity for everyone to celebrate what God is doing through the Body of Christ.
  4. Create a Cadence of Accountability: Hold regular accountability meetings to follow up on commitments. We need discipline to help hold ourselves and our teams accountable to the commitments we’ve made. Active leadership maintains accountability—not just to the team or congregation, but to God. 

This 4DX framework offers a way to lead your congregation forward in an atmosphere of spiritual leadership. It integrates the best of business strategy with the heart of spiritual leadership, inviting the Spirit of God to help our churches make a difference.

If you would like additional help in putting this approach into practice, please reach out to me or any of the coaches at Vibrant Faith. Just CLICK HERE for more information. Coaching is an intentional process that moves you forward and aligns with this four-step process.  

Rev. Dr. Mark Slaughter serves as the Minister of Worship Arts at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN. In addition to his 35+ years of ministry, he received a Doctor of Ministry from Fuller Theological Seminary, Master of Divinity and Church Music from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Bachelor of Music from Belmont University.


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