Leadership circle needs entrepreneurs

As congregations recruit leaders, they need to include at least a few entrepreneurs, who understand that health requires risk.

The future must be faced proactively, not passively. Value is created by invention — trying new ideas, imagining new outcomes, deploying resources in new ways — more than it is by maintenance.

In a dynamic society, populations shift, needs change, and fresh opportunities for ministry arise. Responding to that dynamic context requires leaders who are comfortable proceeding without guarantees, who understand, in fact, that a failed venture is likely to be a better teacher than a safe success.

In saying yes to ideas, entrepreneurial persons counteract the tendency of other leaders to say no. Instead of trying to avoid risk or to manage it, entrepreneurs embrace risk — including the chance of spectacular failure — as necessary to finding better ways.

Entrepreneurs tend to challenge conventional wisdom by saying, we must always “re-invent the wheel,” if we want to develop better wheels; and, “change for the sake of change” is always a good strategy,” because how else will we grow?

Entrepreneurs tend to be inspirational leaders who can share their energy with others, as well as effective team-builders who put their vision ahead of momentary gain or power.

Where do you find entrepreneurs? Look at sales people, small business owners, inventors, and the self-employed.

Entrepreneurs can be challenging to work with, because they tend to have little patience for bureaucracy, compromise, and halfway measures. But the risk is worth it. For if a congregation has too many risk-avoiders in leadership, then the future has a hard time breaking in and problems get addressed by blaming and punishing, not by fresh ideas.


Tom Ehrich is a writer. Church consultant, and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the publisher of On a Journey, and founder of the Church Wellness Project.