Billy D. Thomas, Sr.
Coming off the bench : coaching the leadership team to lead at Refuge Church in Perry, Georgia
Under the direction of Robert N. Nash, Ph.D.
Benchwarmers exist in the local church as much as they exist in baseball. There are those who enter the church with dreams of doing great ministry, but who soon find themselves sitting on the bench watching the game. They have accepted a relationship with Jesus Christ, joined a local fellowship and discovered comfort on the bench.
I was catapulted off the bench when I became the founding pastor of Refuge Church in 2004. In the beginning I was the coach, pitcher, and catcher, as well as the water boy. Nevertheless, during the last ten years Refuge has become a wonderful fellowship. The purpose of this study evolved as individuals joined Refuge with a desire to be on the team and I was unsuccessful in bringing them into the game.
The study was designed to establish a strategy for leadership development at Refuge. I not only wanted to create a leadership development process, but also to enact a functional change in all of the leadership roles. A leadership team (LT) structure does exist at Refuge, but this has generally consisted of persons who held a position, but have not been trained to develop their ministries.
Amazing things have been accomplished during the first ten years of Refuge. By focusing on these accomplishments, the Leadership Team can begin to see the potential of the future. By using the Appreciative Inquiry model, the LT can enhance its ability to lead by evaluating its gifts and assets as well as those of the congregation, and by articulating a vision for the church in light of these gifts and assets.
This ministry project endeavored to answer two questions concerning the LT at Refuge:
1. How can individuals be equipped, empowered and encouraged to understand their competency as leaders of specific ministries at Refuge through an Appreciative Inquiry Model project?
2. What alterations in leadership style can the Pastor employ to empower the LT to perform their ministries at Refuge?
The empowerment process was difficult for the pastor who has held the primary leadership position at the church for ten years. Therefore, the pastor was a participant in the leadership training sessions and personality studies to assist in this process.
The project used a qualitative study method of Appreciative Inquiry (AI). With this method of study, this project attempted to develop a new culture of leadership at Refuge by instituting a training protocol for the LT. Leadership Team members participated in an Appreciative Inquiry Summit (Spring Training) for four weekends. During this time they experienced a personality inventory, attended group training events, read one book and participated in a personal coaching session with the pastor.||