Academic Programs 

Effective Church Management     (AM-615-3)     
Summer 2003

This course is an intensive seminar on church management for clergy and other church professionals. The focus is on skill development in leading and working in voluntary church systems. Major topics include influence skills, long- and short-range planning, recruiting and motivating volunteers, organizational evaluation, and decision-making in large and small groups. 

Meeting Day, Time and Dates: 
June 16 – 20, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Speed Leas
Adjunct Professor of the Arts of Ministry and Senior Consultant at the Alban Institute

Contact Information:
(831) 338-1024

Course Syllabus

More information on Professor Leas:

Curriculum Vitae
Biography page at Alban Institute

Course Overview 

I.  Goals of the course   

A.  The participants will review management and leadership theory in relation to the effective functioning of a local congregation. By the end of the course they should be able to do an assessment of their own behavior as leaders and managers in their congregations as well as that of the congregation’s key lay leaders. They should also be able to assess the needs of the congregation to develop appropriate planning and change strategies.  

II.  Preparation for class

A.  Before the class begins all of the participants in the class are asked to give one copy of the Congregation Systems Inventory to at least ten persons who are active leaders of a congregation. These inventories may be purchased from the Hartford Seminary Bookstore at $3.00 per copy. Congregation members who are asked to fill out the inventory should be told that their scores and those of the others who filled out the inventory will be shared with them after the class has been completed. 

Download the Congregational Systems Inventory Score Sheet.*

B.  Participants are asked to bring the completed inventory with them to class, along with a summary of the scores, entered in the Summary of CSI Scores sheet accompanying this description.

For more information, please read the introductory letter* from Speed Leas.

*These documents are in Adobe .pdf format. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat to open these documents, you may download it for free from their web site.


III.  Required Reading (All students wishing to take this course for credit must have read these books and be able to demonstrate they have a working knowledge of their contents.)

Heifetz, Ronald A. Leadership without Easy Answers. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1994  

Leas, Speed B. Discover Your Conflict Management Style. The Alban Institute, 1997 

Parsons, George D. and Leas, Speed B. Congregational Systems Inventory (Manual). The Alban Institute, 1994 

Parsons, George D. and Leas, Speed B. Congregational Systems Inventory (Workbook). The Alban Institute, 1994 (10 copies)

Additional Reading (Students wishing credit in the course must also demonstrate that they have read at least two of the following books)

Kotter, John. Leading Change. Harvard Business School Press, 1996  

Morris, Danny and Olsen, Charles M. Discerning God’s Will Together. The Alban Institute, 1997  

Olsen, Charles M. Transforming Church Boards into Communities of Spiritual Leaders. The Alban Institute, 1995  

Oswald, Roy & Friedrich, Robert Jr. Discerning Your Congregation's Future. The Alban Institute, 1996   

Rendle, Gilbert. Leading Change in the Congregation. The Alban Institute, 1998 

Saarinen, Martin  The Life Cycle of a Congregation. The Alban Institute, 1986. Available for $12.00, download only:

Participants wishing credit will take part in all of the class sessions June 16–20, 2003 

V.  Participants wishing credit will write a 15-20 page paper on one of the three subjects below: 

A.  Design a process for discerning a congregation’s future or developing and agreeing upon a spiritual map for a local church. This paper will develop a realistic plan for a particular congregation using the themes and concepts used within the course and/or reading. The paper should include a rationale for why this system would be suggested to the congregation. 

B.  Use the Congregational Systems Inventory to assess a congregation. Develop a plan for change in this congregation based on the reading and material presented in class. The paper should include a rationale for why this system would be suggested to the congregation. 

C.  Apply a leadership theory discussed in the course to your work in an organization. Show you understand the theory and its components and show how it relates to your behavior. Describe your current leadership behavior in clear, specific, descriptive, behavioral terms (do not use generalizations or describe your intentions, rather describe what you did). Give information to substantiate your descriptions of your behavior, (e.g. “Two board members expressed appreciation for my written agenda.”). Indicate where you plan to make changes in your leadership behavior, describing clearly the specific actions you plan to take to improve. 

VI.  Grading 

A.  Grading will be based primarily on the paper written for the class. If the paper demonstrates that the student has read the required reading, understood what was presented in class, and is able to apply it to a congregation, s/he will receive a passing grade (B-). If the student also presents cogent critiques (is able to demonstrate strengths and weaknesses) of the reading or material presented in class, s/he will receive a higher grade. 

B.  Attendance will be taken every morning and afternoon of the class sessions. Students who miss more than one class session will be marked down 1/3 of a grade for every additional session they miss. 

Papers submitted after September 1, 2003 will not receive credit for the course. Papers should be submitted to Speed Leas, The Alban Institute, P.O. Box 2250, Boulder Creek, CA 95006.  Phone: (831)338-1024   Fax: (831)338-1025   E-mail:

Class Agenda


1.  The participants will learn current theory relevant to organization management and leadership.
2.  The participants will be able to analyze their own leadership behavior.
3.  Through the analysis of their own organizations, the participants will increase their skill in organization analysis, change, and planning.


Monday, June 16
9:00 a.m. Course Agenda, Objectives, Attendance requirements, papers, and grading, Introductions

10:00 Input: Leadership/Management Overview
11:00 Input: Polarities in Congregational Life
12:00 p.m.  Break
1:00   Input: Systems Analysis
3:00  Alone time

In your system
What functions to keep secrets?
What functions to limit authority?
What functions to confound decision making?

3:00  Small Group Sharing (triads)
3:30  Plenary: Group discussion
4:00    Close


Tuesday, June 17

9:00 a.m. Meditation
9:30 Input: Congregational Systems Inventory
12:00 p.m. Break
1:00. Small Group Assessment
2:00  Input: Anxiety and Leadership
3:00 Small Group Sharing
4:00   Close

Wednesday, June 18

9:00 a.m. Meditation
9:30  Input: Transformational Leadership, finding the map, empowering the followers
12:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00   Individual time: Developing Spiritual Maps
1:30    Small group sharing spiritual maps
2:30   Penary: Spiritual Maps
4:00  Close

Thursday, June 19

9:00 am Meditation
9:30  Input: Managerial Leadership
12:00 p.m.  Lunch
1:00  Input: Organizational Change Theory
4:00 Close


Friday, June 20

9:00 a.m Meditation
9:30  Conflict Exercise
10:30   Input: Discover Your Conflict Management Style
11:30 Small Groups (triads) sharing your scores
12:00 p.m. Lunch
1:00   Exercise: Using Conflict Strategies
2:30 Input: Evaluation of Professional Leadership in Congregational Life
3:30 Course Evaluation 
4:00   Close



Ammerman, Nancy. Carroll, Jackson. Dudley, Carl. McKinney, William. Studying Congregations a New Handbook. Abingdon, 1998

This is a fine collection of essays on congregational assessment. The best overview of congregational assessment tools currently in print.

Crabtree, Davida. The Empowering Church. The Alban Institute, 1989.

Describes a process and structure in a congregation so that it specifically meets the needs of members as it seeks to be in mission.

Easum, William. Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers.Abingdon, 1995

Useful reflections on organizational structure, particularly the material on permission giving systems.

Fossum, Merle A. and Mason, Marilyn. Facing Shame: Families in Recovery. W.W. Norton, 1986.

This is a helpful presentation of family systems theory.  The theory section is better than its application which tends to be rather anecdotal.  Fundamental to this book's thesis is the recognition of the difference between guilt (regret at violating a personal value) and shame (inner sense of being diminished as a person).

Friedman, Edwin H. Generation to Generation: Family Process in Church and Synagogue. The Guilford Press, 1985.

An important book on systems theory and congregational life.  Provocative change theory, good description of family systems concepts, excellent understandings of voluntary systems

Heifetz, Ronald. Leadership without Easy Answers. Harvard University Press 1994.

This is an important book in the develop of leadership theory. It very usefully describes the difference between technical (fix that which one knows how to fix) and adaptive leadership (deal with change beyond our control). Highly recommended

Johnson, Barry. Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems. HRD Press 1992.

“The” textbook on polarity management. Should be in your library.

Kotter, John P. A Force for Change: How Leadership Differs From Management. The Free Press, 1990.

This book describes the difference between management and leadership; points to the value of each and recommends which each style is appropriate.  Highly recommended.

Lerner, Harriet Goldhor. The Dance of Intimacy: A Woman's Guide to Courageous Acts of Change in Key Relationships. Harper & Row, 1989.

Good self-help book using family systems theory.  Can be used to give to clients or people struggling with problems in relationships.

Mitchell, Kenneth R. Multiple Staff Ministries. The Westminster Press, 1988.

The second best text on family systems theory applied to churches, only Friedman's book is more thorough.  Don't let the title mislead.  This is a useful book for any congregational leader, not just multiple staff situations. This book is now out of print.

Pascale, Richard Tanner. Managing on the Edge: How the Smartest Companies Use Conflict to Stay Ahead. Simon & Schuster, 1990.

This book is the foundation for the course George Parsons and Speed Leas teach on organizational assessment.  It assumes that healthy and strong organizations balance well tensions in seven different organizational dimensions.

O’Toole, James. Leading Change: The Argument for Values Based Leadership. Jossey Bass 1995.

The title says it all.

Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline. Currency, New York: Doubleday, 1990.

A helpful description of what gets in the way of "organizational learning."  Lists the learning disabilities that organizations exhibit.

Senge, Peter M., et al. The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook. Currency, New York: Doubleday, 1994.

Required for the library of all consultants and church executives. Very valuable material on values, visioning, and systems.

Steinke, Peter L. Healthy Congregations. The Alban Institute, 1996

Uses a health model to describe systems functioning. Could be a useful study book in a congregation.

Steinke, Peter L. How Your Church Family Works. The Alban Institute, 1993.

This little book is a most insightful introduction to systems theory. Excellent material applying the Christian faith and systems theory to congregational life.

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