In 2011 Manyangana High School in Mpumalanga had a pass rate of 32%. By 2012 the pass rate had soared to 91% and a year later in 2013, it went to 99%. The reason was simple, the reason was leadership. School principal, Elvis Siwela inherited a school where teachers were unmotivated, learners were uncooperative and absenteeism was rife. This was compounded by social and environmental problems in the dusty village of Utah near the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.


With financial assistance from the Buffelshoek Trust, a group of Grade 11 learners, teachers and the principal attended a six-day Columba Leadership Academy in 2012. Principal Siwela said,

“After coming out of the Columba Academy, I made a promise to myself, that in five years’ time, I would be the best principal this school had ever had.”

At the same time, the learners began leading by example and started making changes too. One of the group’s first projects was to clean and paint the school’s toilets – a simple task that instilled pride in all the learners. “This boosted confidence, morale and cleanliness of the learners,” he says.  The learners continue to clean the school environment two years on.

The group also planted a garden, with support from the Buffelshoek Trust. “We have the most wonderful garden that any school around can only dream about,” says Siwela, “not only do we supplement the school nutrition programme, but we are now able to earn some extra income to plough back into getting the resources our teachers and learners need.” He says the local game lodges have become regular customers of the Manyangana food garden, picking up a fresh supply of vegetables every week.

South Africa is full of remarkable stories like that which illustrate the importance of leadership. This is especially true in Christian Ministry. Most ministers feel ill-equipped when thinking about leadership. Pastors sign up to be theologians. They love teaching God’s word, they are committed to God’s word and they spend a lot of time in the preparation of sermons but there is more to pastoral ministry than simply the production of quality sermons. Pastors need to train themselves in leadership. Pastoral ministry is especially complex. Pastors lead volunteers, they lead staff, they lead trainees, they lead their families and they lead their own sinful hearts.

The first lesson of leadership is the realisation that leaders lead. Leaders set direction, they take risks, they become an agent of change and they set a vision of hope. Sadly, many a minister occupies a position where they are expected to lead but then they don’t exercise leadership. This leaves those that follow frustrated, disillusioned, disheartened and aimless. Leaders lead firstly by having and setting a vision for the future.


A. Set a vision


A leader sees what there is now but also sees what the future might become. A leader is a dealer in hope. —Napoleon Bonaparte

The first essential component of leadership is realising that the leader needs to have a vision of what the future can look like. Leaders need a clear idea of how things can be better from what they are at the present time. Leaders give themselves time to think and to dream about the future. Pastors need to give themselves permission and space to think. We will need to stop preparing sermons and simply think! It will require fierce will to stop and contemplate what is and visualise what could be. Pastors need to cultivate a sense of disquiet and a godly dissatisfaction with how things are. Leaders don’t sit back and congratulate themselves that their buildings are full, instead they always want more. They want to see something more, because the great commission has not been completed.

In order to aid this process a leader needs to understand the distinction between vision and goals.

  • Vision answers the question – Where are we going?
  • Goals answer the question – How are we going to get there?

The leader has a clear idea of where the ministry is going. A great danger in ministry is to simply tread water; to simply continue doing what has been done since the great years of the past.

B. Beware of Brain Fog – strive for clarity

Fog prevents leaders from having clarity. A person can’t see where they are going when the fog descends. Most leaders have some idea of how the future could/might look…but that vision needs to be clarified and quantified in order to be achieved. Many leaders have a vague intuitive sense of possible future scenarios that they could create but no real sense of where they are actually headed. It is this vision that needs to be crystalized so that it can be achieved.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. —Reverend Theodore Hesburgh

At St Stephens we have formulated that vision in three words – Love, Grow and Share.

We have a vision of a community of people that loves God and loves people. In addition we want St Stephens to be a church that is growing numerically by obedience to the great commission, as people are brought to repentance and faith. We also want people to be growing to maturity as they become more Christ-like. And finally we dream that we will be a community that shares Christ with those we come into contact with all the time. Finally, mindful of God’s financial blessings to us and the levels of poverty in our world we also want to be a community that shares our possessions with others.

That is our vision. The parts are interconnected. This vision sets the agenda for our activity and provides the roadmap for the future.


C. Communicate that vision

Having set the vision the leader is then able to begin the process of communicating that vision. This is an ongoing process and the leader needs to find ways to communicate the vision so that people remember it, use it and the vision influences the activity of the church.

Do this by

  • Breaking the vision into manageable and achievable parts; these parts then become the goals to be achieved (more about this in the next article).
  • Keep reminding yourself and them of the vision.
  • Put your vision in your prayers – privately and publically.
  • Put your vision in your diary; give time to it and then – start: Get the machine moving, albeit slowly in the direction of the vision.
  • Don’t be in a rush…more is achieved by sheer grit and by patient perseverance than is achieved by frantic effort.
  • Leaders are optimistic about the vision. They don’t stumble when their vision faces obstacles. Instead they learn from them, perhaps even adapt the vision and then keep on going.
  • Seek to inspire others with your vision of what things might be. Tell them what is coming and thank them when they help you achieve your goals.
  • You might need to change the vision at times. Be willing and humble enough to alter course when it is not working.
  • Don’t be discouraged when all do not go with you. You don’t need them all to come with you…you just need a bunch of motivated and excited people…

In summary here are some applications for those leading Christian ministries:

  • If you are in leadership lead…or let someone else do it. Don’t occupy and not lead. If you can’t lead get some training so that you can.
  • Have a vision of where you want your church/ministry to be in a year from today. Think about it. Give yourself permission to lead.
  • Pray about it and for it, get others to pray about it.
  • Communicate that vision…and then do it again and again.
  • Train other leaders to lead…don’t be afraid to let others help you achieve your vision.
  • Break your vision up into smaller achievable parts that are measurable and specific. This will be covered in the next article.
  • Take some concrete steps to bring it about (start a fund, start a small group, train a leader, do something)…and then when that step is finished take the next step…and the next.


Article written by Geoff Gertzen