In today's complex and busy world, people and organizations yearn for bold and visionary leadership.

But what makes Christian leadership different?

Read the words of prominent Christian thinkers, and the difference is clear.

To L. Gregory Jones, Christian leadership is about the "telos" -- our goal, our end, to cultivate thriving communities that bear witness to the inbreaking reign of God. To Jean Vanier, it's about helping others grow and develop their gifts. And to Stanley Hauerwas, it's about power, given from God, used rightly for the formation of good people and good communities.

Learn more about Christian leadership

Our resources include interviews with noted theologians and church leaders, articles about Christian leadership in action, and practical advice on some common challenges facing those who want to lead in a Christian way, from starting well to dealing with the loneliness of leadership.

For more on the subject of Christian leadership, browse the Faith & Leadership archives. And to learn about two key aspects of Christian leadership that are part of Leadership Education's core principles and practices, read about Christ-shaped leadership and transformative leadership.

What is Christian leadership?

'The end'
L. Gregory Jones explores the way Christianity changes the nature of leadership.

Jean Vanier: Of belonging and bonding
A world "gone mad through bad leadership" could learn much from the international community known as L'Arche, says founder Jean Vanier.

Sarah Coakley: Living prayer and leadership
The professor of theology at Cambridge University says silent attention to God is the anchor of leadership.

Gardner C. Taylor: 25 ways to Sunday
Churches call ministers, but it takes time to grow a pastor, says the Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, the legendary "dean of the nation's black preachers."

Samuel Wells: Improvising leadership
Theatrical improvisation is an apt analogy for the Christian life and leadership, says the Anglican minister and scholar. Both are about trust, faithfulness and imagination.

Stanley Hauerwas: What only the whole church can do
Theologian Stanley Hauerwas discusses the term "leadership" and how he prepares his students to provide it.

Vashti McKenzie: What's Christian about Christian leadership?
The role model for leadership is Jesus, says Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie.

N.T. Wright: Working on a building
Institutions are essential to the church's mission, but they are not reality, Wright says. They are merely the scaffolding and plumbing that make possible the building called community.

Christopher A. Beeley: Constant is the call for leadership
Leadership has been a great need in every age of the church, a new challenge in every generation. For the basics of how to do it well, look to the wisdom of the early church, says the Yale patristics scholar.

Christian leadership in action

Mission Arlington is taking church to the people
Tillie Burgin never envisioned creating a multimillion-dollar social services nonprofit when, 27 years ago, she started a Bible class in a low-rent apartment complex in Arlington, Texas.

Jacob's Well
It's one thing to start a church; it's another to keep it going. As Jacob's Well has discovered, even the most cutting-edge, creative and vibrant church has to have organization and structure.

A fantastic moment
Serene Jones leaves a comfortable career at Yale University to take over the presidency of Union Theological Seminary at a time of change and uncertainty.

Rebirth of an urban church
Today, Hyde Park United Methodist Church in Tampa is a growing, missional church -- but it wasn't always that way. Under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Jim Harnish, the congregation has pursued its vision in serving the community.

I want to be like them
Kerry Robinson, who was formed in the world of Catholic philanthropy and inspired from childhood by modern-day saints, now leads a remarkable effort to assist and strengthen the Catholic Church in the United States.

Orphan diseases find a champion
Jimmy Lin -- a scientist and part-time seminarian -- founded the Rare Genomics Institute to blend science research with crowdfunding to help families of children with rare diseases.

Practical advice for Christian leaders

Ed Moore: Sacred bundle
Every organization has its "sacred bundle" -- the collection of symbols, stories and artifacts that confers identity upon a community and determines its social norms. Woe betide the leader who ignores it.

Starting well
Presidents set ambitious goals for the first 100 days. But Christian leaders starting a new job might begin better by listening, planning and learning instead.

Making transitions
A change of leadership can be difficult. Congregations, pastors and denominational leaders have to work hard to effect smooth pastoral leadership transitions.

Lonely at the top?
The peak of the organizational pyramid can be a lonely spot. But Christian leaders can take steps to feel less isolated.

C. Kavin Rowe: Listening well
Flourishing institutions require leaders who know how to listen well, which demands the ability to pay attention while avoiding distraction and to relate what is being said to its context.

Cynthia Lindner: Multiple-mindedness and ministerial resilience
A researcher at the University of Chicago finds that having multiple interests, passions and activities can help pastors thrive in ministry.

Questions to consider

Questions to consider:

  • In what ways does your organization “bear witness to the inbreaking reign of God”? How do you communicate your institution's Christian convictions so that your audience understands the end to which your work is pointing?
  • How do you make management decisions so that they align with your Christian faith? What process do you use?
  • Who are your exemplars of Christian leadership? What are the signs that tell you they are leading in a Christian way?
  • What, to you, makes Christian leadership different? What makes Christian institutions different from secular ones?
  • Have you identified your unique gifts and strengths for Christian leadership? If so, how do you use them effectively in your work?