Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Harvest the Power, 2nd Edition: A Lay Leadership Development Program for Adults

Activity 4: Leadership and Management

(30 minutes)



  • Prepare Leader Resource 1 according to the instructions (cut the individual role play directions apart).
  • Arrange seating in a “fishbowl”: a tight circle of six chairs (or six chairs around a small table), with seating around the outside of the circle for the other participants.
  • Write the following questions on newsprint, and post it where all participants can see it:
    • When is the group asking management questions?
    • When are they asking leadership questions?
    • How might this scenario become a turning point for the congregation?


In this activity, six participants role-play members of a congregation’s governing board faced with a significant issue. Each role-player is assigned a specific perspective or agenda to bring to the discussion.


Alban Institute consultant Gil Rendle describes management as “something that makes the organization operate smoothly.” He says that management tries to answer the question, “Are we doing things right?” If this is your primary question, then what you are doing is trying to “satisfy” a congregation. Rendle notes that a completely satisfied congregation is difficult to lead because they don’t want to try anything new or do anything differently.

Rendle says that leadership, in contrast, asks the question, “Are we doing the right things?” Asking this question creates a necessary unsettledness in congregations because it makes congregants look more deeply into what they are doing.

Both leadership and management are necessary, but leaders need to focus on leading, and not seeking simple harmony or satisfaction.

Convey the idea that congregations, like individuals, are sometimes faced with the unexpected when events or issues seem to call for moving in a new direction. Often, congregations face issues that present both management and leadership challenges. When leaders have the courage to ask not only “Are we doing things right?” but also “Are we doing the right things?,” the results can mean a turning point for the congregation and its work in the world.

Tell participants that they will do a fishbowl role play. Six volunteers will role-play members of a congregation’s governing board, faced with a significant issue. Those not in the role play will pay close attention to the governing board’s discussion.

Ask for six volunteers to be the congregation’s governing board. Give them each a slip of paper from Leader Resource 1 that they will bring to a discussion of the issue. Point out the posted questions, and ask the remaining participants to keep them in mind as they observe the role play.

Introduce the scenario:

Your congregation is planning to do some major work to repair the foundation of the building and to upgrade the space. You’ve had a successful capital campaign and have raised nearly enough money—but not quite enough. Now you have heard from local government officials that you will not be granted a building permit until you have addressed some major accessibility issues in your building.

Allow discussion for 10 minutes or until the role play seems to reach a natural stopping point. Invite those on the outside of the fishbowl to respond to the posted questions. Record their responses on another sheet of newsprint. After those on the outside of the fishbowl have spoken, ask the role players to reflect on their experience. Add their observations to the newsprint list of responses.