Noah Palmer has been the District Superintendent of the Midwest District of the EFCA since 2012. Noah has been the right person for the task for the times, and he has been very helpful and encouraging to me personally. I'm going to miss his wisdom, humor, and teaching. Noah will finish this chapter of his story next Summer.
We are now beginning the process of looking for the next superintendent, and I am serving on the search team with a handful of other pastors from the district. In order to help this team develop a good profile, I have interviewed over the last week four currently serving superintendents from other districts, three of whom I've known for many years (including one I went to seminary with both at Talbot and at Dallas Theological Seminary).
I asked the same questions of each:
- What are the personality traits of an effective DS?
- What do you consider to be the crucial activities of a DS (including administrative)?
- What are helpful (but not necessarily crucial) activities?
- What are the self-care habits an effective DS needs to have?
- What kind of really good guy and really good pastor should we NOT hire as a DS?
- What surprises did you have as a DS?
It's fascinating to contrast and compare their answers - some themes were repeated, and a few items were very different, both of which are very helpful to our process.
One consistent answer that surprised me is how much conflict resolution a DS needs to do. That just makes me all the more grateful for you, my church family and church leaders, that we've had very, very little conflict. Because I've experienced so little here, I was hit by how consistent and strong that answer was. (And I would trust each of these men to step into a conflict.)
Another surprising and consistent theme is that the DS has no real authority, and a candidate for the position needs to embrace, and even appreciate, that. The EFCA is not a top-down structure where people at the district and national levels have authority over us on the bottom rung. You, the congregation, have the authority in submission to Christ, and you'll exercise some of that authority at the annual meeting on 10/27. The DS needs to build influence through trusting relationships rather than the bludgeon of his title, and therefore he is a true servant.
But now consider the first item (conflict resolution) with the second item (no real authority). How can someone resolve conflict without authority?
One of the many compelling responses is helpful to this point: "How does someone feel after talking with the candidate?" If you leave a conversation with the person impressed with him, then he's not the right guy for the post! If you feel loved, encouraged, supported, and heard, then he just might be the right guy, able to build trust without having any authority.
There's so much more good stuff in my notes! But let me encourage us all with this: When people feel listened to after talking with you, it will build trust that may allow you to bring healing and hope when they are needed.
This is surely why all the DS'es emphasized how important humility is.
(image: Wilfredor, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)