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Strong Leaders for Effective Congregations

A recent article in The Guardian outlines the effect that Pope Francis has had on Catholic worship attendance.

Researcher Massimo Introvigne, a sociologist and head of Italy’s Centre for the Study of New Religions (Cesnur), found that 51% of 250 priests he interviewed reported a significant rise in church attendance since the election of the former Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio in March…

…Pope Francis, who was noted for his simple lifestyle while archbishop of Buenos Aires, has refused the opulent trappings of the papacy and repeatedly advocated a simpler, poorer and less bureaucratic church. Some of his initiatives have also suggested he intends decentralising the administration of the world’s biggest Christian denomination.

What is the role that a new leader has on the church? And how can it be better analyzed to find out the ways in which the new leader is effective in a local faith community?

Two United Church of Christ congregations in Germantown, Wisconsin have new leadership too. Pastor Tara Tetzlaff is a young, second-career pastor with energy and charisma. The article outlining her move to Germantown lists a number of ways Pastor Tetzlaff is attempting to create energy and build community in these churches.

As she steps into her new role as pastor of St. John United Church of Christ and Our Savior’s United Church of Christ, she is hoping to energize the congregations. Subsequently, members of the congregation are excited to have Tetzlaff on board, especially the young families in the congregation, Caroline Romaine, chairperson of the outreach committee, said.

Tetzlaff has already organized a youth group to get middle and high school-aged youth involved in the church. She has also started organizing outings, such as a bowling event, in the hopes that the church members will get to know each other and build the community.

Building community, encouraging young families and youth involvement, and bringing energy to the congregation are important ways of establishing herself as a strong leader.

Both Pope Francis and Pastor Tetzlaff are working to reform their communities — Pope Francis by grounding the Catholic church in more humble surroundings, and Pastor Tetzlaff by attempting to develop community and programs for growing groups in the congregation. Both are looking to make changes to where they see gaps in their current ministries. Where are the gaps in your current ministry? And how can you better understand where those gaps are?

About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at