Missional Leadership

Bree Mills Missional Leadership

reImagine Church

Leadership For a Changing World

At the July 2023 Pastors and Families Muster guest speaker Bree Mills spoke about her work and research with micro churches, and what it means to be a missional leader.

Leadership in churches is evolving in response to an increasingly complex world. Traditional leadership models, including corporate strategies, are revealing their limitations. While we might be growing resistant to the term “missional” from overuse, missional leadership is gaining traction in academic and practical ministry contexts, demonstrating it has some valuable insights to offer to our current circumstances.

What is missional leadership?

Missional leadership reframes a leader’s role by shifting from organizational leadership to participating in the broader mission of God.

It directs our attention away from budgets and buildings, and towards observing and engaging in God’s work around us. According to Nelus Niemandt, missional leadership involves the “the Spirit-led transformation of people and institutions by means of meaningful relationship to participate in the mission of God.”[1]

This approach not only models the leadership of Jesus, it resonates with the aspirations of young leaders who seek to make purposeful impacts in their world.

In my opinion, there are five elements of missional leadership:

1. It is Spirit-Led

Missional” often spurs images of something action-orientated. Yet, missional leadership is primarily fuelled by a deep abiding in Jesus (John 15). This deep connection shapes, empowers, and directs the missional engagement.

To participate in the mission of God we must first know him deeply, seek to discern where is already at work, and then engage in ways he leads us to.

2. IT is change-orientated

It is all about transformation. We are constantly desiring to change and to grow as disciples of Jesus, to be transformed into the likeness of Christ.

Not only should we desire this for ourselves, but for our churches and our communities. We are invited to be agents of His change in our community, working for His justice and mercy as we abide in Him (Micah 6:8).

3. IT is both individual and communal

This style of leadership is not for the individual superhero wanting to make a name for themselves. Missional leadership thrives in collaborative teams, driving transformation in individuals and institutions.

It recognises that the church can change and has continued to change throughout the centuries. Missional leadership is concerned with the interplay of both people and institutions.

4. IT prioritises people over programs

Programs do not bring about life change, people do. Missional leadership prioritizes authentic relationships over mere programs. It acknowledges that people drive genuine life change rather than initiatives.

Programs support relationships but they don’t take the place of them.

Missional leadership prioritizes authentic relationships over mere programs
5. IT results in purpose-driven action

Missional leadership helps people to participate in the mission of God in tangible ways. Not just by praying for or paying for someone else somewhere else, but by engaging in small ways in the here and now. This style of leadership believes God calls every person to be a missionary where they live, work and play.

Every person is gifted and skilled for the work God has prepared for them to do (Eph 2:10), missional leadership release people into that purpose. 

A redefinition

Missional leadership helpfully redefines church leadership, emphasizing a Spirit-led approach, openness to change, the value of relationships, and the empowerment of individuals to fulfill their purpose in God’s mission.

By embracing these principles, we can navigate the complexities of our changing world and foster vibrant, impactful communities of faith.

Bree Mills is an ordained Anglican minister and doctoral student in the area of Missional Leadership, focusing on innovative leadership in the Australian context. Until the end of 2020, she was Senior Associate Minister at Glen Waverley Anglican Church, Melbourne. Now, along with her husband and kids, they are part of a new micro church network church plant and lead a community called The Village. She loves to read, wakeboard, and go for long walks in new places, preferably near the ocean!

[1] C. J. P. Niemandt, “Discerning Spirituality for Missional Leaders,” in Leading in a VUCA World: Integrating Leadership, Discernment and Spirituality ed. J. Kok and S. C. van den Heuvel (Switzerland: Springer Open, 2019).

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June/July 2023

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 Missional Leadership