Are You a Transformational Pastor?

By Stanley Paul Mongin, PhD

A transformational pastor is supposed to influence, motivate, stimulate, and consider all their congregants individually. These pastoral leadership components are derived from the theory of transformational leadership, which was developed by Bernard A. Bass & Bruce J. Avolio in their book, Improving Organizational Effectiveness Through Transformational Leadership in 1994.  Bass & Avolio describe this type of leader as being a charismatic person who can influence their followers by appealing to their ideals, then inspire them to be motivated to put the organizational goals into their work ethic, stimulate them by championing their intellect, and then finally, to personally consider each followers input so that they feel valued and appreciated for their efforts toward making the church more effective and productive.

Research was recently conducted across southeast Georgia where Southern Baptist pastors were interviewed about their leadership styles and how effective they were in engaging their congregants within their respective churches. Fourteen (14) pastors were selected from three (3) Baptist associations to offer candid insights into their application of transformational leadership components. These pastors were very forthright with their practical day-to-day leadership of their churches and how these components bring effectiveness toward their congregation’s goal of kingdom work. The study discovered 13 topical themes that transformational pastors exhibit when leading: (a) using direct communication, (b) preaching/teaching, (c) promoting opportunities to serve, (e) giving personal attention, (f) delegating tasks, (g) using spiritual gifts, (h) giving encouragement, (i) having an open-door policy, (j) modeling compassion, (k) displaying authenticity, (l) having the expectation to serve, and (m) building trust. Some of these themes could possibly be interwoven but the data suggested that each one of these themes had enough strength to stand alone within the confines of transformational leadership theory.

Idealized Influence

Transformational leadership is characterized by leaders who motivate followers to achieve organizational goals by influencing them to exceed their perceived capabilities. This study revealed that pastors who used direct communication, had an open-door policy, and lead by example embodied the transformational leadership component of idealized influence. This suggests that when leaders use influence among their followers, they expect their personal examples to make a considerable difference in how people follow them.

Using Direct Communication.

The theme of using direct communication relates to the transformational leadership component of influence. This portion of the research dealt with the questions surrounding how southeast Georgia SBC pastors described their influence leading the church’s effectiveness. By sheer job description, pastors are communicators. Therefore, a pastor must possess the skills to command attention while speaking, no matter the denomination. This study revealed that direct communication was identified by 100% (14 of 14) of the participants as the best method for influencing their congregants to make the church more effective.

Many of the interviewed pastors agreed that stating the church’s needs succinctly and boldly offered the best opportunity for congregants to avail themselves of the needs of the church. When congregants were made aware of the items that needed attention, those items were dealt with quickly and efficiently. Participant 1 made this point clear when he stated, “I’ll bring that up and talk about the need and why that need is particular, and I begin to call people individually and ask them personally to be able to help.”

The participating pastors mentioned the value of having a good rapport with their congregation. Talking to each congregant personally was crucial for moving the church forward. Good communication skills and a gregarious personality brought the participating pastors closer to their congregants and endeared them to the church. This dynamic relationship proved effective in moving the church closer to reaching its goals and keeping harmony within the church body. Participant 2 noted, “It’s a call to participate in the life of the church and their [congregants] act of worship and each component of our worship gathering. I call everybody to say it’s a challenge.” Pastors can transform their congregations when they use their skills as communicators and articulate the church’s needs concisely. In addition, transformational leaders use their charisma in such a manner as to influence followers to cooperate in unity.

Having an Open-Door Policy.

This theme of having an open-door policy reflects the transformational leadership component of influence and was another prevailing theme that 100% (14 of 14) of the pastors agreed was necessary when leading a church. Pastors need to assure their congregants that they are available to them at any time. This level of pastor availability seems to calm fears and provide a sense of security for congregants, and those congregants respond well to the idea that they can approach their pastor anytime with their needs, ideas, and concerns. Participant 12 stated, “I have an open-door policy [at my] office. [Congregants are] welcome to come in, and I listen. Folks know they can come to me with their ideas.” Participant 14 stated, “I think that [good leadership] starts with an open door, one of the things that I try to do as a pastor is to make sure that everybody is valued— everybody’s opinion is valued.”

Followers respond well when leaders demonstrate empathy toward their place within the organization. An effective leader uses direction-giving language, which reduces role ambiguity and clarifies work expectations, thus enhancing the trust factor among followers. Followers want their leaders to do what they say they will do and offer authenticity within their leadership.

Leading by Example.

An effective leader builds unshakeable confidence in the workforce by leading with credibility and always following through on their promises. Followers should hold their leaders accountable as they work with them to achieve organizational goals. Leaders who are confident in their abilities will live their shared values in front of the entire organization and demonstrate a high sense of credibility for everyone to see. When leaders show high authenticity and credibility, the organization is at its strongest. In addition, effective leaders demonstrate their values in such a manner that the followers will come alongside them in a unified spirit of collaboration because they have seen their leaders living up to the high standards that the followers have seen to be genuine.

Leading by example could be considered the prevailing theme of the entire study. All the interviewed pastors agreed that an effective leader must set an example for their congregants. When presented with the question of how they lead their congregations, 100% (14 of 14) of the participating pastors responded that they lead by example, and this leadership quality highlighted the transformational leadership component of individualized consideration. Participant 6 stated, “I just get in there and get my hands dirty, I was willing to just get in there with them and stay and help them, and I hope that made an impact on them.” Participant 4 said, “I try to mimic the Lord and hope that’s a good influence for the church. [I am] just someone who’s obedient, you know, to be a faithful husband, a good father.” Participant 1 noted, “I’m not going to ask … [congregants] to do anything I wouldn’t do if I’m asking them to serve outside the congregation. They need to see me adding to our congregation in every aspect.”

Leaders must lead from the front and set an example for the organization to see that they have a firm grip on achieving the organizational goals. Effective leaders model the way for others because deeds are more important than words when stakeholders want to see how serious the leadership is about achieving the company’s stated goals. Leadership credibility must be a core value of the leader so that they can demonstrate positive behavior in the organization that will inspire others to follow them in a cooperative spirit that will ensure they meet the organization’s stated goals. Exemplary leaders are keenly aware that to get proper buy-in from their followers, they must model credible behavior before them and always maintain that high standard.

Leadership honesty is the highest-ranking quality most seek in any organization. Without trust, a leader is doomed from the start; trust is earned. Followers want their leaders to be honest because a leader’s values reflect their values, and that relationship strengthens organizational culture. Effective leaders are stewards of their followers and cultivate their people. A leader who is determined to concentrate on self-centered goals lacks integrity and is usually dishonest.        Leadership integrity bears witness existentially to all that the leader is internally. When leaders are honest, their followers are emboldened to higher productivity. In contrast, when leaders demonstrate dishonesty, workers are less inclined to produce, raising the value of true leadership honesty and integrity. Leadership integrity is strongly aligned with values and ethics.

Inspirational Motivation

Transformational leaders motivate followers to achieve organizational goals by inspiring them with their vision and helping them to exceed their own expectations, which is the component of inspirational motivation. This current study revealed that pastors who inspired their congregants to use their spiritual gifts, who gave encouragement, and who motivated congregants with the expectation to serve the church and used preaching / teaching were using the transformational leadership component of inspirational motivation. When leaders use inspirational motivation among their followers, they allow followers to go above and beyond their talents to make the organization more effective.

Using Spiritual Gifts.

The theme of using spiritual gifts naturally fits within the boundaries of SBC doctrine and worship. Pastors are trained to instruct their congregants to use their God-given abilities to make the church effective, and when congregants apply their unique personal skills, the church operates as effectively as possible. Spiritual gifts differ in nature and effect but have the singular goal of building up the congregation. Participant 7 stated, “God may be placing in front of us opportunities to do or be a part of and to use those talents and develop those talents.”

Effective leaders recognize talents in their followers and seek to engage those talents for the greater effectiveness of the organization. The pastor has the special duty of equipping congregants to discover and use their respective gifts and complement the church’s spiritual maturity. A spiritually mature church is more effective than a church that does not seek out and use the unique spiritual gifts of its members.

When a pastor uses the spiritual gifts of his congregation, he is fulfilling his duty and reaping the benefits of effective leadership. Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their followers to move the organization forward, thus producing greater effectiveness. Fifty percent (7 of 14) of the participating pastors supported the importance of using spiritual gifts. Participant 11 stated, “Teach them [congregants] that we all have spiritual gifts from the Holy Spirit to minister in the church. [If] you have certain abilities that God’s given you, then use them for the benefit of the church.”

A pastor must be attentive toward his congregation and intentionally move them along a path of spiritual growth and Christlikeness. By providing attentiveness and applying the congregation’s spiritual gifts, the pastor appropriately fulfills his role as the shepherd leader of the church. A church is an organism led by the pastor, who is responsible for implementing proven leadership strategies that keep the church viable and effective. Effective organizations employ a work environment that seeks to maximize their employees’ unique talents and rewards those employees for their contributions to reaching those stated goals.

Giving Encouragement.

As leaders articulate shared values and purposes with their followers, this binds the leader–follower relationship and enhances both entities, thus facilitating greater psychological satisfaction within the organization. Additionally, when leaders strive to facilitate a work environment that delivers open communication, they demonstrate compassion, empathy, care, and support for their followers. Followers respond well when leaders show empathy toward their place within the organization.

The theme of giving encouragement is an expectation congregants have of their pastors. Pastors should portray an optimistic outlook on life and the future. Congregants’ needs vary individually, but pastors must possess the skills to keep all congregants motivated and confident. This theme ties in with the transformational leadership component of inspirational motivation. This current study revealed that 86% (12 of 14) of the participating pastors saw giving encouragement as a vital part of their role as leaders of the church. Participant 13 stated, “We have community groups that happen once a week. When people come into the church, we try to connect them with the individuals doing those activities.”

Leaders can use proper communication to motivate their followers and cultivate dynamic work relationships. When leaders use meaningful language and transparency, they emphasize organizational values and align their personal goals with their followers into a shared goal for the organization. Participant 14 emphasized, “I try to encourage people to find a place, … ways that [they] can reach out to people. I encourage people to create a culture that’s caring for one another.” Effective leaders use direction-giving language to reduce role ambiguity and clarify work expectations, thus enhancing the trust factor among followers, and followers want their leaders to be authentic and trustworthy.

Having the Expectation to Serve.

Employees who are engaged in a positive work environment feel valued and see themselves as a vital part of the organization. Additionally, this type of work environment produces less worker conflict and better cohesion among the employees. When organizational leaders provide a positive work atmosphere, they are proactive and seek to change the organizational culture through new ideas, allowing employees to reach goals through increased values. Furthermore, these leaders motivate their employees through encouragement and promote group cohesion by recognizing individuals and group accomplishments.

The theme of having the expectation to serve was seen by the SBC pastors as a natural progression when someone new joins their congregation. The central idea behind this theme is that when a person joins a congregation, the pastor naturally assumes that the new member wants to become involved with the church’s activities. With this expectation, pastors want to welcome these new members into the church community and use their enthusiasm and talents to strengthen the church. This theme was supported by 71% (10 of 14) of the participants who incorporated transformational leadership components of inspirational motivation in their churches. For example, participant 1 stated, “I’ll make sure they get a call and say, ‘Hey, we’d love for you to be here. We could use your help.’ Make sure that they understand that there’s an expectation to serve.” Participant 3 said, “Motivation to serve is an expectation; it should be a joy. There are certain things that are expectations of a follower of Jesus.”

Transformational leaders who foster creativity and innovation from group members add to collaborative problem solving and sustainability. When groups see their leaders as responsive and open to their suggestions, these organizations realize greater effectiveness from their employees. In addition, when the work environment is stable with clearly defined rules and regulations, employees are more motivated to contribute their full effort.


A pastor’s primary emphasis in his preaching is to teach his people the truth. The pastor’s sermons must contain proclamations and instructions when preaching the truth. The theme of preaching/teaching speaks to the abilities of an SBC pastor to accurately convey the Word of God to the congregation. Sermons and Bible studies are a cornerstone of church effectiveness, and congregants respond positively when they feel they are learning. Congregants have a high level of expectation from their pastor’s ability to offer learning opportunities within a sermon. This theme reflects the transformational leadership component of individualized consideration. This study found that 100% (14 of 14) of participants believed that individualized consideration is essential for pastors to be effective with their congregations. Participant 12 stated, “I think that all preaching contains teaching; not all teaching is preaching. I incorporate teaching into the sermons.”

Effective leaders must be credible in character, honest in practice, competent in their ability, inspiring in their vision, and demonstrate a forward-looking optimism that shows their followers a clear path to success. Integrity in leadership has been a key consideration for leaders and a biblical standard since the beginning of time. Ordained ministers are to be saved, sanctified, and of solid character to fulfill their calling from God. The most important element of pastoral ministry is faithfully preaching the Word of God. Participant 3 noted, “I would say that teaching is throughout the message with a desire to explain what it meant when it was written.” This shows that preaching must be rooted in the Word of God so that God’s intended message is conveyed to those who are listening.

Exemplary leaders must have a firm grasp of their deeply held values—their beliefs, standards, ethics, and ideals that motivate them at their core. Effective leadership requires leaders to dig deep within themselves and identify the uncompromising convictions that identify them accurately to their followers and, most importantly, to themselves. Effective leaders find methods to authentically convey their values so that their followers see them, believe them, and ultimately adopt them as their own to reach organizational goals.

Intellectual Stimulation

The component of intellectual stimulation in transformational leadership is comprised of leaders being able to stimulate followers to use their unique abilities and talents. This study revealed that pastors who built trust, and delegated tasks were using the transformational leadership component of intellectual stimulation. When leaders use intellectual stimulation among their followers, they allow followers to use their talents and experiences confidently, thus increasing the organization’s effectiveness.

Building Trust.

Effective leaders understand that organizations work best when leader–follower relationships are based on high trust. Transparency in leadership will foster trust, but leaders need to risk some vulnerability to obtain follower loyalty. Open communication between organizational leaders and their followers has proven to be a psychological and professional benefit within the leader–follower dynamic. When followers perceive their input is wanted, applied, and deemed beneficial, they overachieve for the organization. Therefore, effective leaders will purposefully develop a climate of trust and foster collaboration within the ranks of their followers that bring harmony and a free exchange of ideas, expertise, and experience among their employees that is realized in organizational success.

In the work environment, leaders must promote and foster a collaborative atmosphere among the followers that is supported and rewarded. Trust is at the heart of this type of work system, which is required to build a foundation for a leader–follower collaborative relationship. Leaders need to develop trust in their followers’ experience, expertise, and idea so that they share the burden of moving the organization towards its stated goals and followers get the authentic recognition they crave for their contributions toward those same goals.

The theme of building trust is an essential element of leadership and pastoring. Congregants place great trust in their pastoral staff and expect them to be honest and capable, because pastors are privy to personal information about congregants through counseling and personal conversations, and all this communication is considered private and confidential. Pastors are highly esteemed when congregants believe in them and trust their leadership. This study revealed that trust was a significant aspect of pastoral leadership for 57% of participants (8 of 14), reflecting the transformational leadership component of intellectual stimulation. Participant 5 noted, “I think if you can help them [congregants] understand that God’s in it [congregant ideas] you know, they’ll get on board. … If they trust you, they trust your leadership, [and] they generally will fall [in line].” Participant 8 stated, “Build that trust, build relationships, [change] the mindset. When the mindset has changed, and they’re [congregants] on board with you, that growth will happen, transformation will take place, spiritual growth will take place.” Trust brings psychological advantages such as better friendships, greater peace of mind, and more influence. Effective leaders invest in moving their followers into more trusting relationships and encourage teamwork. When followers sense that their leaders trust them, they tend to produce more efficiently and with greater ease.

Delegating tasks.

Leadership trust is a key element of delegation, and leaders must find a way to foster trust among their constituents. When leaders learn to trust their followers, they can begin to delegate portions of the decisions to them and move the organization along more effectively. Human relationships are built on the foundation of trust, especially the leader–follower relationship found in organizations. Leaders trust their followers to perform the tasks assigned to them, and followers trust their leaders to move the organization in the right direction. Leadership is relational because it is the interaction between leaders and followers, and cultivating a strong trust dynamic is essential for organizational success.

Leadership honesty is the foundation of a strong trust relationship between leaders and followers. Leaders must keep their promises and be transparent in their efforts to build trust. To ensure that the integrity of leadership honesty is kept, leaders need to build relationship networks within and without the organization to keep their promises to their followers. Once these relationships are built, leaders must remain approachable and trustworthy, so their followers feel comfortable coming to them with their questions and concerns. When leaders purposely include their followers in open communication, they foster a higher level of trust due to the appearance of leadership transparency.

The theme of delegating tasks in this current study focused on pastors delegating responsibilities to their congregants so they could take on the church’s day-to-day operations. This study found that 64% (9 of 14) of the interviewed participants viewed delegation as a key leadership quality. This study highlighted the importance of leadership delegation to reinforce the transformational leadership component of intellectual stimulation. Participant 4 noted that he used delegation through “conversations … with committee leaders, … pushing [the] committee … to really focus in on those things [that are delegated], and … stay[ing] in constant contact with them throughout the year.” Participant 12 stated, “I support the congregation. I truly believe in letting people have some authority to carry that out. I really believe in the delegation of those kinds of things.” Participant 1 said, “I encourage [congregants] to pursue what they feel … God has put on their plate. Then it becomes incumbent upon me to give them the resources that are necessary to make that happen.”

Leadership delegation is an essential component of pastoring. Pastors must take advantage of congregants’ input and expertise in running the church and not see it as abandoning their leadership role. On the contrary, the pastor who learns to delegate properly becomes a greater pastor and a better leader. However, pastors need to learn early in their tenure that they cannot do it all, nor are they expected to perform every duty required to move the church effectively.

Individualized Consideration

The individualized consideration component of transformational leadership is when leaders can communicate their vision to each follower in a way tailored to their needs and interests. The current study revealed that pastors who display authenticity, promote opportunities to serve, giving personal attention, and modeling compassion used the transformational leadership component of individualized consideration. When leaders use individual consideration among their followers, they highlight individual talents that increase the organization’s effectiveness.

Displaying Authenticity.

Leaders must lead from the front and set an example for the organization to see that they have a firm grip on the best way to achieve the organizational goals. An effective leader will model the way for others because deeds are more important than words when stakeholders want to see how serious the leadership is about achieving the company’s stated goals. Credible leadership is the practice of leading an organization through positive culture change. Credible leadership brings about increased work engagement through an organizational culture that supports education and organizational skills their followers possess. Credibility is an essential quality in an effective leader because it instills confidence in their stakeholders, followers, and external challengers.

The interviewed pastors all agreed that the theme of displaying authenticity in leadership is essential. SBC pastors must lead with integrity and transparency that transcends the pulpit and is incorporated into every aspect of their lives. Pastors expect this type of scrutiny upon their leadership and want to rise to this high standard. A pastor is a biblically qualified leader using the Bible as his standard for his conduct, character, and qualifications. The study revealed that 43% (6 of 14) participants expressed that authentic leadership was key to moving their congregation forward effectively. Authenticity in leadership relates to the transformational leadership component of individualized consideration. Participant 8 stated, “I just sit down and [say], ‘I am who I am.’ I’m not always the best speaker, and that’s okay. I’m not afraid to admit my flaws.” Authentic leadership is highly reliant on what the leader values and considers most dear to them.

Authentic leaders place a high degree of importance on their values are transparent with their followers and thus find creative ways to connect them to those shared values for the organization’s benefit. For example, participant S1 stated, “It’s relationships. I think about personal influence; I think about personal one-on-one [relationships]. What do I need to know from you? How can I serve you better? It’s just got to be personal.” This suggests that authentic leadership is more effective when leaders can communicate their shared values to their followers and build a cooperative team unified around achieving true success for the organization and meeting stakeholder expectations.

Promoting Opportunities to Serve.

The study found that promoting opportunities to serve was an effective way to keep the congregation engaged in meeting the church’s goals. The pastors said they relied on various means to distribute the notices of opportunities within the church organization but found it necessary to keep reminding their congregants that needs exist and are available. When adequately promoted, these needs and opportunities were filled, and goals were met and often exceeded. Promoting opportunities to serve was supported by 14% (2 of 14) of the participants, a theme related to the transformational leadership component of intellectual stimulation. Participant 2 said, “We all play a part, and I would expect that each and every member of our congregation [is an] active participant in the life of the church and in the community of faith.”

A leader must be willing to get in the trenches with followers and work alongside them to move the organization forward. As a result, followers will begin to see their willingness to do whatever it takes to bring success to the organization. Additionally, inspired, and empowered followers will begin to offer more of their talents and expertise, and this type of conducive environment will begin to pay dividends for the organization.

Giving Personal Attention.

The theme of giving personal attention relates to the idea that pastors lead their congregations as a group but must find the ability to address individual needs at any time. Congregants need to feel that the pastor knows them personally so that they feel valued and appreciated, and pastors must use their personalities and charisma to ensure congregants do not feel left out or isolated from their leadership. This current study revealed that 93% (13 of 14) of participants believed that when they showed their personal attention to the congregation and shared their values with them, the church was more effective. Personal attention lends itself to the transformational leadership component of influence. Participant 10 stated, “[I] go to people individually, and I am learning to do that more often. When I see gifts and somebody pointing that out, I’m going to get them to do that particularly.” Participant 3 noted, “As a pastor, I have to be engaged and involved by modeling a good example, by serving, preaching, casting a vision, and helping them see the Word is taught consistently and constantly.”

A pastor models Christ in front of his church as a testimony to his calling and his dedication to that calling. Pastors should reflect the image of God in their preaching and ministry. Proper modeling before the church requires pastors to hold themselves accountable to the high standards outlined in Scripture, accept those challenges, and consistently instill those values into their congregants.

Modeling Compassion.

Transformational leaders model compassion among their followers and, in doing so, endear themselves to the organization. When leaders demonstrate a genuine interest in their followers, this elicits greater productivity from their constituents; effective leaders encourage the hearts of their followers and recognize their contributions. This type of leader offers genuine appreciation for the value their followers bring to the organization and celebrate their accomplishments to reach greater organizational effectiveness.

The theme of modeling compassion applies to the methods used by SBC pastors to console and comfort their congregants. In times of distress or discomfort, congregants respond positively when their pastor is genuinely compassionate about their situation, and when a pastor demonstrates genuine compassion for all congregants, the congregation acknowledges this attribute with increased commitment. This theme reflected the transformational leadership components of intellectual stimulation. All 14 (100%) of the participants in the study believed that modeling compassion is essential for pastors to be effective with their congregations. Participant 4 stated, “That idea of what compassion is comes from Scripture. So, I model compassion as described by Scripture to those who are under my leadership.” The participants saw modeling compassion as demonstrating a genuine concern for their congregations’ input, well-being, and contributions to the church. This suggests that pastoral compassion should be genuine and come from the heart.

The pastor is to be the leader of the church and a loving parent to the family of God. Participant 3 stated, “[I am] praying for God to give me a heart of compassion. God must produce that in us. Compassion in my own life would be praying for God to produce that in my life.” Compassionate leadership must be demonstrated and lived before the organization so that others can see that compassion is a value that is supported. When leaders show compassion, trust is established and proves effective for the organization.

In conclusion, the study’s findings about the four components of transformational leadership as described by the participants were candid responses that richly describe how it is to lead a SBC congregation effectively.  The study discovered 13 topical themes that transformational pastors exhibit when leading: (a) using direct communication, (b) preaching/teaching, (c) promoting opportunities to serve, (e) giving personal attention, (f) delegating tasks, (g) using spiritual gifts, (h) giving encouragement, (i) having an open-door policy, (j) modeling compassion, (k) displaying authenticity, (l) having the expectation to serve, and (m) building trust. Furthermore, the study offered the practical application of the data, which noted that the participants are using components of transformational leadership in some manner. The research revealed that these14 participating pastors were using components of transformational leadership in one form or another that brought their congregations into a cohesive, effective organization.

Dr. Stanley Mongin is pastor of First Baptist Church in Port Wentworth, Ga. He holds Ph. D. from Columbia International University; an MDiv from Liberty University; and a BBA from Brewton Parker College. He is married to Tammy Mongin, with two adult children, and resides in Rincon, Ga. 



One Response to “Are You a Transformational Pastor?”

  1. Herman Mongin

    Paul , wow what incredible advice for pastors to adopt !! Pray that by reading your words of wisdom that their ministry will be very successful

Leave a Reply

HTML Snippets Powered By :