Servant Leadership: Practices

“Conduct: Congregational Leadership Grid – Concepts ” (SL#67)

by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., adapted from SkillTrack® 1:3
Charting Your Course

  • “As a servant leader today, how shall I conduct my life and leadership within the congregation?” That is not unlike the question raised for those early followers of Christ, in dangerous times: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be?”–2 Pet. 3:11
  • “Conduct,” or behavior, refers here to the options and choices you have for the practice of servant leadership today. Such behavior is based on biblical insights, contemporary research, and application to Christian life and ministry. The construction of five congregational leadership styles are based on:
  • the practice of servant leadership after the pattern of Christ
  • the relationship of members/coworkers
  • the preparedness of leaders/coworkers
  • the performance of functions, tasks
  • the church’s systems/environment/situation
  • the fulfillment of the congregation’s kingdom mission
  • “Charting your course” affirms that you have choices to make:
    to become a faithful, effective servant leader of the Lord, and then to faithfully continue in that path. The possibilities are challenging, exciting, and rewarding.
    In our visual roadmap for the course, there are three points of keen interest converging to fulfill kingdom goals:

    1) the content is servant leadership (see SL#62 and #63)

    2) the context is the congregation/leadership situation (see SL#64, #65, #66)

    3) the conduct is your choice of styles and models (for graphic and explanations, see SL#61)


1. Congregational Leadership Grid (CLGrid) and Biblical Insights

The CLGrid seeks to be faithful to biblical principles of mission performance and concern for people and relationships. So, let’s examine a basic passage, Ephesians 4:11-16–

  • Christ appointed diverse, gifted leaders for His service in the body of Christ (v. 11).
  • Leaders have the responsibility to nurture and develop members/coworkers for “works of service” (v. 12).
  • Such service builds up, strengthens the body of Christ–the congregation (v. 12).
  • The mission of the congregation should include spiritual goals: unity, faith, knowledge, maturity, and the fullness of Christ (v. 13).
  • The congregation is to have a “spiritual defense system” against its adversaries (v. 14).
  • Church health and growth merges both the concern for people and performance in the life of the church (v. 15).
  • Congregational systems–that is, its body life–exists and works together in love, expressing its highest relationship (v. 16).

Reviewing a roll call of biblical leaders, their styles and functions, shows a great variety in servant leadership, going beyond but supporting our study of grid styles. My starter list includes: lawgivers, historians, poets, prophets, priests, judges, kings, family heads, warriors, craftsmen, apostles, pastors, teachers, evangelists, deacons, missionaries, strategists, writers, women leaders, encouragers, supporters—and the list goes on. (See Hebrews chapter 11 and SkillTrack® 1.2 for developing these biblical concepts.)

2. CLGrid and Contemporary Research

The CLGrid is also based on contemporary research–primarily in the area of contingency/situation/contextual leadership; it becomes a tool for servant leadership. (See also study abstracts in SL#69.) Let me summarize
and adapt the findings:

  • Leadership is greatly influenced by several factors in the congregational situation, primarily tasks, worker, and leader.
  • CLGrid leadership must give consideration to the congregation’s systems, environment, resources, and specific mission.
  • Leaders are made, not born, although this can be overstated. The CLGrid focus is not on natural traits but on behavior patterns that can be learned and practiced.
  • There is no one-best leadership style that fits all situations. Each person may have a dominant leadership style, may find it difficult to change, but can learn new skills and behavior.
  • The CLGrid offers a framework for congregational leaders to make informed choices from among five styles in seeking to be more effective in a given situation.

3. Grid Measurements and Application

Review the graphic below as you continue this study. The scale is from 2 to 8 rather than 1 to 9 because it affirms the reality that most of us do not live in the grand banquet hall of leadership, nor freeze in its lowest dungeon. Four elements are reported:

  • Concern for performance, for mission results: the horizontal axis (1st number) measures the leader’s focus on the task, work to be done, performance of the congregation and its results–usually growth in numerical terms; too often implies the “X” theory that people hate work, must be made to do it.
  • Concern for people, for member relationships: the vertical axis (2nd number) measures “the people factor,” the leader’s personal relationship to members and coworkers–including warmth, friendliness,
    approval, respect, and trust; assumes the “Y” theory that people like to do their best, can be trained and trusted to perform well.
  • 3-D–the “third dimension” of the CLGrid focuses on the congregational situation, its leaders,  coworkers, functions, environment, and systems. See SL#64, #65, and #66 for background information and also the study abstracts in SL#69.
  • “Expresses servant leadership”— this factor indicates the more positive side of each CLGrid style and how it might be the best choice in specific situations; behavior and functions are intentionally combined.

4. What is the Congregational Leadership Grid?


  • As have other “revisionists,” so I have used “the grid concept” developed by Blake and Mouton, but with intentional changes, focusing on servant leadership in a congregation.
  • The CLGrid develops and affirms five leadership styles that are usable tools in practicing servant leadership. Each style is not merely measured against a universal one-best style (9,9 of Blake and Mouton), but is presented with its own possibilities and limitations.
    • 2,2 may help but is not an effective dominant style
    • 8,2 may be efficient in getting work done, but may neglect valid concern for people, relationships
    • 2,8 is effective, even necessary, in many congregational settings, but may neglect the congregational mission
    • 5,5 makes and owns mutual goals, on a consensus level
    • 8,8 “highest good” for major congregational endeavors, but not the “one ideal” for every situation

Reflection/Assessment/Application of CLGrid:

  • Learn the major elements of each leadership style.
  • Assess your dominant leadership style, and perhaps your second most-often-used style.
  • Apply each style to situations in your own leadership.
  • Choose to exercise every CLGrid style as a practice of servant leadership after the pattern of Christ.

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© 2006; hosted and
copyrighted by Lloyd Elder & Associates, Inc.

For full citation of referenced works, see Bibliography/Links at

Adapted by Lloyd Elder, Th.D., Founding Director, Moench Center for Church Leadership