Review: Leading Without Power by Mark Oestreicher

A few years ago, I participated in one of The Youth Cartel’s Youth Ministry Coaching Programs, which was a great investment in my leadership development. Among other things, I loved getting to rub shoulders with great youth workers and learning from Mark Oestreicher. During the cohort, Marko talked often about leading without power. Marko’s talks on this subject were always thought-provoking, so I was thrilled when he decided to write a book on it.

Leading Without Power

Marko’s Leading Without Power: 9 Paths Toward Non-Coersive Ministry Leadership is a fantastic, short read. In fact, don’t let its small size fool you. It’s packed with wisdom that every youth worker, (really every leader), needs.

In Leading Without Power, Marko explores how to “lead with influence but not coercion or manipulation.” In his words, “Power-based leadership has no place in the church.” Having been in youth ministry for 15 years in three different contexts, I completely agree.

Marko argues, “Church leadership needs to move from a paradigm of control to one of facilitation. In this context, facilitation means identifying and nurturing competencies.” According to Marko, these competencies include a culture evangelist, mission curator, storytelling host, champion of hope, uniqueness DJ, contextualization czar, trust guard, and collaboration guide.

As you can tell from their titles, these roles are not typical leadership roles. They require imagination and a willingness to dream. Yet, they also have the potential to shift an organization’s culture in large and small ways, something that’s important because as Marko says, “One of the most important skill sets for a 21st-century leader is the ability to lead in the area of culture creation.”

In a time when my congregation is facing a transition, Leading Without Power was a gift to me. It encouraged me to lead well, regardless of how much power I have. It also gave me concrete tools to be able to do so. It reminded me that “leading without power means that we act as a host, creating spaces and environments where values-laden stories are told, where key moments in our history are re-told, where imaginative stories about our future are dreamed.”

Leaders of all kinds will find Leading Without Power helpful. Its thought-provoking, discussion-worthy content would also make it an ideal book to discuss with a team of leaders who could then begin dreaming and envisioning a new way to lead together.

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Disclosure: I received a free copy of Leading Without Power from The Youth Cartel in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and the forthcoming A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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