Field Leader – Roles and Responsibilities

Using a mind mapping approach, the IMPACT Team facilitated multiple, structured dialogues with mission leader groups to identify the real life challenges for field leaders.  The conversations resulted in the four dimensions, which describe both roles and responsibilities of field leaders. While, many job descriptions would not include all of the areas that are addressed in the four dimensions, we believe they are necessary to understand the complexity of the team, country and area/region leader positions.

The following four dimensions are generic and not specific to any one role or group.  As such they need specific adaptation to each role within each organization.  However, the generic dimensions provide a great starting point for considering issue for onboarding, ongoing development, care, and nurture for field leaders.

This post gives a brief overview of each dimension.  In later posts, the dimensions will be examined individually and in greater detail.

Personal Dimension:  Practicing Health and Balance

This dimension is unique to each field leader. It addresses the holistic fitness of individual field leaders, including their intimacy with Christ.  Robust wellbeing is a basic foundation on which to build the work of a field leader.  The personal dimension also includes the field leader’s family health and balance, an often overlooked area. Since the majority of field leaders are part-time in their leadership roles, they also have specific ministry duties that usually fulfill their central passion for being a missionary.  Additionally, this dimension includes the reality of personal fund raising, which often is increased because of the expenses tied to being a field leader.  The personal dimension is often ignored, but it embodied major concerns by the field leaders in the IMPACT Study. 

Stewardship Dimension:  Cultivating Engaged People

This dimension focuses on the supervision of people for whom the field leader has oversight. It contains the duties of appointment, development, evaluation, care, and encouragement of individual missionaries and the team as a whole. Thus, in a day when intercultural teams are increasingly the norm, keeping the team on the same page, encouraged and in harmony takes special skills.  These challenges are intensified because the team leader is leading passionate, focused people who live under constant cross-cultural stress.  In the IMPACT Study, field leaders placed three of their top 6 development areas in the stewardship dimension: helping ineffective missionaries become effective; managing conflict constructively; and learning to give frequent and specific feedback and guidance.  The ability to take individual passion and mold it into thoughtful ministry and a robust team is a core challenge for field leaders.

Organizational Dimension: Being a ‘Shock Absorber’ and executing Administration

The traditional tasks of administration, local finance, legal maintenance, and operations belong in the organizational dimension.  In addition, field leaders are expected to interpret, communicate, and implement the organizational policies and change initiatives that are taking place, even when the issues are not popular.  At the same time, they are to take an active role in leadership discussions and advocate for change within the organization. From their vantage point, field leaders may sense trends and opportunities earlier than those at executive levels.  Thus, field leaders are not only part of the organization’s leadership team; they are a key part of helping the organization reach its goals at the point of service. 

Impact Dimension:  Advancing Consequential Relevance

Fostering relevant and reproducing ministries and dynamic partnerships are significant tests for field leaders.  In mission organizations, the traditional ministries and modes of service have powerful clout, even when the social trends and church maturation may point to the need for new approaches.   Field leaders are responsible to guide missionaries to serve in areas that will build the Kingdom in sustainable and reproducing ways.   Working closely with local partners helps the organization to understand the local needs from an internal perspective. Strategic feedback, thinking, and planning can energize both the missionaries and local ministry partners. And all this requires the attentive listening to God as a group and as individuals

Invitation to Participate:  To see a chart with the four dimensions with potential detailed issues click here.  Review the four dimensions.  What is your response?   What would you omit?   What would you include in your own chart?   Which dimension is the easiest to develop for you and your organization?  Which one is the most difficult?  Enter your response in the comment section below and join the dialogue.


3 thoughts on “Field Leader – Roles and Responsibilities

  1. I would agree that all 4 aspects or dimensions are important to the success of a field leader. If the field is large (more than 15 missionaries), there are likely multiple teams, and multiple team leaders, so leadership development, and working with a leadership team is also likely a high priority. But then if the field is large, there should be less expectations that the field leader will have additional ministry expectations. At least that is true in our organization. With a leadership team (made up of the other team leaders on the field), many of the stewardship functions can be delegated and shared with the other leaders, and the weight of making the strategic decisions can also be shared.

    I think the field leadership is most overwhelming when the field leader functions alone, leading the only team of missionaries on that field. In these cases, the field leader is probably functioning as the pioneer, and so is heavily invested in direct ministry, and opening up new opportunities for new missionaries still on the way to the field. In such cases, it will be helpful if the field leader has outside help (maybe from the home office) with the administration, and delegates some of the stewardship of people functions to others on the team or to itinerant member care people in the region.

  2. Thanks for your comments on the dimensions. Here are some further thoughts.
    1. Thanks for bringing some color to the reality that each field leader position is unique and as such the dimensions can be completed in different ways. My guess is that other organizations would have other issues to bring to these dimensions. That is why I think the chart needs to be individualized for each position.
    2. I agree that the team leader role in a pioneering situation has the most difficult role. Over 70% of team leaders do have a double ministry-field leader responsibility split. So the challenge is to find support for those field leaders.
    3. I think an important question is, “What parts of each dimension can a field leader delegate and what parts are really the field leader’s personal responsibilities?” I ask this in light of Blanchard’s work on connectivity between leader and team member.
    4. I think the emerging of cloud technology might allow for administrative support from the home office which even five years ago would have been unthinkable. Of course this would demand robust and free access to the web. I wonder if any organization is utilizing this new cyber tool.

    • Ken, in answer to the question in #4, yes, SEND International has been using virtual administrative assistants for a few years now. The majority of our fields now have off-field treasurers, who work out of the home office as multi-area treasurers, serving more than one area in managing area funds and handling expense reimbursements.

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