Okay, I must admit a bias up front…I really like Mark Oestreicher.

I’ve sort of grown up with him in my youth ministry career, and his book Youth Ministry 3.0 was a game changer for me. So when his new title, Leading Without Power: 9 Paths Toward Non-Coercive Ministry Leadership came out, I pre-ordered and waited with childlike anticipation.

The book did not disappoint. 

Okay, first the not-so-good stuff. I’m going to tell you everything wrong with the book. It’s singular and can be disposed of quickly.

  1. On my copy, the word “coercive” is spelled “coersive” on the cover. That’s not correct spelling. But I didn’t even notice until I typed it and got the red squiggly line of judgment, so who cares. Plus, Marko regularly blogs in all lowercase. So there’s a certain amount of grammatical grace assumed.

Alright, that’s the not-so-good stuff. Now the good stuff:

  1. Marko is dead on in his assertion that “coercive leadership has no place in the church.” It’s high time the church stopped playing like Fortune 500 Company and, you know, acted more Christlike in its leadership structure.
  2. Oh by the way, even Fortune 500 Company leaders are catching on to the value of collaboration, flatter organizational charts, and not being so power hungry. So the Church should probably adapt, too.
  3. This book is not arduously long. I read it (the first time) in one sitting. The second time I took about three sittings to underline stuff that I resonated with
  4. The so-called 9 paths are more like non-titled roles in any organization, a few of which we all should adopt as a part of our job description.

I’m not going to sit here and outline the whole book, because you need to just buy it and read it for yourself. It’s great for second- and third-chair leaders looking to make an impact without the title to back it, but I also think his suggestions are ones that will benefit any leader in any setting who is tired of the grueling organizational realities reliant on top-down leadership.

For the purposes of this (what I hope you realize is an enthusiastically positive) review, let me just share a few quotes that I think will convince you to click on the link below and purchase a copy:

  • “The reality is that while coercive hierarchical power is still a dominant expression of leadership power, power-based leadership is a culturally waning paradigm in all contexts…increasingly, organizations of every stripe are decreasing hierarchies and moving toward flat organizational structures and the power of teams.”
  • “Church leadership needs to move from a paradigm of control to one of facilitation.”
  • “I’m becoming more and more convinced that one of the most important skill sets for a 21st century leader is the ability to lead in the area of culture creation.”
  • “Make sure a part of every team meeting is storytelling.”
  • “I’m deeply convinced that the very best youth ministries will always be highly contextualized and borne out of discernment from the Spirit’s leading.”
  • “The best youth ministries are always weird.”
  • “If you’re in a position of authority and trying to lead collaboratively, you must choose to forfeit power.”

He also offers up a formula for building (and rebuilding) trust that may have been worth the price of the book:

BUILDING: (Pure Intention + Action and Honesty) x Time = Trust

REBUILDING: (Owning Up + Checking In + Pure Intention + Action and Honesty) x Time x Time = Rebuilt Trust

Oestreicher absolutely nails it. In a book that is only 130 pages long, he packs about 300 pages of content. In doing so, he not only encourages a dismantling of tired, ineffective systems of governance, he paves a clear path forward. A la Youth Ministry 3.0, he says some stuff that others will accept as normal and be talking about as a no-brainer 5-10 years from now. So get a head of the curve, buy this book, read it a couple times, and start daydreaming about how to implement these things into your life and work.




Titus Benton is a student pastor, Executive Director, wannabe writer, and happy to work at a church where a coersive/coercive leadership style is not ruling the day.





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