Donning an amazing smile, dazzling personality, and a genuine heart towards the Lord and His people, Pastor Bonnie Hunter is one of the most beautiful and down-to-earth people you could ever meet. Touted as one of the most beloved pastors in the Washington Metro area, Pastor Bonnie serves as a shining example of a female pastor whose innovative style and steadfast tenacity is impacting and changing the community and landscape of ministry all around her. Known for her ability to empower and raise up leaders in ministry, Pastor Bonnie is a wife, mother, grandmother, prolific evangelist, respected prophetic voice, sought after conference speaker and recording artist; but most importantly, she is an anointed woman of God with a passion and commitment to "reach and preach" for Jesus.
Recognized as a pioneer and trailblazer, Pastor Bonnie is honored to be the first licensed "woman pastor" of the International Bible Way Churches Worldwide. In 2006, she was the first female Pastor to become a District Elder (Overseer) of the International Bible Way Churches World Wide. In addition, God allowed Pastor Bonnie to be appointed as the International President of the Pastors' Council, under Presiding Prelate, Apostle Cornelius Showell.
Coupled with these groundbreaking accomplishments, Pastor Bonnie is the founder of the Friendship Church Outreach Ministry. Starting the church December 3, 1995, with only 10 members, today, she is the Senior Pastor of "one church, with two locations," in Chapel Oaks, MD and Fort Washington, MD; she is the covering for 8 churches that have come out of that work; and she oversees several other churches and ministries. While undertaking the enormous responsibilities of pastor and overseer, Pastor Bonnie travels and has ministered, throughout the world as far as Trinidad, Jamaica, in national and international conventions and local churches in various capacities to include women's retreats, seminars, revivals and conferences.
As many are amazed by the incomparable talents and accomplishments of this delightful woman of God, PreachingWoman.com's founder, Nichelle Early (NE), embraced the opportunity to speak candidly with Pastor Bonnie Hunter (BH) and discover some of the principles of leadership she recommends to those in ministry and transferable to business, in order to effectively lead and service the Body of Christ in the 21st century.
NE: Pastor Bonnie, thank you so much for accepting this interview. I sincerely appreciate it! Let's get started! First of all, in your opinion what is leadership, and how important is it in the Body of Christ?
BH: Well, I believe leadership is the ability to influence people to discover who and what God has called them to be, and lead them towards their destiny. I've found, especially in ministry, that it is important to let people know that you acknowledge the call upon their lives; because as pastors or leaders, God has endowed us with the ingredients to download into them so that they can encounter greatness. However, people can't receive what you can impart to them if they don't feel you believe in their ability or potential. So, as there is only one pastor [traditionally speaking], it is important that we are attentive to encourage and lead people in their gifts and callings, because each person has something special to bring to the Kingdom. We don't need copy cats in ministry. We have to appreciate the uniqueness that each person brings to the Body by tapping in to God's strategies and methods. It's also important to understand, that God doesn't change, but often times His methods and strategies do...The story of Moses and Jethro is a good example of leadership, as it is symbolic of "follow me as I follow Christ." So, for the Body of Christ, it's very important that we raise people up in their gifts and callings and lead them to greatness.
NE: Amen! Pastor Bonnie, that is a great perspective on leadership, because often times, people feel that leadership can sometimes be one-sided, especially in terms of it being all about the pastor...but you offer the perspective that it's really about the people as well.
Why do you believe that some Pastor's loose or struggle with keeping good leadership in their ministry?
BH: I believe that we can lose leaders when we try to box them in to a specific regimen within ministry. We have to remember that they are leaders, and that leadership ability and desire is deep down on the inside of them. So as a pastor, I seek to find a balance between their leadership ability and the necessity for their accountability, because that's very important. We must release the gifts in people and not hold them to past religious bondages, in terms of telling them things like, "you have to be here at this time, no excuses; or, you can't go out, but on this day or that," and all the things that are sometimes said and done to leaders in ministry...for example: if you have a young person in your ministry that's on fire for the Lord, you can't box him in and say, you can't evangelize, because you have to be here for every service and each time the church doors open. However, if you work out something that's mutual for both the ministry and the person, then you will find that that same young person will be the one that brings everyone he/she evangelizes back to the ministry, because they know their pastor believes in them, which allows them to believe in the ministry...and let me say this: pastors must show their leaders love and respect. We can never be too busy for them. If we don't be real and allow our leaders to take the mask off so that they can get help, they will feel we don't care, and then they may leave. Don't ever make your leaders "fake it to make it!" They can become professional hypocrites! As humans, people are going to fall down and make mistakes; don't put shame upon them. Correct them, and once they've truly repented, [in applicable cases] push them right back out there so that they can continue towards their destiny. For me, rigidness is not effective; however, again, I do require accountability, because that is important and necessary. I believe, because of these principles, God has allowed so many of my leaders to stay committed to the ministry until He says it's time for them to be released.
NE: Wow, now that's good leadership!
So, how do you know when it's time to release a leader from the ministry into their own?
BH: Well, to be honest, as a pastor sometimes we don't really know per say. However, as I stated earlier, when you allow your leaders the opportunity to come to you and share, then you'll hear their heart and began to know what direction they are interested in going in. And, it is at that point that I believe you come to an agreement with the individual, and examine what God has said to them and then, based upon that, set up a plan for their release. For some, after careful prayer and consideration, I may give a date, and for some, they may be asked to wait. But, all in all, we release people in Jesus name when they decide to leave; The truth of the matter is, we know that some are going to leave, so overall, I allow them to sit down with me and tell me when. However, I always tell my leaders and my members, "Don't promise me you will be with me always, because you don't know what God has in store for your future." We are not lords over God's heritage, so, I know some people will leave...Our church is known for grooming and developing leaders. Therefore, I tell people, "should you choose to leave, please come and let me know, because you will always have a home here at Friendship Church."
NE: As some of your leaders that you've released are the same that now pastor some of your other ministry churches and works:
"What are some of the leadership principles you instill in them right away as you pastors?"
BH: I encourage them that as a leader you must:
- Invest in your ministry:
- You must invest time = As a leader of a new ministry work, you will have to invest an enormous amount of time; that may include giving up sleep, not going places you may want to go, or maybe even giving up vacations and off days sometimes; because in its infancy stage, the ministry requires a lot of time, commitment, and devotion; and, you have to be prepared for that.
- You must have a heart of sacrifice = As a leader, you should always be the first to sacrifice for the ministry God has given you. It may be a sacrifice of money, or sometimes unfortunately family time in the beginning; in which it will be very important that you integrate your family into your ministry efforts and help them to understand that the sacrifice is on behalf of the entire family; you may have to sacrifice ministry opportunities; or, whatever God says to sacrifice. Sacrifice comes with a price, but at the end, it will be well worth it all.
- You must invest in yourself = Training and development is so important. So you must invest in yourself. That may entail going to seminary school, or taking training classes here and there, or just setting aside much prayer and study time.
- The bottom line is this: you will always be in the School of the Spirit. So it's important, as a leader, that you are attentive to the Holy Spirit and invest wisely in your ministry. As you grow, your ministry grows.
NE: Amen! Those are great principles, and they are transferrable regardless of ministry, business, or life!
Pastor Bonnie, how do you train leaders to lead in contrary times? How do you continue to lead when the ministry experiences adverse circumstances, scandal, or negative impact?
BH: You know Nichelle, that's a good question! The first thing I would is that it is important that you train people to catch the spirit of their leader (pastor)...As a leader, you must remain faithful, especially during the hard times. Your leaders, members, or whoever's following you, will talk the way you talk and walk the way you walk. So, you must stay in your place and continue to produce the fruit of the spirit while doing what God says. As a leader, what you portray is what they will portray. We teach the leaders to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. In other words, we must stick together no matter what. I always tell people, love is one of the tools we must always use. It's your best tool, especially in times when things are not going as planned or expected. We must love in spite of. So, regardless of what's being said or what's going on, we must train ourselves to not put our mouths on the things we don't know or understand. We don't dog people when they are in trouble. We love people, because love wins all the time!
NE: I totally agree!
Now what about using the pulpit to vent your frustrations or get your personal point across, is that appropriate?
BH: No it is not! Always refuse to use the pulpit to pronounce your frustrations and hit the rock like Moses! When people do that, I'm convinced that it carries a spirit in your church which causes people to begin to spiritually stone others and one another. Always take everything to God in prayer. Because using the pulpit as a way of venting frustrations can cause you to beat the crowd over the sake of one. Now do understand that as a pastor, issues must be addressed; but, always wait until the dust settles and you can do it in a context that is pleasing to God! In the meantime, continue to focus on the people that are doing right and encourage them to continue doing Kingdom business!
NE: Dr. Bonnie, Thank you so much! You've really shared some great leadership principles that are so imperative for the time that we are living in!
Before we go, let's talk about your CD, Worshipful Praise!
BH: Oh yes! That is a project that was birthed out of seeing so much talent in our church. During service, we would be in worship, and God would birth a song and we would just go with it! So after a while, we sought God as to what direction to take, and He laid it upon our hearts to do a CD! He blessed us and gave us favor, especially with people like Mr. Allyn Johnson, Isaiah Thomas, who wrote two songs on the CD, and many others. And, so we came up with a compilation of songs from the different music departments within our church. We really worked hard, I tell you the truth, God really blessed the project; so much so, that currently we are planning to do another one!
NE: Well, it's a dynamic CD and can be purchased on iTunes, Amazon.com, CDBaby.com, and others. You must grab this CD!
NE: Right quick, let's talk family...How's the Hunter Family?
BH: Well, they are doing well! My husband, he is a dream come true! He is a prayer that has been answered by Heaven. I waited patiently for 24 years for the Lord to save Him. I started out in pastorate without him...I never wanted to be in ministry alone, and God has blessed me with a strong man to assist me in ministry. I'm telling you, he's a true servant of God. He prays with me and for me, he's my best friend, he covers me, and he makes sure that nobody takes advantage of me. He compliments me, and serves as my armor bearer if needed...He's just my everything! At church, we call him, "The First Man!" Truly, that's who he is! My children, they are all grown up and are doing well. My grandchildren are the apple of my eye; and they all [children and grandchildren] serve with me in ministry. My Father, who I served in ministry under for 20 years, and my Mother, also joined my ministry and are serving along with me as well. Also, I have 3 sisters that are serving along with me. We are just one big happy ministry family! I love them with all of my heart!
Well last, but not least, I always ask my guests: "What is it that they want the world to know about them?
BH: I want the world to know that I love the Lord Jesus with my entire mind, soul, and spirit. My passion is His passion; my love is His love. I absolutely love "reaching and preaching" for Jesus. It's my desire to model for the world and the church that you can live holy and be kept by God. Ultimately, my reward is to see souls saved. Integrity and character along with preaching the Gospel are my choice ingredients to reflect Jesus Christ to the world. And in doing so, I've discovered that as I follow Jesus, "If I lead others, they too will follow!"