2/8/09

Leadership 101

If you know my real-life history, you're already acquainted with the previous jobs I've been blessed to be a part of. If you don't, just nod along and act like you already knew.

I've been elbow-deep in ministry and church organization/administration in one form or another for half of my life and have a sincere passion to see the church working like God intended. It's why I emphasize structure and the reason I study the psychology behind leadership and group dynamics.

When I'm asked, I make suggestions and observations in these capacities. And when I'm not asked and it's none of my business, I'm careful to keep my suggestions to myself. No one appreciates unwelcome opinions, right or wrong. ;o)

But I was intrigued and a bit saddened by a recent report of a [to remain nameless] newly-minted youth worker who is, by all previous indications of character, not at all fit for the task.

Is this my business? Not at all. Am I offended by it? Nope. I'm honestly, sincerely praying strength and wisdom and integrity for this person. Does it make me super-duper holy and charitable to mention it and then ask you all to pray? No, definitely not that either.

So why am I bringing it up?

I'll take 'Opportunity to Reiterate the Importance of Leadership' for $500, Alex.

While I hope this youth committee member will discover a burden for mentoring and growing young people, I'm struck by a few all-too-common points.

1 - This person lives life on the edge of appropriate behavior as the church teaches.
Yep - the church that this person now holds a position in.

2 - This person is related to the pastor in a very close way.

3 - The appointment is a position given by the pastor.

Knowing this, any discerning saint, parent, or leader might be hesitant to stand behind the decision. Not because of a dislike or even a vendetta. In this case, and in fact, in most cases, the opposite is usually true. The person in question may very well be popular and well-loved. But there's a problem when a ministry appointment has more to do with proximity to the pastor or leader than with Divine appointment.

Is this really common? You can bet on it, sweets. I've seen many, many leaders appoint family members to positions because they want them there.

But growing up in the proverbial fish-bowl and knowing exactly when to raise a hand during the worship service or to bless someone's heart during a conversation, while an asset to the ministry [known as 'tact'], does not a minister make.

Locating people with the burden and passion for a specific ministry is easier said than done, though. Why?

Maybe God is dealing with a person and they're hesitating.
While they're hesitating and God's being a gentleman,
there's approximately 0 people to drive the church van
and order the pizza and organize rousing games
of pin-the-scripture-on-the-Bible. So you improvise and cobble
together a team of people who might be creative enough to pull it off.

The person God has called doesn't fit your mold.
Maybe the prospective youth leader wears chucks and
band t-shirts under his church suits. Maybe she has
a stutter or a past that people talk about behind her back.
Either way, you're sending up frantic prayers
asking God for a reassurance or 10 about His choice.

The timing of the leadership change
isn't in line with God's timing.

Sometimes, harried and harassed leaders longing for a round of
Chinese fire drill, church ministry style, can jump the gun when
it comes to jumping ship. At this point, a $450,000 Fannie Mae-
executive-style retreat would be great for rejuvenation, but if that
isn't in the budget, a little volunteerism and understanding works, too.

But there are ways to seek out those with a burden and a passion for the church or for the outlying ministries of the church family.

Encourage, foster, and promote growth.
Don't discourage people from taking part in ministry.
Don't consistently rely on the same group
of people to head up the 'important committees'.
Teach leadership values and qualities.

Be willing to disciple, and make discipleship
a requirement of your leaders. By all means,
your leaders need to be willing to foster growth
in their assistants - and they will be, if you are.
Leaders who white-knuckle their position
like it's their ticket into the pearly gates
are in dire need of re-prioritization.

Know where to place new workers.
There are few things more disheartening than repeatedly sharing
with a leader your intense burden for the Koolaid For Kids ministry
and, after nods of great understanding and promises of future
involvement, being placed in charge of the Puppies For Jesus ministry.
Sometimes the 'burden' is actually a desire, to be fair.
It's not wise to let everyone who claims to have
a burden take control of a ministry, but there are many,
many tools for gauging a person's abilities or fit
for a specific position. Try asking a few questions like these:

What are your spiritual gifts?
· What are you passionate about?
· What are your natural abilities?
· What is your personality type?
· What are the spiritual markers in your life?
· What do others see in you?

Asking the tough questions like these, sending prospective
workers here for a personality profile
or here for a spiritual gifts test, and using those
tools to pinpoint the proper places for people to minister?
That's smart leading, y'all.


Trust me. I understand that not every leader has the luxury of choosing prospective candidates. Sometimes, a person is appointed simply because there is no one else. No one better, no one worse, no one available. But as a leader, you set the tone for future leadership teams. And as a leader, it's your God-given responsibility to instill positive leadership qualities in the people you are nurturing. And maybe someday those sheep will be empowered and burdened to lead others.

After all, that's how you got your burden. :o)

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