Friday, February 27, 2015

Shift #4: Seeing leadership as a joy not a burden

Developing a culture of leadership development takes a shift from leadership as a burden to leadership as a joy.
A friend of mine tells the story of walking down the hallway of the church that he pastored and seeing the monumental passing of the baton of leadership of their children’s ministry.  One frazzled lady carrying a big crate of files and curriculum marching up to another, dumping the crate down and announcing, “Well, it’s your problem now!”
There is no doubt about it, leadership is hard work, but in too many churches all that is communicated about leadership is that it is a burden.  In some places rather than it being a noble task to aspire to (1 Tim 3:1), those who are in leadership roles are simply the people who were unlucky enough not to have been able to come up with an excuse when they were asked to serve.  Leaders ought to be celebrated for their service, our churches desperately need to regain a sense that to serve God and His people in a position of leadership at whatever level is an honorable thing.
How do you publicly recognize and celebrate those who are serving in leadership in your church or ministry.  Be intentional about telling the stories of your leaders, especially those who serve behind the scenes, and look for opportunities to do it regularly.  Perhaps consider intentionally identifying and celebrating one leader every month.
Reflect: In your church, is ministry leadership something that people aspire to or something that they dread?

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shift #3: From Tenure to Training

It takes a shift from tenure to training.
I was still a fairly new believer when I went to my first membership meeting at the church that I grew up in.  I don’t remember a lot about it other than the fact that I was bored to tears, right up until the point that I had to choke back fits of laughter.  One lady who was probably in her early eighties begun to talk about the fact that she considered the man who was going to become the new church secretary too young and inexperienced for the role.  At that time I didn’t recognize the name and so I assumed she was talking about someone in their early twenties, that was at least until the Pastor called the individual in question up to the front to speak about why he considered himself qualified.  It turned out that he was in his mid-sixties!  Apparently she didn’t believe that the forty plus years that this “young man” had been in the church was quite long enough for the position.
Okay, so that’s probably a bit of an extreme example, but the fact is that sometimes what we consider to be leadership development is really just showing up for long enough.  Don’t wait until someone in your church reaches some magic age to begin investing in them.  We need to stop looking at the twenty year old's in our church as part of the church tomorrow and recognize that God has placed them in the church today!
Leadership development in the church, for that matter in any organization must be centered around intentional equipping and training, not on just showing up for long enough!
Reflect: What unwritten rules do you have about who can serve in leadership?  Are they legitimate?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Shift #2: Laying a new road

Check out part 1 and part 2 in this series on a new paradigm for leadership development.
Once when you begin to shift your time towards possibility people the next step is to recognize that developing a culture of leadership development:
Takes a shift from filling holes to laying a new road.
I drive the same way to our church every day, except when I don’t.  That sounds like a strange thing to say but let me explain.  The road that I take from my house to the church is beautiful.  It meanders past horse farms and under archways of majestic trees.  If it wasn’t for the fact that you have to keep your eyes on the speedometer as much as you do on the road it would be an absolutely idyllic journey (the Chicago Tribune recently rated it as the worst speed trap zone in the region).  However, I live in Northern Illinois and each year as winter (which lasts for 6 months) turns to spring (which usually lasts for two and half days) the road becomes nearly impassible due to potholes.  Every year for about six weeks, I have to take a different, longer route because the condition of that road just gets so bad, until the work crews come along and fill the potholes.
The problem with filling pot holes however is that the same places open up year after year and get bigger each time.  The hole gets filled but the real problem never gets dealt with.  A lot of churches spend their time filling potholes.  Especially in churches with a large number of programs or ministries we can sometimes find ourselves looking for the next warm body to throw into the hole, to fill the gap.  It might even be that your church has a nominating committee whose full time responsibility it is to fill holes.  But do we ever ask why the hole opened up?  Do we ever ask whether we still should be doing that ministry?  Do we ever consider whether the person that we are trying to fill the hole with is really best suited there? Do we ever wonder if there is a better way to find leaders?
When you determine that leadership development is going to be an important part of the ministry of your church, you are essentially making the commitment to quit filling potholes and instead to lay a whole new road.  Just remember that new construction does take time, but when the road is ready it’s a lot more fun to drive on!
Reflect: How are vacant leadership positions handled in your church?

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The first shift in leadership development

In my last post, "A New Paradigm for Leadership Development"  I began talking about the fact that that leadership development in the local church is a matter of stewardship - it's about equipping and releasing well the people that God has already put in your church.  But if we are to begin to develop a culture of developing leaders it will take a series of shifts in our paradigm.
It takes a shift of focus from problem people to possibility people.
I’m not being mean or trying to label people, but let’s face it, in the life of church ministry we work with broken and hurting people, many of whom need a great deal of care, encouragement and support.  If I allowed it, my schedule could easily be filled with the important ministry of care and counseling.  The old adage rings true, that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and in ministry the people with the most needs can get the lion share of our time.  Pastoral care needs to happen in the life of the church but if you are the key leader you have to intentionally guard time to meet with what I call your possibility people.  Possibility people are not usually the ones who cry out for your attention.  They sometimes fly beneath the radar. That’s precisely why you need to make the effort to connect with them.  Possibility people are those, who with some investment and equipping might become excellent leaders in your church and perhaps beyond your church.  There’s no easy answer as to how much time you should devote to possibility people, but imagine what your ministry would look like if you spent at least as much time investing in potential future leaders as you did in helping people with their problems.  Both are important, but consider this, while there are others in the church who can help people with their problems, if you are a Pastor or Overseer, developing a culture of investing in future leaders has to start with you.
Reflect: What percentage of your people ministry time do you spend with possibility people?


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A New Paradigm for Leadership Development (pt1)

"It’s great that you are talking about developing leaders, and we definitely need to do it in our church, but where do I find them?”  I get asked that question every time I teach about building leaders.  It’s a good question but to answer it requires that we take a step back and consider our theology.  Do you believe that God has already given to your church every resource that you need to do what he is calling you to do today?  Let’s be honest, there are a lot of times when it feels like the answer to that question is no.  We get frustrated because people are not using their gifts and serving, because they are not giving with an attitude of generous joy and because we just figure that things would be easier if we just had a few more people, a bit more money and whole lot more faith.  The fact is, some of the people in our church are being disobedient.  The fact is, sometimes we find ourselves so overwhelmed that we have stopped leading the people well communicating with them God’s vision for His Church and for their lives.  The fact is, sometimes we are focusing our attention on things that God hasn’t called us to in this particular season.  But, what He has called us to do He has also equipped us for.  Your church needs leaders at every level of ministry, and He’s already given you the people that you need for what He is calling you to do in this season.
If that is true (and I challenge you to read the Bible and then tell me that it isn’t), then leadership development in the local church is a matter of stewardship.  If you are a Pastor or an Overseer you have the privilege and the responsibility to steward the resources that God has given to your care well.  There are however some obstacles that you might need to overcome to do this well, over the next few days we'll be looking at some of them:
  • Shifting from problem people to possibility people.
  • Shifting from filling holes to laying a new road.
  • Shifting from tenure to training.
  • Shifting from leadership as a burden to leadership as a joy.
  • Shifting from task to target.
  • Shifting from resignation to expectation.