Monday, May 14, 2012

The secrets of leadership

When I go to a bookstore the first section I usually go to is the one with the leadership books.  This past weekend I went into a bookstore to see what new books had been released, and true to form I headed straight to the leadership section.  Although I had seen them before, I was stunned this time to see how many of these books were promoting "The Leadership Secrets of ...."  For only $25.00 - $30.00 I could learn the leadership secrets of everyone from Attila the Hun to Lincoln to Grant to Colin Powell, etc.  (Actually, I already have the Colin Powell book!)  As I looked at all those books promising to teach me leadership secrets I realized there really aren't many, if any, leadership secrets.  More often than not, leadership is using common sense.  While I believe that is true of anyone in leadership, it is certainly the case when leading a smaller, bivocational church.  It doesn't take rocket science to lead a bivocational church; it takes someone with a servant's heart and some good, common sense who is committed to always doing the right thing.  Let me share just a few things to keep in mind as a bivocational minister, and none of these are secrets.
  1. Everything in the smaller church is based upon relationships.  Anyone who wants to lead a smaller church must first develop good relationships with persons in that church and understand the relationships that already exist.  Everything the leader suggests, especially change, will be filtered through those relationships.  If people believe existing relationships may be damaged, they are most likely to resist the proposed changes.
  2. No one can lead a small church until they have earned the trust of the congregation, and that takes time.  I've said many times that it took me seven years to earn the right to lead the church I pastored.  Few pastors remain at a church that long and then wonder why they've never been able to lead any church they've pastored.  It may not take you as long as it did me, but it will take time. During that time learn how to lead through the leaders who already exist in the church.
  3. Treat people with respect.  The Golden Rule applies to leaders the same as it applies to everyone. If you respect people you will listen to their viewpoints.  You will be honest and upfront.  You will do what you say you will do, everytime.  You won't talk about people behind their backs.  You will forgive them when they hurt you with their words or actions, and you will quickly seek their forgiveness if you sense you may have hurt them.  Most people, if treated with respect, will return that respect back to you.
  4. Many smaller churches struggle with self-esteem.  In such churches the most important question some people will have is "Pastor, do you love us?"  They need to hear you tell them how much you love them and they need to see that love exhibited in your actions towards them.  I frequently told our church that I loved them and that I believed in them more than some of them believed in themselves.  That love was returned to me many times during my ministry there.  In fact, I've been away from that congregation for nearly 12 years and just recently received a very nice card from one of the church families saying how much they appreciated me and my ministry at that church.
  5. This one is practiced so seldom that it almost seems like a secret, but it too is nothing more than common sense.  Smaller churches can accomplish a lot more by doing less.  Stop trying to compete with the larger churches in the community.  Shut down some of the committees and boards that add little or no value to the church's ministry, and free up people's time to do real ministry that will accomplish real results.  I know...your constitution calls for those committees and boards.  Here's another common sense thought...change your constitution to reflect what ministry should look like in the 21st century.  If 80% of your committees and boards never met again, what would be the effect on your church?  My guess is that many people would never know if they met or not.
  6. Always be training new leaders.  Your church cannot grow unless you have the leadership in place to support that growth.  After you grow it is too late to train leaders.  By the time you get them trained it's possible any growth will have been lost.  One of the most important things that any bivocational minister can do is to invest himself or herself in developing new leaders.
  7. Everyone shares the credit for a job well done.  Be lavish with praise and celebrate every victory the church enjoys.  At the same time, the defeats and mistakes belong to the leader.  Don't point the finger to others when things go amiss.  The buck stops at your desk if you are the leader.
  8. Create the future.  Don't be content to drift along responding to whatever happens.  It is the leader's responsibility to capture the vision of God for his or her church and to develop action steps that will help that vision to come to pass.  That doesn't mean the leader comes down from the high mountain with a vision that everyone is to worship.  God's vision can come from a variety of sources so it's important to include many people in identifying that vision.  But, the pastor should lead that process.  Once the church owns the vision, then the pastor's job is to identify the steps needed to achieve it and keep the church focused on those steps.
There are many more common sense principles to leadership, but these are enough for this posting.  As you can see, there are no secrets here.  There is also nothing listed here that is beyond the ability of anyone called to bivocational ministry.  No one needs a seminary degree to implement any of these common sense steps to effective leadership.  A heart for people and for ministry in the smaller church is all that is required, and when that is coupled with a call from God on a person's life he or she is well prepared for an exciting ministry.

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