How’s that for a post title?
But I’ll tell you what else it is: the key to me living up to whatever leadership potential I have.
If you’ve spent anytime following my posts or even listening to my sermons, you know that I don’t regard leadership as one of my primary gifts. I’m a tennis player, not a basketball player. I’m a do-er and not an equipper. I’m better at tasks than at systems.
But in my position at Good Shepherd, I have a lot of leadership responsibilities. Leading the congregation, certainly, which I am usually able to do fairly well because I love to preach and can use that forum to set direction and establish priorities.
However, in addition to the congregation, I am also called upon to lead the staff. Upwards of thirty full-time employees now, and that doesn’t even include our pre-school and after-school teachers.
Many of those thirty have pastoral responsibilities and some have specifically pastoral roles. And through the years, leading the people in the church I am closest to has been a mixed bag, with some successes and more than a few failures.
In recent years, however, I’ve discovered the key to improvement: tapping into my experience. In my 28 years in full-time ministry, ranging from a small church in Monroe to an emerging 90s church in Charlotte and now to an established multi-ethnic and multi-site church reaching both Carolinas, I have acquired both experience and know-how in the nuts and bolts of ministry.
I have done so much counseling, so many funerals, so many weddings, and so much sermon prep that I do most of those tasks without thinking about them. I have muscle memory. My process for dealing with a family suffering a loss, for example, goes without saying. My muscle memory takes over, I know what needs to be done, and it happens.
And yet here where I enjoy the great blessing having a large staff that includes young pastors who are both eager and teachable.
Because in helping them deal with counseling issues and funeral prep and series design, I have to verbalize to them all those things that go without saying to me. I must think about all those things I do without thinking and then share with them how I’ve done.
The results of that interaction are deeply rewarding. The pastors on staff know and internalize certain “rules” of scheduling appointments, follow the same protocols in getting both family and church through a funeral, and have the same work patterns in developing new sermons.
My leadership becomes less let me inspire you with my passion and more let me help you by showing you how I’ve done it when I’ve done it effectively. The team around me often takes those things that for me go without saying or that I do without thinking and gets them on paper, turning them into a process for our whole organization.
See that? Because I’m a tennis player, I don’t think in terms of getting it down on paper (or in the database, OK?) for the whole organization. I think in terms of winning my match. But when I can get beyond myself and share my experience, strength, and hope with those around me, then their gifts kick into gear. Voila! We’ve got a process and a system for some of the most significant tasks any church can do in ministry.
And I turn from a reluctant leader into an engaged one.