Have you ever noticed the wake a speedboat leaves in the water? This weekend at the NE District Training event I heard District Superintendent Tim Smiley talk about taking stock of the wake people's leadership leaves in the church. Like the two waves caused by a motor boat, our spiritual leadership leaves two waves in our congregation's waters. The first wave has to do with our missional effectiveness; the second wave has to do with the quality of our relationships. (Tim said he originally read about this idea in a book entitled Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Dr. Henry Cloud.)
One way to evaluate our leadership is by our missional effectiveness. Are we helping people move towards God's agenda for our congregation and for their lives? Sometimes we talk of leaders in terms of the position in which they officially serve. But unless these persons are helping their team move towards fulfilling God's hopes for their ministry, they may officially hold a leadership role, but they aren't actually functioning as a leader. In other words, you know a spiritual leader because they help others discern what God is calling them to be and do -- and then to fulfill God's dreams.
Sometimes people fill a leadership role but, while going to meetings and facilitating them, their teams do little or nothing other than meet month after month. Or perhaps the leader is committed to her or his own agenda, whatever that might be, and encourages the group to move in that direction. But a spiritual leader is someone whose primary concern is getting on God's agenda with excellence. As you think about your own leadership, or that of someone else in your congregation, ask these two questions:
o Are you committed to helping the group prayerfully discern where Jesus is calling them to join him in mission?
o Are you effective in actually helping the group move in the direction Jesus is calling them?
Another way to evaluate our leadership is by the quality of our relationships with those we lead. It's one thing to get things done, but are there scores of hurt feelings and broken relationships in the wake of making things happen? Jesus not only called us to follow him in mission, Jesus also called us to be a community known for the quality of love that we have among ourselves. (John 13: 34-35). We can't do what the church is called to do while acting among ourselves in ways that don't reflect Lord Jesus' example among us. Spiritual leaders help people discover how God has equipped them to join him in service: gifts, talents, skills, resources, life experiences, connections. And then spiritual leaders discover how people can offer who they are in service to others and God's causes. The long term result is that people feel affirmed and empowered while doing ministry in ways that fit for them.
Sometimes, however, people feel just the opposite. Sometimes they don't feel respected and encouraged, nurtured and appreciated for what they contribute. Sometimes they feel bullied or unheard. Sometimes they are being grossly under-employed -- like a CEO handing out bulletins. A spiritual leader is someone who is concerned with helping people make their unique contribution to God's work as part of God's people. As you think about your own leadership, or that of someone else in your congregation, ask these two questions:
o Would people want to do ministry with you as their team leader in the future?
o Do people feel that they are able under your leadership to make the contribution God calls them to make?
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Dr. Jeff Stiggins
The Office of Congregational Transformation