Within The United Methodist Church, there are those called to servant leadership, lay and ordained.
Such callings are evidenced by special gifts, evidence of God’s grace, and promise of usefulness. God’s call to servant leadership is inward as it comes to the individual and outward through the discernment and validation of the Church. The privilege of servant leadership in the Church is the call to share in the
preparation of congregations and the whole Church for the mission of God in the world. The obligation of servant leadership is the forming of Christian disciples in the covenant community of the congregation. This involves discerning and nurturing the spiritual relationship with God that is a privilege of all servant ministers. It also involves instructing and guiding Christian disciples in their witness to Jesus Christ in the whole world through acts of worship, devotion, compassion, and justice under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. John Wesley described this as “watching over one another in love”.
The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church (2004) ¶ 136
What is a servant leader? While the term is not easily understood, we have in the person of Jesus a model of the servant leader. One has only to read of few gospel passages in order to develop a lengthy list of words that describe Him. These, in turn, can be used to define the servant leader. Today, leaders of commerce, industry, government, education, and the church are learning the principles and tolls of servant leadership because they are effective and do not create losers or enemies. You have been selected for a position of leadership within your congregation. You are called to effective discipleship that demands that you seek to emulate the enlightened servant leadership of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Servant leadership is focused on others. It is servant first – before leader. It is leadership without ego, unselfish. It is humble. It does not covet prestige of power. It gives power and control away. Yet it demands stewardship – accountability not only for our own actions but for those of others involved in the endeavor we lead. It is not meek. It does not wait to be asked. It is not without convictions. It listens deeply and well for what is in the heart as well as in the head. It is not arrogant. It can change its mind. It heals and mediates. It seeks justice, consensus, and win-win solutions. It leads by example.
It has vision, a sense of destiny, and yet seeks shared vision. It is determined and persistent. It is willing to do whatever is needed and right to attain the objectives of ministry. It is all these things and more.
What does all this mean for your leadership? Understand the ways of servant leadership as best you can. Then operate by faith, seeking God’s guidance, doing the very best you can, making the best decisions you can. Believe that you can make a difference, because God believes it.
The first tool of the servant leader is listening. This means listening with the heart and all of the senses. It also means listening to God. Seek win-win resolutions in your dealings with your team or committee.
One of the ways to do this is work toward consensus. Seek a spirit of community. The best way do this is by building trust. Keeping your word all of the time is a critical means of building trust. Make agreements you can keep and keep your agreements. And be accountable.