This is a tricky one: Navigating relationships as a congregational leader in today’s world.
You’ve told your teenage kids (if you have them): Show me your 5 best friends and I can tell you where you’re headed. The Apostle Paul said it this way: bad company corrupts good character. (1 Corinthians 15:33) It’s the same idea.
As a leader, show me 3 things and they can probably demonstrate where you’re headed as a leader in these uncertain times.
1. The integrity of your life. This is your demonstrated character and deeply-rooted inner life of faith. Are you a person of your word? Do what you say and what you do match?
2. The quality of your relationships in the congregation. Think of this as the currency in your pocket that you will have saved to spend as a leader.
3. The way you’re leading now. “If we can’t trust you to lead in familiar territory, how can we trust you to lead into an unknown future?”
For our purposes today, let’s talk about relationships.
The last couple of weeks we’ve laughed at some of my foolish inexperience alongside a thoughtful word or two. There’s less foolishness this time.
In the early months of our marriage and our senior pastor/wife tenure, we experienced a family tragedy. In a matter of hours we were trying to figure out how to book flights and make sure the church was operational for the coming week. I called the chairman of our elders with a quick explanation and probably a couple of requests. We’d be flying early the next morning. About an hour later, he showed up unannounced at the front door of the parsonage. He simply said, “I’m guessing you don’t have much money. Just in case, here’s $300 to help you get your airplane tickets. You can pay me back some time later.” These many years later, I’m still touched and shaped by his gracious gratitude.
So, I’ve offered very few editorial directives here; but here’s one: If you’re a leader, but not the pastor or a staff leader, after all we’ve been through together the last couple of years, I wonder if an unexpected touch of gracious gratitude pointed toward one of your leaders would be a blessing much greater than you could imagine.
WHY DON’T YOU COME TO OUR HOUSE?
I think a year or two earlier, one of my seminary professors had told how he and his wife had hosted congregation members in their home.
He commended the value of investing in relationships. Long before I knew that people knowing that they are loved by their pastor and his wife was a big deal, we decided to do it. We invited everyone in the congregation to our home.
The board of stewardship helped to host.
(Remember I’m the guy that had assigned 100 households for each of the 12 elders to visit?)
We did 50+ groups over six weeks of summer. Sometimes only 5 or 7 came from the invited group. Sometimes 20 or 25. All totaled, we had over 500 adult members in our home for a short Bible study, a challenge to give—because Jesus had given on our behalf, a bit of food, some prayer, and a large dose of “hope”…that together we didn’t have to let the future be more of the past.
Our neighbors thought we were nuts. With about 20 groups to go we thought we were nuts. But the first several hundred folks that came became ambassadors to the rest: “Have you had your turn at the Ficken’s home?”
So, keeping our theme of adventure… let me explain.
This one is filled with twists and turns. Every leader reading this blog had some deep relationships that somewhere along the way the last two years got burned that left you disappointed. “I at least thought I could count on _________.”
When we started oh so many years ago…
- We didn’t know who we could trust. We knew there were “sides”…for and against any one of a handful of pivot points.
- We stayed true to our word. What we said was what we did.
- We took little risks to see who could be trusted and who could not.
- It was slow. It was long. It was worth it.
So, if you’re like most of the leaders today and all you know is that what we did yesterday isn’t going to win the day tomorrow…you might focus here.
- Invest in relationships in your congregation.
- Lead reliably today.
- Live with integrity.
If you’ve asked a group of leaders to read this summer series together, now is a good time to say: “So, what are you learning? What do you think?”
And if you didn’t invite them in, now would be a good time to start.