Churches need leaders…
- Because churches often don’t know what to do, and
- Because they don’t know how to work together to do it!
And, when leaders don’t know what to do…
- They seek to gain clarity about who they are…personal vision, calling, gifting, passion, etc. Who are they as a child of God and what has God designed them to be/do?
- They gain clarity about the mission of their church. Why has God placed them there in that community?
- They invest in relationships with the people they lead. They build trust. They love the people they lead. They listen to their stories. They demonstrate integrity and competence.
And also… they say “thank you!”
Saying Thank You!
That sounds simple, but it’s easily an early leadership mistake in times of great turmoil and change! We’re experiencing a “generation of change” every 18 months now! The scope of change around us that used to take 20 or 25 years, now sprints across our worlds every 18 months!
Not saying “thank you” was one of my early leadership mistakes.
Our congregation, when I was new and didn’t know much (but thought I knew more than I did) looked like this:
- Urban, changing neighborhood. (Today it seems like every church everywhere is in one big changing neighborhood.)
- The most recent 20 of its 125 years had been marked by steady and then steep decline.
- Crisis created openness to change but the focus was organizational survival, not the mission of God.
Me? I was all about the future! Innovation. Getting focused on mission and reaching people. Getting people to engage the Word of God and capture the wonderful grace of God that inspires us to dedicate all of our lives in response to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Then came the moment of my big surprise! (If you listen, people will tell you!)
Somewhere I had learned that telling stories of peoples’ lives being changed was a great way to share and reinforce vision. So, I would share stories of new people. People who came to faith. People whose lives were being changed because of our folks reaching, serving, sacrificing, giving, etc.
But something wasn’t right. Many of our long-time members didn’t seem to share the joy.
We had a meeting. It was a listening meeting. 75 people. I think elders facilitated smaller groups. They came. They went. We debriefed.
The ever-so-kind translation of one of our leaders: “Pastor, everyone knows you’re excited about what God is doing, but we just want to know if you still love us? Do you care about all of us who’ve been around for decades?”
Among other things, my mistake was that I didn’t say “thank you” enough!
I cared. I loved. I listened, but now it was hard for people to say what they really wanted to say.
While there was plenty that needed “fixing” and there was no way we could have a future and live in the past, these were the folks that
- Faithfully sacrificed
- Faithfully served
- Faithfully worshiped
- Raised their children in the faith
- Lived humble lives
- Buried parents or spouses or children with the hope of the resurrection
- ….many of them for decades extending from generations before them!
And, in my “look to the future,” I had not fully honored our past, nor did I say thank you for it!
What about you?
For you as a leader today (or team of leaders), the rate of change has antiquated aspects of your ministry that not so long ago were vital and vibrant in living out the mission of God in your community.
And you are in the unfortunate position of needing to “disappoint the people you lead at a rate they can manage.” But while you’re doing that? Be sure to thank people! Love them. Listen to them.
And let me say “thank you” to you! PLI’s story is not found so much in what PLI does, but in what the PLI family does as we walk together. These are among the most challenging times to be a leader. So, thank you for boldly leading with integrity!
“O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.”Psalm 136:1