The Shrinking Church
Leadership Thoughts for Reversing the Trend
Prologue and Introduction: Intent and Purpose
This thread of articles is for clergy and leaders of mainline protestant churches. The purpose is to recognize systemic dysfunctions and leadership gaps that are limiting the effectiveness of the local church, and many times are in the way of true and effective ministries. For the full statement, see Post #1 of the ongoing series. The intent is to promote dialogue through, and awareness of, possibilities for growing healthy ministries of any kind.
Church Leaders, Untie!
No, that’s not a typo. We can’t unite until we untie ourselves. We are so highly bound in our leadership roles and responsibilities that we really can’t lead.
Here are some ways that I’ve observed leaders (including myself) being bound:
- Insecurity – Our self-doubt limits God’s work within and through us. Limiting ourselves limits God. Doubting ourselves doubts God. Minimizing our self-worth minimizes God. Humility and insecurity are worlds apart.
- Arrogance – We are so wrapped up in ourselves that there’s no room for others. There’s no space to take in comments and feedback. There’s mostly talking and no active listening. An arrogant leader is a closed leader.
- Ignorance – Assuming leadership and assuming knowledge is the plague of ministry. There’s no connection between interpreting scripture and leadership. One is teaching, while the other is influencing.
- Triangling – Creating tension in the triangles in personal relationships serves only the person creating the tension. Lay leaders specialize in creating anxiety in triangles in relationships, which not only binds the leaders but binds the one triangling, creating unintended consequences.
- Silence – This form of emotional cut-off ties up everyone in the culture. There’s no relationship and no communication.We can’t untie the culture until we untie ourselves. Here’s a personal inventory for the church leader (by the way, I regard everyone in the culture as a leader at some level):
- Study Leadership – Choose a style of leadership that empowers the culture. The style I champion is Transformational Leadership. It’s a culture of high-functioning leaders led by a high-functioning leader. Share the knowledge and set up study groups. Leaders are fundamentally people of influence who get to choose how they influence others. Unfortunately, many choose to influence others negatively.
- Communicate – Communication has its foundation in relationship and not in data. We share data that people don’t care about because we haven’t built a relationship with them. People who listen find that others listen better.
- Confront – The word confront has developed a negative connotation in common use today. The word technically means, “With your front.” So, to confront is not aggressive…rather, it is assertive. After all, Paul encouraged us to “Speak the Truth in Love.” Right! Get over being nice. Be kind instead of being honest. Move toward conflict and do not ignore it.
- Accept Yourself – As the old saying goes, “I’m not perfect, but parts of me are excellent.” I go with this one.
- Be Humble – Being humble does not mean minimizing one’s self. Being humble is the opposite of being arrogant. Listening is so close to loving, it’s hard to tell the difference. Leadership is not about the leader…it’s about the vision. By the way, God didn’t give a vision to a committee. Leading is trusting. Trust yourself. Trust God. Trust human nature. Trust history. Trust theology. Without trust, we are bound. Untie yourself by trusting.
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