In ministry leadership at times you must make a clear choice. Will I be influential or will I be popular? When both are possible–which is a rare occasion of fortune–you have a windfall of capital to leverage. However, popularity and the power that comes from it is acquired by the minutia of the direction of the wind, and is as fickle as the latest fad. Influence, on the other hand, is based on time and the reputation that results. To maintain popularity requires a crisis management at every threat. To maintain influence simply means you keep a steady hand.
I want to tell you a little story about what God does when you invest in people. Truly, when we believe in someone and give them courage to take a step it seems that step leads to more than we initially imagine. My life would not be the same if it were not for my parents, mentors, friends and others who encouraged me along the way.
Today my friend and creative mentor Randy Elrod published his memoirs, A Renaissance Redneck in a Mega-Church Pulpit during one of my favorite annual events, the Re:Create Conference in Franklin, Tennessee. This book is a very compelling and honest look at a creative leader’s journey. You may not be able to agree with all of what is said in this book, but not reading it as a leader in the church would be a mistake!
Am I the only one? Sometimes a crowd will be moved magically by a phrase in a speech, a hook in a song, and the vibe in the room which all may work to enraptures the majority. I’m perhaps alone at times. I see other things that might not be quite as flattering.There are several reasons for this, perhaps. When you have been a speaker, a worship leader, and one who produces events on a regular basis, the magic of losing yourself in the crowd wanes. The behind-the-scenes life dodges hazards and dulls the senses. Or, does it? Some of us simply live as observants to a different layer of activity. Leaders see things others may not.
Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. – Jesus, Matthew 10:39 (NIV)
I have thought for many years that playing “not to lose” was the game. Then, after being a leader in several very tough situations, I acquired an idea that is less trusted–playing to win. A team must play to win, right? Yes. That is the goal. But as even more time has passed and life lived, I found from Jesus an even more rare thing in ministry leadership these days that is counter-intuitive yet powerful. It’s playing to lose.
A friend of mine led a youth ministry that I was very familiar with. His youth group began to grow, but that success seamed to cause more trouble that you would think. Why? While he was fulfilling his church’s clearly stated goal to expand and reach kids whose families did not attend church, the existing kids and their parents began to complain about the changes. The once popular youth pastor fell out of favor of the base. He was playing to win. Or, so he thought. Surely, the inwardly focused families were playing not to lose. He is no longer a youth pastor in that ministry.
It could be that the idea of creative planning is an oxymoron. After all, does not creativity come from problems to solve? The possibly worst idea, however, is that creativity is simply utility. Task is often coldly machine-like. Creativity, when it is truly firing on all cylinders, is magic.
There are mechanical, technical tasks in creative endeavors–as is true in any endeavor. The difference is that what drives creativity is the substance of dreams. The more dreaming about the possible pervades a team, the freer the flow of envisioning how that dream can become a building, an experience, or a song.
You have a seminary degree, been given the title “pastor” or “minister” or your the youth or worship director. Spiritually, you are responsible for God’s presence being felt in the room if a worship leader or the word being rightly divided if the preacher. This affords appropriate honor, even pay for some. But, this does not mean you know how to put together a spread sheet, coach people to their potential, or even develop strategic plans. Bible school does not even mention what to do when successful in reaching people or how to get there.
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. – Galatians 6:9 (NLT)
Last night a bunch of our local area worship leaders met at a restaurant for encouragement and connection. The ten of us represent thousands of worshippers collectively, but only a small portion of those that lead worship in our area. (Over 40 worship leaders connect on our Facebook group page.) Some lead worship as a full-time employee, others are either part-time workers or volunteer entirely at their churches. Some lead at large churches. Some at smaller churches. Worship leaders already are a tribe of cats, so when you also consider the different expressions it may seem hard to find connection. You could not be more wrong to think that. In fact, not only do these connections provide immediate encouragement, they might save your life. After all, there are some hidden things about the role of leading worship that those not in your shoes miss. Let’s not get tired in our work simply because we are not there for each other.
If you are not familiar with the term “Streisand Effect” and you work in leadership where you certainly deal with church communications you are missing a very important phenomena in our culture today. Barbara Streisand in 2003 sued a photographer in order to ban her coastline home from public exposition on a website about soil erosion. As the story goes, only six downloads of the photo existed, with two downloads of the photo logged by the plaintiff attorney regarding the case in question. Due to the notion of a impending banned photo, the public downloaded the photo 420,000 times within the next month.
Landmines are those not-so-easily seen hazards that damage your ability to serve and lead.
They are put there by real people, sometimes out of planning and
sometimes out of impulse. The intention is always to protect something. A
depraved human quality exists that whenever power is held, the next
step is to keep it, not wield it. Power is meant to be a tool, not a
drug. Our weakness for it warps our theology, distorts our ethics, and
train wrecks our intimacy.
This is Part 3 in a blog series “Church Politics: Navigating land mines while leading your church.”
The last three behaviors of politicking may be more or less present in your church leadership culture, but hopefully one of them is shunned outright. Dirty tricks should never exist, but they do. When it comes to trading favors and shading truth, however, the valves are wide open. These seemingly benign tactics erode morale and promote leadership from the lowest common denominator. It’s one thing to relate to human nature. It’s another thing to validly walk people into gutter politics.
In the introductory in Part 1 we listed the titles of some political behaviors. Today, we take the first three of them and offer a possible principle to contrast. The conversation I hope is not to bash the idea of Church, but to ask the question as to the possible better ways of working through the human reality of politics in human institutions. Surely we have options beyond Machiavellian tactics to lead people!