Before joining the Leadership Group on our district I was frustrated and angry at the Church. I felt helpless to change anything in my ministry or the ministry of my appointment. I had gotten to the place where I wanted to get an eight-year calendar and just mark off the Sundays until I could retire.”
The pastor who wrote the above statement, Ron Litten, pastored several churches on our district and served those churches well. Yet, as he would admit, something was missing.
“In our group, made up of fellow pastors, I became immediately aware of my limitations and weaknesses that negatively affected my ministry and my relationship with the church. But, at the same time, I also became more aware of my strengths as a pastor and as a leader. I discovered that the hardest person I would ever have to lead was myself.”
- I became aware of limitations and weaknesses that negatively affected my ministry.
- I also became aware of my strengths as a pastor and as a leader.
- I discovered through participation in the leadership group that the hardest person I would ever have to lead was myself.
What Ron discovered about himself apply for each of us as we begin a new year.
- How can we help our congregations become more aware of limitations and weaknesses that may negatively affect our ministry?
- How can we help our clergy and our lay leadership become more aware of strengths and abilities that positively impact our ministry?
- How can we discover ways to share the information in an environment of collaboration and trust that will enable our churches to become more fruitful?
The mission of our church is to “Make Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” That is the main thing that defines what we do as the church. Vital congregations equip and empower people to be Disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
So, how can our churches become more vital congregations? How can we as leaders equip and empower others to be Disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world?
Ron Litten discovered important lessons in our leadership group but he also received something far more valuable. Ron became part of a group that provided spiritual nourishment and encouragement. This safe environment gave him the freedom and nurturing he needed to think about what a leader of the church should and could be.
Ron went on to write: “Here are the lessons I learned. A Leader does not follow, he or she leads, sets the example, tells the story, relates the dream, plants the ideas. I had always tried to DO the ministry so that others would like and approve of me. But now I proclaim the ministry God has called us all to do and I vow to share in this ministry with the Church.”
Andy Stanley, pastor of one of the largest churches in Atlanta, Georgia describes the process this way: First we must understand our Mission as the church. Then as leaders we provide a Vision to guide our future as we seek to fulfill the mission. The church should then provide a Model of the Vision in action through worship, meetings, small groups and in everything they do. The programming should be the results or the fruit of the successful Modeling of the Vision that guides the church toward fulfilling their Mission.
A well defined Mission leads to a clear Vision which is then Modeled by the church in everything they do. The result is fruitful and effective Programming that enables the church to fulfill their Mission.
This well defined mission can help to guide us even in the more ordinary day to day responsibilities of leadership. Ron Litten learned a lot about how to be a leader in the midst of those daily responsibilities of the church he served.
“I used to get defensive whenever I was confronted by church leaders. But now I listen, really listen, and from that I draw an understanding of what the issues are and seek ways to resolve the issues. I now truly listen and then reflect back to the committee members making sure I have heard them clearly. From here I take that information and look for ways to relate it to the greater ministry of the Church. This way the vision is still alive and answers often come from church leaders themselves and not as an edict from me. This has been the most valuable lesson I have learned personally.”
- Rather than get defensive, I listen, really listen.
- I draw an understanding of what the issues really are.
- I look for ways to relate it to the greater ministry of the church.
- The answers often come from the church leaders themselves.
“I have also learned to lead by example. For me that means being more transparent in my ministry. For example, I shared with the Finance Committee that I would always tithe my salary. This is something I have never been able to do before. Later, I shared that information with the congregation in a sermon about giving. One person said, it was the best sermon he ever heard. Again, no edict, just witness of a personal example given encouragingly.”
Ron is only one example of what has happened to many of the people who attend our Leadership Group each week. We’ve learned, shared and offered encouragement to each other. We’ve talked, prayed and worshiped together as we seek to follow God’s will for our personal lives as well as our churches.
“I have a long way to go, but I am not quitting on myself or my church. I dream more than ever before, and I have a NEW passion for ministry that I never had before. I do not do things because I am supposed to anymore, but I do things because they are the Right things to do. I know this because I pray more now than ever and I listen to others more than ever.”
“One last thing! I don’t think about retirement so much anymore.”