QUALITY LEADERSHIP EXPLAINED
Though Jesus was the greatest of all, He became a servant.
After decades of espousing the latest in new management techniques, many business consultants are now coming to the conclusion that what most companies need is not more refined management techniques but bold leadership. Men like Lee Iacocca and H. Ross Perot have demonstrated the advantage of decisive leadership over the “paralysis of analysis.”
The pages of Scripture likewise attest the virtue of men like Moses, Abraham, Joshua, and Peter, whose courage and faith were vehicles of God’s blessing and success on the multitudes who followed them.
Nehemiah–A Bold Leader
Perhaps nowhere is the quality of leadership better exemplified than in the remarkable life of Nehemiah, a quality of leadership we can emulate today regardless of our profession.
As a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia, Nehemiah held a prominent position. When Jews who survived the Babylonian captivity entered the Persian capital, they encountered Nehemiah who inquired of the people’s welfare in Jerusalem. They responded that the walls surrounding the city were in ruins, the people were disillusioned and weary, and that the situation was very depressing. That answer launched Nehemiah into a role that saw the dilapidated structure repaired and restored in only fifty-two days–an amazing feat of leadership.
How did he accomplish this feat, and what can we learn from his endeavor?
Ask and Listen
First, he inquired and listened: “I asked them” and “they said to me” (Nehemiah 1:2, 3). Leaders must be willing to investigate and learn, but also be just as keen to hear what others say. The essence of leadership is not simply to achieve our personal objectives but to become servants in seeing the goals of fulfilled. Though Jesus was the greatest of all, He became a servant. The foundation of biblical leadership is the realization that we are first of all called to serve.
Wait and Pray
Second, Nehemiah waited and prayed: “I sat down for many days” (Nehemiah 1:4). Leadership is not impulsive. We must spend time considering the situation, assessing the implications, and allowing our commitment level to grow. Also, bringing the need before God allows us to gain wisdom and discern His guidance.
Formulate a Strategy for Action
Third, Nehemiah developed a plan: “If it pleases the king, [may I have] a letter to Asaph [stating] that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel” (Nehemiah 2:7, 8). Nehemiah determined to approach the king and ask for the tools needed to complete the task. An effective leader takes counsel with others, gathers information, seeks insight, and then formulates a strategy. Goals are established, and timetables are implemented. We must know what we want to do and how we are to do it.
Recognize the Value of Teamwork
Fourth, Nehemiah recruited others to help him. “Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me; . . . So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build'” (Nehemiah 2:12, 18). Nehemiah knew the task was too large for one man. So he selected able, committed men to assist him. Leadership recognizes the value of teamwork and enlists them in the vision. Leaders don’t merely have followers; they also have coworkers who tackle the objective with the same intensity and fervor as the leader.
Fifth, Nehemiah persevered despite numerous obstacles: “So we labored in the work, and half of the men held the spears from daybreak until the stars appeared” (Nehemiah 4:21). Successful leadership keeps everyone’s eyes on the goal and refuses to be distracted by obstacles. Perseverance– the ability to “bear up under the load”–is necessary for leadership to finish the race.
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
Finally, Nehemiah gave proper credit for the fear: “They perceived that this work was done by our God” (Nehemiah 6:16). Leadership that works passes on the praise to others and sees God as the only true source of blessing.
For further insights, read the following passages: Proverbs 19:20-21, Jeremiah 10:21, Ezekiel 34:1-4, Philippians 3:17, 1 Peter 5:3
It’s Tuesday morning, about 6:00 a.m. You wake up in a good mood, wipe the sleep from your eyes and spring out of bed. You are full of energy and ready to take on another day. Then you realize it’s staff meeting day, and you secretly wish you had a dentist appointment instead. And you’re the leader of the meeting! Ever been there? If you feel that way, can you imagine what the staff who must attend think and feel?
Pastors often describe the staff meeting as a waste of time. One senior pastor described his meetings as “some snacks, a few jokes, and a closing prayer, and the snacks are the best part.” Another staff pastor told me he was actually afraid to attend his staff meeting because it was the weekly time when the senior pastor tore into the staff members and ripped them to shreds. Yet another pastor described their meetings as a cross between the World Wrestling Federation and Ringling Brothers Circus.
The good news is that staff meetings can and should be not only productive, but also an experience that the team looks forward to attending. Don’t get me wrong, no one on your team should look at a staff meeting as the highlight of their life. If the staff meeting is the highlight of their life, they need to get a life. You’ve heard the old adage, “You can either attend a meeting or get something done.” Well, there is some truth to that. This article, however, is dedicated to those of us who understand that church staffs must meet, but insist that the meeting can be something of value and a time the team enjoys.
It’s been said that variety is the spice of life. It’s true. However, an interesting thing about human nature is that left unchecked we tend to fall into a rut. Dozens and dozens of senior pastors and scores of staff pastors have told me that they can’t stand their staff meetings. But when I ask what they’ve done to change that, the answer is simply, “Well, nothing.” I want to encourage you to become more intentional about your staff meetings and make some changes. The first step is to bring variety to the meetings, not for the sake of variety, but to be purposeful in nature.
I have found that the standard weekly staff meeting is only needed once a month. But three other meetings, of a different kind and purpose are needed. Let’s walk through the “big four.”
In the following four meeting styles, don’t lock onto the detail of the examples. Rather, focus on the idea and purpose of each meeting.
The First Tuesday – All Staff Meeting
The first Tuesday is dedicated to the entire staff. This includes all paid employees. The primary purpose is to shape the staff culture and build team morale. The components may consist of food, community building, celebrating organizational victories, training, and communicating of big items. The meeting should last between ninety minutes and two hours. A simple continental breakfast is great.
Community building can be done by things such as highlighting birthdays, prayer for each other, or giving out awards. At Crossroads we give out each month, The Good Bird and The Dirty Bird. Both awards are coveted. The birds are seriously ugly ceramic birds that a beloved saint in the church made as a gift for someone. (Yes, this person knows what we do with them and has a great sense of humor.) The Good Bird is awarded to someone who that month exhibited extraordinary servant hood or just flat hit a home run in their area of ministry. Along with the Good Bird is given a gift certificate of some kind (representing enough cash to be highly desired). The Dirty Bird is given to the person who makes the bone-head move of the month, and the story told is often hysterical. This is not a time to humiliate a staff member but to help the staff not take themselves too seriously and just have some fun as we laugh at mistakes. Sometimes I think the staff tries to get the “D” Bird. It’s kind of a badge of honor.
Take some time to celebrate big wins for that month. Take a few minutes for people to share some successes that God has helped come to pass for the church.
The Senior Pastor delivers a training lesson that focuses on developing the culture of the staff. These teaching times are usually in the arena of vision, attitude, teamwork, spiritual life, and a heart for people.
The last component of this meeting is a brief time of general communication items. Again, a brief amount of time is given to business and for large items (impacts either the entire staff or the entire church only).
Over the course of a year, the “All Staff” meetings are held about 10 times. It is common, but not mandatory, that a summer month and December may be taken off.
The Second Tuesday – Pastoral / Ministry Staff Meeting
This is the meeting that most closely represents the typical weekly staff meeting. Its primary purpose is communication and strategic thinking. The key components are exchange of important information, ministry development and alignment and prayer. (Of course don’t forget the snacks.)
There are a number of ways to design this meeting for productivity and high value. The following is one example. (The next article will give more depth on how to conduct an effective meeting.)
Begin the meeting with storytelling. Have several staff members share a story of a changed life, a story of the transforming power of Christ in the life of an individual member in the church. The purpose is to remind the team of why you do what you do. It’s a moment to reconnect with the continually unfolding story of God’s redemptive work. In contrast to the “organizational wins” celebrated in the “All Staff” meeting, such as a big event, these are stories from the heart about God’s work in the lives of people, one person at a time. (The absence of stories to tell is a message in itself and a warning to re-align your ministry to engage in things that really matter.)
Though there may be a number of items here, it is a brief part of the meeting. Rapid Fire may include such things as calendar items, quick ministry updates, policy and administrative items, and numerical reports.
This is the bulk of the meeting. It will usually have only one item, and rarely more than three items. This is the time to deal with ministry strategy and design. It’s the time for brainstorming and idea exchange. When this time is consistently used wisely, the church will become measurably and noticeably stronger. Often there will be substantial preparation by a single person or a designated task force from the team to enhance the progress and productivity of that portion of the meeting.
From The Heart
This is a brief moment when the team leader can share whatever may be on his or her heart in a personal way. This could be something God has impressed on the leader’s heart, or it could be on a purely human level within a large range of possibilities from concerns and significant challenges to warm affirmation.
Leaders with a Shepherd’s Heart
This time is reserved for prayer. There is no end to the possibilities from asking for God’s favor for a Great Commission harvest to praying for someone to be cured from their cancer. As one unique example, we recently took the most recent list of about 100 visitors and divided the list up among groups of three and prayer for every visitor by name.
The goal is to have 12 of these meetings a year.
[Note: In smaller churches a section would be added for review of the worship services. In larger churches, this is a separate weekly meeting by the worship, music and creative arts staff. ]
The Third Tuesday – Leadership Development Staff Meeting
This purpose of this meeting is dedicated solely to staff training specifically in the arena of leadership. There are components of community and team building, but the focus is leadership development. The Pastoral / Ministry staff attends this meeting. In the case of very large churches, the support staff, led by the Church Business Administrator may lead a similar, though much less intensive, training session.
I strongly recommend that this meeting be held off the church campus in a place free from distraction and conducive to dialogue and learning. This leadership development meeting lasts three to four hours and typically occurs about 10 times a year. A retreat and/or conference is often added to the lineup and placed in the months this meeting isn’t held.
The details of this meeting and its desired results are too lengthy to cover now, so I’ll save them for another article of The Pastor’s Coach. But in concept, this is the time to engage in stimulating and practical dialogue about leadership principles and how they apply to the local church. This can be done through a variety of ways including good leadership books, videos, leadership lessons, and stimulating conversation about how each person is growing as a leader. I personally consider this the most important meeting of all four meetings. It’s not that the other three are not important, but if members of the team are not growing as leaders, the other meetings begin to quickly get stale and lose value. This is not the time for church business to be conducted. It is a time to invest in the staff. In very large churches, this meeting is led by the Executive Pastor.
The Fourth Tuesday – War Room Meeting
A selection of ministry and support staff attend this meeting. We call this our “War Room Planning” meeting. (“War Room” because we meet in the War Room, not because there are wars in the room) It lasts up to one hour and is more informal and less structured than the other three meetings, but is focused on the calendar and a great amount of detail. The free-flow nature of dialogue, even multiple conversations at times is to counter the effect of the intense level of detail, and sometimes challenging calendar crunch issues involved in this meeting. The purpose is master planning, and achievement of a good rhythm and balance of ministry timing.
In the War Room there is a one year calendar (about 14 feet long) that is covered in multiple colors of various events in dry-erase markers. Each color represents a different kind of activity: blue for equipping and development, red for all-church major events, purple for people connecting processes, orange for ministry launch, etc. Each person comes prepared with the changes they need to initiate and to work out the necessary coordination with other staff members as necessary.
This meeting often reveals the condition of teamwork on a staff because of the give and take necessary in the usage of a finite amount of time and physical buildings. It also requires strong strategic thinking to achieve a purposeful and balanced sense of programming for the church as a whole, rather than individual departments just doing their own thing without regard to the overall mission and progress of the church.
Well, there you have it. Simple, right? Wrong. It really isn’t simple. It’s involved and takes considerable effort. But if you want the results I believe you want, this is what it takes. I challenge you to try it for a period of at least three months and see if you don’t notice a significant difference.
College basketball fans turn their attention each season to March Madness, otherwise known as the NCAA Tournament. It’s a hoop-junkie’s dream come true – four weeks of “win-or-go-home” basketball featuring the best teams in the land. But what if they didn’t keep score? What if they just played for fun?
It doesn’t work that way in athletics, and it seldom works that way in the professional world. We set goals, we measure results and, ultimately, we win or go home depending upon how well we do against the competition.
So when we’re making key decisions as leaders, it can seem counter-intuitive to filter outcomes with the question that I’m going to recommend: Is this mutually beneficial?
I love competition, but every deal shouldn’t end with an “I won, you lost” outcome. In fact, I’m convinced that it’s possible – and profitable – to consistently make mutually beneficial decisions with the people and organizations that work with and around us.
Here’s why it’s worth the effort:
1. It adds value to others.
This is a personal value of mine and a value of the organizations that I lead. It requires that we start every day and every discussion and every decision-making process with objective of helping others improve. All too often, people go into a meeting or a negotiation asking, “What can I get from them? What’s in it for me? How can I sneak something by them?”
Wouldn’t it be terrible to spend day after day driven by the tactics of manipulation? When you’re done, you can say, “I won and you lost.” But then what? You go back to life. You’ve got to go back to why we’re here. And we are our brothers’ keepers. That’s what we’re here to do. And to lighten someone else’s load is a very noble cause.
2. It compounds influence, effectiveness and results.
When you come to the table with the attitude of helping and serving others, you immediately compound the influence, effectiveness and results of everyone involved, whether it’s two people, a group of people or multiple organizations.
3. It strengthens relationships.
You’ve probably heard the expression; “It’s lonely at the top.” Well, I want to go to the top, but I have no desire to go alone. If you’re alone at the top, you’re probably not a leader, anyway. Who are you leading other than yourself? Leaders take people on the journey with them. They help take others to the top. Relationships are important, and mutually beneficial decisions strengthen relationships.
When you have the heart and desire to add value to people and you long as a leader to pour into other people’s lives first, then you begin to add value to them and you begin to lift them to a higher level. The benefits are compounded and relationships are strengthened. When that happens, the score really doesn’t matter. Everybody wins.