I’ve been in ministry full time for over 17 years and I’ve learned a lot and made a lot of mistakes. The church I worked at went from single site in a small town to a major relocation to a bigger facility to multi-site now with five locations. I was involved with leading the relocation of two of the sites from a portable campus to a permanent site. Now I’m working for a church that is in the process of becoming a multi-site church.
I’ve been a part of a lot of change and challenges over the years. I’ve grown as a leader and I’ve struggled as a leader. I believe there are some basic things that help a lot in ministry, do these basics well and you will lead well.
Here are seven things I’ve learned and believe about leadership.
- Relationships are more important than Systems – Effective, well thought out systems are vital to an organizations health, but people are more important. Every person that attends our church is important, and every person that does not attend our church is important. Each person matters to God and so they must matter to us. When going through explosive growth it’s easy to miss the relational part of ministry. That is when you must work hard to meet with people and listen to them. I have learned so much by simply meeting with people and listening to them. listening to their story and sharing parts of yours is so important when building relationships.
- Communicate with your team often – Even when there is nothing new to report, it’s important to communicate with your team on a regular basis. As a leader, I wake up every day thinking about what needs to happen to get us to where we are headed. The volunteers I am leading have many other things to think about, like their own jobs and families. The more I can communicate about what is going on, the better my relationship with the people I lead. Open honest communication builds trust, it also motivates and encourages and allows people to ask clarifying questions. When you don’t communicate, you are still communicating, and that’s when people start loosing interest, or fill in the blanks themselves.
- Trust that God is working in ways you do not see – In ministry, things don’t always line up like you would like them to be. As a leader, I am responsible for my own actions and to make plans and develop strategy. It is also my responsibility to be flexible and to include God in everything. The deeper my trust in God the stronger my faith grows. If we figure everything out on our own, we don’t need God to show up. When you take on a big vision, only God can make it happen, we need to trust and obey.
- Trust the leaders around you – I must choose to trust and not to be suspicious of the leaders above me and around me. The more I choose to trust the more my heart remains in the right place. When I start to fill in the blanks with my own ideas, I begin to head into a downward spiral. When I believe the best about the people leading me, I can then lead with integrity and passion. Trust builds a culture of emotional health and stability. It’s also important that you are trustworthy, and lead well in the area entrusted to you. This becomes even more important, and difficult as you add multiple sites. You are not as close to the leaders as you used to be so trust becomes vital to moving things forward in a healthy way.
- Do more than rally the troops – You must do more than talk the talk, you need to walk the walk and make things happen. That means doing what you say and equipping your volunteers to do what they are asked to do. It means taking the time to develop people rather than just direct people. When you build meaningful relationships with people they will follow you through the most difficult of times. When you pay attention to the details and delegate to people that can get things done, your influence goes up. Don’t just try to pump people up, pour into them and love them. The only way to do that is by allowing God to pour into you and to keep growing as a leader.
- You have to be real – People are looking for real leaders that admit their mistakes and take responsibility. Be quick to admit mistakes and ask for forgiveness and extend the same to others. Don’t put on the religious mask, where you try to make people think that everything is just perfect. Being real is only possible if you are sure of your identity, and comfortable with who you are. I have learned that I need to be me and not someone I think people want. The more I am the person God created me to be the more influence God gives me.
- Be as clear as possible – Clarity is one of the most difficult things to do as a leader. It is easy to dance around the issues and not give direct answers. Sometimes there are things that I just cannot share with people, so I need to be honest about that and let them know that I will share details when I can. To be clear as a leader means taking time to think about what you are going to say. It means you can’t just shoot from the hip, but take time to aim before delivering the message. Being clear is a way of honoring people and letting them know you care. Whether it’s in an email, in a meeting or face to face be honest about what is happening or what happened. Share as much information as possible. That will build trust and respect.
When things are changing all around me and the pace seems to be higher than what I can stand, it helps to step back, and trust God and obey what he tells me. When things are busy and hectic I need to make sure that I am praying and communicating with God. I also need to be reading the Bible to build my intimacy with God and get wisdom and direction. One thing that has helped me in this area and many others is having people in my life to ask me how I am doing in some of these areas. Having accountability in my life has brought growth and freedom into my life.
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