Greg was so excited that he surprised his wife by taking her out for dinner after work. After four years of serving in the outreach ministry at church, his passion and faithfulness was finally being noticed and appreciated—he was going to be the next outreach ministry team leader.
That night Greg and his wife talked about all the changes they could make to how the church thought about outreach. They had quietly complained to themselves for years, and this was their chance to do something about it. All Greg’s friends and the church staff were sure he would make a great leader. He was smart, a hard worker, and he cared deeply about getting the church out into the community.
Six months later, Greg couldn’t remember when he had been more frustrated. He and his team disagreed more than they agreed He couldn’t seem to get the group to work together or the individuals to follow through on their commitments. And worse, he couldn’t figure out how to fix things. He knew he was working hard, he was passionate about the ministry, and he knew his team cared, too. But he just wasn’t able to lead people to get things done.
Unfortunately, Greg wasn’t the only one frustrated. Pete, his pastor, was seriously second-guessing his own decision to put Greg in a leadership role in the first place. Like Greg, he was at a loss over what had gone wrong. Certainly Greg had been faithful in serving, he was humble and teachable, the logical choice for more responsibility, and yet from day one he had struggled.
Conventional wisdom tells us that if someone is a good team member—if they are faithful, available, and teachable—they are the best person to promote to the next level. In other words, if they are good at doing ministry, they will be good at leading ministry.
I’ve never heard of someone leaping from the womb fully developed, ready to take on the challenges of 21st century leadership.
However, that’s not always the case. And even when it is, the requirements at the next level are distinct enough from what they were doing before that those new leaders need significant help making the transition. Faithfully doing ministry, such as Greg’s involvement in outreach, and leading the ministers are two very different roles. They require a different set of skills, different priorities, and a different way of spending our time.
In Greg's case, he was very good at starting conversations with lost people, but not good at all at seeing the big picture. He was excited about inviting new people to church, but struggled to empower others to do their best. He had some creative ideas, but had little patience for the hard work of building consensus and putting those ideas into practice.
Could Greg become a good leader? Probably, if he was willing to make the changes and learn the needed skills, and if his church was willing to give him the time and help he needed.
Ministry leadership is hard work. Becoming a good leader takes time, energy, and the help of wise people along the way. If we really care about our people, our churches, and our ministries, we will take the time to invest in those we lead and help some of them take that first step into leadership themselves.
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