Today’s Star Tribune article highlighting the trend of church doors closing and mainline denominations declining is sadly not surprising to a leadership consultant to churches. While there are a number of great things still happening in these aging congregations from soup kitchens to care for widows and the elderly, a glaring reality is that the congregations are in fact aging. The average member has been a supporter for over a decade. New people don’t stick out like a sore thumb for they haven’t walked in the doors in years. With an inability to reach new people with the Good News of Jesus, the doors will inevitably close as members lives come to an end this side of heaven. But it doesn’t have to end this way for mature churches if a few cultural changes are heeded.
I was standing in front of a group of parents whom I didn't know too well, leading an informational meeting for high schoolers who were interested in going on a week-long canoe trip in the BWCA. After I shared an enthusiastic and detailed vision for everything the week would entail, I confidently asked if there were any questions. I couldn’t fathom there would be any as I had laid out all the details, now it was just time for the kids to sign up!
Well, the questions came and it became more and more obvious that the parents didn’t trust me. I was dumbfounded. To my knowledge, I had never been mistrusted in my life.
Without leadership development, visionaries can bulldoze the very people they have a heart for, as seen by the early lives of Joseph and Moses. Joseph is an excellent example of the visionary leader Baldoni writes about in his book Great Communications Secrets of Great Leaders. In their research, Taylor et al. found that with their ability to create and communicate their visions, visionary leaders can energize their organizations by "providing meaning and purpose to the work."
Interestingly throughout the Scriptures, we see examples of visionaries like Joseph and Moses who know their purpose and calling, have a strong vision in their hearts, and yet when they try and live out their visions before the right time it seems as if their whole world falls apart.
Churches in American Metropolitan areas see entirely too much turnover, not only of their staff but also of their congregation. For staff, one of the main reasons people leave is because they do not feel invested in and equipped to fulfill their role on staff. The top two reasons congregants leave churches are because they do not feel connected to others in the church or they do not feel like there is a place for them to serve at the church.
The value of investing in people simply cannot be overstated, especially in our local churches.
Does it sometimes feel like everyone is deserting you, or you are constantly overwhelmed with what needs to be done, or there simply isn’t enough time to do all you feel called to AND be there for your family and friends? While the adage “leadership is lonely” certainly can be true in many respects, it doesn’t have to be. Yes, you will feel stretched as a leader, and likely out of your comfort zone a LOT if things are going well (and even when they aren’t). But being stretched and being overwhelmed because there is too much for you to do by yourself are two entirely different things. The first is normal as we grow in our leadership; the latter is self-imposed. One of THE hallmarks of effective leadership is empowering others. Empowerment is not...