We trust you’ll enjoy this blog as part of your holiday reading this month. Have a blessed Christmas & New Year!
I’ve been swamped lately by some of those simplistic blog posts and articles about leadership. You know the ones I mean. They have headlines like “Characteristics of Great Leaders,” Some headlines are variations on “Seven Things Great Leaders Do Every Tuesday.”
Yikes! Read too many of those and you’ll start to think that great leaders are superior lifeforms, very much like Mary Poppins. She was, after all, “practically perfect in every way.” Everywhere. And all the time.
What dangerous rubbish! It’s just a short step from that kind of thinking to the idea that poor you can never attain such heights. When you think that, you’re going to stop trying and the world just might lose the great leader you could have become.
Don’t despair. Here are three things we know about great leaders that will make you feel better.
Great leaders are all different
Great leaders aren’t just different from you and me. They’re different from each other.
Great leaders come in all shapes and sizes and both available genders. Some are psychologically solid and stable, while others seem to dance along the edge of insanity. Some are brilliant, others not so much.
Every great leader filters the basic principles of leadership through his or her own unique personality. You can do that, too.
Around this time of year, the mainstream media and Internet meme-machines like to remind us how old we are by telling us all of the things this year’s high school graduates won’t remember because, well, they weren’t even born yet.
That list is usually all pop culture, technology and political references. But what about church? I bet we can make a good list.
In church leadership, we have a looooong memory. And for some reason, we expect the new wine to clothe itself with old wineskins to learn and accept every moment of our history as part of their own personal story.
This spring’s high school graduates were born in the year 2000. Here are some churchy things for which they have little to no context for…
1. “Shout to the Lord”
That was 1994, folks.
2. When Worship Bands Were Edgy
Carey Nieuwhof wrote about this very well in his article “The Impending Death of Cool Church.”
3. Billy Graham Crusades
His last was in 2005. They were five years old.
4. Televangelists Committing Fraud and Conspiracy
More on why that should influence how your church talks about money in Tony Morgan’s article “It’s Not the ‘80s Anymore.”
5. Giving Cash at Church
The Unstuck Group’s intern this semester specifically mentioned “offering plates of all varieties… the strangest ones I’ve seen were velvet bags with wooden handles. Very retro.” Tony also said his church doesn’t take an offering in services anymore. And there are no “giving boxes” either.
6. Why “See You at the Pole” Is a Thing
Prayer at school is not a part of their collective consciousness.
7. “I Can Only Imagine”
Aka Contemporary Christian Music as an influential genre.
Good managers work hard at pushing fear out of the workplace. Yet, even in the healthiest of organizations, fear’s close cousin, anxiety, worms its way into our consciousness and governs how we process and react to the idea of change and each other. Skilled change leaders in the workplace understand this human reaction to new and different ideas and work hard to reduce the threat level when proposing something new.
“What does this mean for me?”
We’re skittish creatures by nature and anxiety manifests in our minds in many ways, including insecurities surrounding change, worries over encroachment on responsibilities we perceive as ours, and concerns surrounding our social standing, particularly with those in positions of power.
I don’t care how carefully you plan your presentation on the new strategy or the rationale for a significant change in process, the primary thought running through everyone’s mind is, “What does this mean for me?” It’s a short drive to the next destination: “Does this mean I won’t have a job?”
Anxiety over change is amplified in group settings, with some railing at the injustice and promising resistance and others quietly processing on the worst case scenarios.
Not Broken—Just Human
It’s easy to suggest these anxious or fearful individuals might reflect a broken culture and poor management—and in some situations this is true. However, blaming management without digging deeper into the source of the anxiety is a potential mistake.
By An Anonymous Christian
You may have wondered why you haven’t been seeing me around lately. Frankly, I won’t be back.
I wanted to stay, and I wish things could have worked out between us. Maybe you don’t realize how your church looked from my perspective.
Take a look and maybe you’ll understand why I’m not coming back to your church.
You held me hostage in my own home
I’d been visiting for a couple of months when you started a capital campaign. Two members knocked on my door with a pledge card—and they wouldn’t leave until I signed it.
Did I bring this on myself by putting tithe checks in the offering plate without joining? Still, I was a visitor—certainly not ready for a long-term financial commitment to your church.
I wish I’d had the backbone to explain this to your determined solicitors. Instead, to get them out of my house, I signed the pledge card—and never set foot in your church again.
Lesson for the church: Be careful how you train your volunteers. I have little doubt they were urged to bring back completed pledge cards. Their zeal to comply overcame their common sense.
You didn’t reach out
We filled out the pew card. We introduced ourselves after the worship service. You sent one email, and we responded: “We would love a chance to meet with you and learn more about the church.”
If you can’t bother to assertively follow up with someone who is showing active interest in your church, you clearly don’t care. We’re moving on.
Lesson for the church: We must have slipped through the cracks—but a foolproof follow-up system is non-negotiable. One misstep here can bring a quick end to a promising relationship.
Thank you to our sources for this month’s blog posts:
Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership – Why great leaders are not like Mary Poppins
The Unstuck Group (Tiffany Deluccia) – 18 Churchy Things the Class of 2018 Won’t Get
Art Petty – When Proposing Change, Try Reducing the Threat Level First
Facts and Trends – Why I’m Not Coming Back to Your Church