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Dealing with Leadership Surprises

Being a leader is hard. But you never know just how hard until you’re the leader.

Here are the things that surprised me the most about leadership:

1. Delegating is hard. I admit it—I have a type A personality and maybe control issues and OK, maybe trust issues, but sometimes it just seems easier to do everything myself. Wrong attitude! I can’t do it all; I don’t have the skills, time, or patience to do everything with excellence. I am robbing someone else of a blessing and the opportunity to use his or her talents for the kingdom. How will anyone else learn to serve or lead if I do everything? Delegating is hard, but it is the right thing to do. Even Jesus delegated the feeding of the 5,000 to the disciples and His mission here on earth to us. 

Working with Church Staff

As a pastor’s wife, I have a unique perspective on working with church staff. Here are some insights I have gleaned that could help you as a WMU director:

Do 

  • plan ahead. Have a yearly, monthly, and even weekly calendar. The church staff plans a year ahead and the church calendar fills up quickly. Know when publicity is due and don’t miss deadlines.
  • make appointments. Don’t talk to staff members in the hall or just “pop” in their offices. Make an appointment so the staff member can pay attention, take notes, and respond with undivided attention.
  • be flexible. Be willing to change your plans. Expect the unexpected, because things happen—that is the life of a church.
  • take care of as much as you can yourself. Try not to use the staff as your setup crew, teardown crew, or audio/video people.
  • develop relationships. Work on developing relationships with each staff member so you will know how to pray for him or her and what he or she is responsible for.

Don’t 

Surprise! I’m the Leader!

You may remember the children’s game “follow the leader.” One child chosen as the leader goes to the head of the line. All the other children line up behind the leader. The children mimic whatever actions the leader does. This silly example supports the oft-heard quote “You’re not a leader if no one is following you.”

So how does a leader get people to follow her? What does an effective leader do to keep followers and get new ones? She serves. The role of servant leader is what I have found to be the most effective tool in leading others. If I am not willing to serve others in His name and lead others by serving alongside them, how can I expect others to catch the vision of the ministry or the task?

The servant leader shares the responsibilities of the task and helps her team develop and perform to its best potential. She encourages team members and challenges them to use their spiritual gifts in serving the Lord by serving others.

I used to think you could motivate others to serve. Then, I heard a seasoned WMU conference leader say, “You cannot motivate others. You can only create an environment in which they will motivate themselves to act or serve.”

Study. Pray. Give.

When I first moved to Texas more than 35 years ago, our associational WMU met annually at the Hispanic church in our association for the Baptist Women’s World Day of Prayer. The Hispanic women organized the program and hosted the event.

A typical Baptist covered-dish dinner preceded the prayer program. It was always a highlight of the year as we enjoyed the fellowship of women from other churches and the delicious food.

Now we don’t have an associational WMU and only a few churches still have Women on Mission or Adults on Mission groups. But our women still meet annually for the Day of Prayer. Several churches take turns organizing the program and hosting the event. The covered-dish dinner and fellowship with women from other churches in our association has continued.

We always make our invitation churchwide, inviting Women on Mission and other women not involved in Women on Mission to attend. This has been successful with more women attending, especially when we host the meeting at our church. We include as many women as possible to help lead worship and present some of the testimonies.

Growing Through Hands-On Missions

In a conversation with a friend not too long ago, she shared that her Women on Mission group had been collecting items for a local ministry. Once all the donations had been collected, the facilitator said she would drop the items off on behalf of the women. Some of the younger women spoke up to say they wanted to assist in taking the items because they wanted to see and experience the ministry themselves.

Seeing the benefit of people becoming part of a ministry is key to promoting missions and growing a missions organization. With daytimes that are filled to the brim, women are no longer excited to attend a missions meeting to just “read a part” in a missions magazine.

Communicating Effectively

My best friend and I don’t get to see each other often, but we make a point to regularly keep in touch either by phone, messaging, or lunches together. A card from her in my mailbox reminds me that I am important to her and that she is thinking about me.

Through my years as a WMU leader, I have found that consistent communication with my leadership team is just as important. When I visit a Mission Friends class as the teacher is setting up for the lesson that evening, we have the opportunity to share our hearts for those preschoolers and how we are reaching them. A snail mail card sent saying, “I appreciate you,” or a Facebook message lets my teachers know they are important to me and to the ministry of our church.

I Can’t Do It All

How many times do we try to do it all when we take on a leadership role? One thing I’ve learned over the years is that I can’t do it all. So if I can’t do it all, what can I do to accomplish what I would like to as a leader?

Delegate. When I ask others to serve with me or give them a portion of an assignment, it frees me up to focus on other parts of my leadership role. The most important thing is when I give someone else a responsibility I have to leave it with her and trust her to do it. I have to show the person that I believe in her and her way of doing it. If I go back and try to fix what she did or take the task back once I’ve delegated it, then I have failed. That shows I really did not want to delegate at all. Saying I’m going to delegate and then actually doing it and assigning someone the task is not always easy but something I’ve learned over the years. And it’s perfectly okay if she doesn’t do it exactly the way I would do it!

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