Friday, December 29, 2017

On Considering a Different Leadership Model

I was at the Church of the Resurrection in Kansas City, Kansas in September. Thursday evening, there was a special program so I hung around campus after the final afternoon session. Sitting at one of the patio tables outside the huge building, I tried to work on Sunday's sermon while simultaneously enjoying the lovely autumn afternoon. It all became a bit more challenging when the lawn service people showed up.

I paused to watch them as they worked. Two were maneuvering what looked like industrial-sized weed whackers. Another swung a large leaf blower around like he’d had lots of practice. The two John Deere vehicles seemed like crosses between Segways and riding mowers. Their riders standing on back looked like they were having a blast zipping over curbs and around parking trees, winding this way and that. But the job got done, and – it seemed – with very few extra runs. They were most efficient.

This seems like a perfect example of what we in the church would love to do, but seldom actually achieve. Often we want to do a new thing but in old ways – ways that are inefficient and part of what made the old things ineffective. Or, we mean to do some good thing, but we get lost in the "how-to" details. I don't know about other denominations but United Methodist Churches has been around long enough to have a fair amount of "red tape." Do we really need to run our idea past this committee and that one? Maybe not; if we know what we're doing and what it requires of the church – members, time, money – maybe we only need to ask one and inform the rest. Too often good ministry doesn't happen because too many people are involved, too many can slow down the process, too many can say "no." 

The Accountable Leadership Model seems like an excellent way to revamp our old, comfortable church structures. I attended a workshop last summer and have been reading and considering possibilities since then. In an Accountable Leadership structure. ...

  • All church leaders are selected for their discipleship first. 
  • One group takes the place of all church committees, with the more experienced or knowledgeable ones taking the lead when conversation moves to, say, human relations or stained glass. 
This may seem crazy at first glance but think of the people you know in church who ...
  • Are so busy with committees or ministry teams that they don't have time actually to be involved in a local mission or ministry; or who
  • Believe they're doing enough ministry simply by attending those meetings.
The church needs to help people remember what church is all about. Some get it, but many think it's about Sunday morning and some charity. The church exists so that we can be disciples – by practicing justice, compassion, worship (yes), and personal devotion/prayer  and so that by doing we can invite and welcome others to join us in this activity. Anything other than that is a social organization. They can do good work too but they're not about discipleship which is what Christ calls us to be as the church.

So, anyway, I'm promoting that churches consider whether an accountable leadership model might work for them. It might not work for the largest churches, they may need more structures, but most churches aren't that big. And anything that has the potential to get more of us out outside the church walls and outside our own assumptions ought to be considered. Talk to your (other) church leaders about it.

And blessings in the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ah, peace...

News of him spread even more and huge crowds gathered to listen and to be healed from their illnesses. But Jesus would withdraw to deserted places for prayer. Luke 5:15-16

Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer. Mark 1:35

After he had sent the crowds away, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray; and when it was evening, he was there alone. Matthew 14:23

How do you stand it? I mean how do you manage to get anything done with other people around?

I love my family. Don’t get me wrong. I loved spending time with eleven people in that big house in Pennsylvania over Thanksgiving – with all its food and drink and laughter and everyone talking at once and kittens running underfoot.

But I’ve discovered something about myself since Kay moved to campus two years ago. I like my solitude. I need it. And I work better when I have quiet.

I know that’s not the case for everyone. But if you’re like me, how do you deal with it?

Kay’s home with me for part of December. Today’s her birthday and her dad’s here also. Mostly they’ve given me the quiet I need so I can get things done. But once in a while I suddenly wake up to realize that not only are they talking in the room where I’m trying to work but they’re doing it from either side of me!

I grab my hair and massage my scalp and remember that this is all good stuff and I’m glad they’re here and have this time together.

We’re all – each of us – crazy, unique mixes of lively and peaceful, funny and serious, ambitious and relaxed. We each have our own ways.

Last night I got to sit in a big room with about 800 people, most us watching and listening to the others’ gift of music for this season of Advent. I’d been looking forward to that evening for months and it was wonderful. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. (Thank you, A1 music ministry folks!)

Now that my work's almost done, I wouldn’t trade this day either. A cello is playing “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” on the Sonos. Kay is preparing tea. And Mickey's sitting at the table preparing for his next effort to motivate Kay to leave the house and go out and do something with him.

As I said, we’re all different. I’m learning – ok, I’m slow at some things – that this really is fine and good and, if we let it be, even wonderful.

I love being social – and it’s great to have figured out ways I can “fit in.” (It’s probably a good thing I wasn’t popular in my younger days thought. I’d never have finished anything and I left a great many things unfinished as it was.) I accept that while I can go elsewhere and enjoy that moment with a crowd of people, I’m quiet at home. That quiet if good for me.

I’m getting so much better at accepting others’ ways too. Today, I’ll remind myself that while their ways can be fine (for them), my ways are also equally fine (for me). And if my welcome of their intrusion is somewhat imperfect it’s good enough for today.

Introvert or Extrovert, for this day, for this week, be gentle with yourself. Love yourself as you love others.

John Farrier has posted some great graphs about introverts that seem spot on: