I led the worship department at Parkview Christian Church for 20 years, where I started on staff with me, myself, and I. But as the years progressed and the church grew, the worship staff did also and in my final years, I was leading a staff of 11 paid staff plus interns, and over 300 volunteers. I’ll be honest, I had no management training in college. Unfortunately, most people who are educated for Ministry are not taught these things, and they should be.
Some of you lead a department at a ministry or church, some of you lead volunteers whether a serving team or a small group, and some of you lead other moms or even just your own family for now. But you ARE a leader. And how you lead truly influences others and their perspective of Jesus. And, Ephesians 6:7 says “Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people” (NIV) so our attitude when leading others should be about doing our very best.
So, as a leader, I wanted to share some tips I have learned along the way to help you (as well as my own daughters). Because I learned some of these lessons the hard way, I want to save you some pain and share with you some great wisdom that I know God taught me.
Pray for wisdom.
Yes, that is simple – but it’s a powerful tool to have when leading. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”
Share the essential answer to “why”.
Have you ever been around a toddler who asks “why?” all the time? The people you lead need the same question answered (and sometimes act like toddlers). Sometimes you just have to say “BECAUSE” to a toddler. But the grown ups you lead need a better answer. There may be several answers, but there is usually an essential answer. The bottom line of “why.” These answers actually become the core of your ministry and should be something these leaders could repeat to others.
Here is an example:
Our team “practices” our Easter service straight through a couple of days before Easter services. The bottom ladder “why?” is so that visitors won’t be distracted by mistakes and experience the grace of Jesus that we ourselves have experienced. Here’s the process:
Question: Why do we practice our Worship services?
So we can eliminate mistakes. Mistakes are very distracting.
So a visitor can focus on taking in the message; Satan is fighting hard for their minds and hearts.
So a visitor can experience Jesus.
So a visitor might be open to making Jesus their Savior, and come back.
Because someone shared Christ’s amazing grace with us, and our lives were changed.
Extend Empathy from Experience.
FYI, that was a total accident that those three were all “E” words! I’m going to copyright that!
Okay, back to the lesson.
I think one of the reasons leaders who have actually raised a church, department, ministry, or business from the ground up receive so much respect is because they have done some pretty tough things themselves. Everything that my staff had to do, I had done myself at one time or another (although on a much lesser scale, on much lower quality equipment, and I had a much lower talent level!). So it was very easy for me to be empathetic when it took 60 hours to edit a video because the rendering took so long. Or recording vocal parts kept getting interrupted by the kids. Or when a band member got sick during the week and wasn’t able to play. Because I’ve been through all of those things! They need to know that.
If you haven’t done the things the people you are leading are doing or have gone through similar things as your team members, then I recommend that you help them every once in awhile. It will change your perspective and your empathy.
The Power of Questions.
What I mean by “The Power of Questions” is never immediately just fix a situation or tell your employee/team member/volunteer what to do (unless its right before a Christmas eve service in an emergency situation and the sound board just crashed and lost all the rehearsal settings, just saying hypothetically!). Ask your team member questions to help them get to that conclusion themselves. If they don’t immediately get there, offer suggestions through questions saying, “What if you did…” and brainstorm with them. Then they will own the solution so much more and remember it. And they will learn how to think for future problem solving and become leaders themselves.
Oops, I shouldn’t have just told you this. Rewind: What would happen if you were to ask your team members/employees questions instead of just tell them what to do?
Manage their conflict through Understanding.
This is a tool to use when there is a conflict among team members. It is a powerful tool to help people take down their wall of defensiveness because it helps individuals to feel understood. I actually learned this practice from a Christian counselor. When I would have two individuals from our team who were having a conflict, I would meet with them both at the same time. I would make them listen to each other’s side of the story with out interrupting each other. I might interject questions for clarification here and there but after each had spoken, I would make the other person say “I understand that you felt…” and say what they heard. Sometimes they might have misunderstood what was being felt, that would be clarified, and then they repeated the “I understand” exercise. You cannot believe how powerful being understood was and how much this would help them be open to moving forward with what could be changed for the future. Try it. Do it yourself.
As you lead your team members, be sure you are staying close to the ultimate leader: Jesus Christ.