Mike Elgan, the news director for Twit.tv wrote an article about the lessons he’s learned about leadership while serving as the anchor of This Week In Tech’s daily tech news podcast. I read the article and decided that his lessons apply to pastors too. Here’s what a tech podcaster can teach pastors about leadership in the local church.
I recommend that you read Mike’s article over at Baseline, a business site that focuses on technology and its use in business. He shares his six lessons about leadership. Let me start by quoting them below and then we’ll talk about how his lessons as the news director at Twit can apply to leadership in the local church.
- Embrace rejection.
- Let people own their own ideas and information.
- Never stop evolving.
- Embrace checklists.
- Start with the best partner you can.
- Serve the customers you want, not just the ones you’ve got.
That’s an interesting list and already most pastors can probably already see how they apply to our role as leaders in the church.
Embrace Rejection in Leadership
Pastors face a lot of rejection. Lots of people will reject a pastor including…
- People we talk to about the Gospel – they’ll reject Jesus’ gift of grace.
- Disciples reject taking the next step in their growth – change is hard and changing my sinful habits is the hardest kind of change imaginable. Some of the best church members don’t want to grow in their discipleship because it means they need to stop sinning in one way or it means they need to start taking risks to follow Jesus and our leadership.
- Churches will reject potential pastors – you’re not educated enough, smart enough, old, young, skinny, or attractive enough. You’re not married to the right kind of spouse. The experience you have doesn’t match what they want. You get the idea.
- Visitors reject us – someone visits one Sunday or many Sundays, but then they leave. You preach too long or your music’s not right. The seats are too firm or the temperature’s too cold/hot.
- Members reject us – I won’t do that job or I won’t come back because of what you or someone else said/did.
It’s easy to become gun-shy and avoid rejection by avoiding the risk. We close in and quit trying as hard. You can never avoid all rejection risk, but you can reduce it. As a result, we stop growing and so do the people in our churches.
Let People Own Their Stuff
Another way to say this is, “Give credit where credit is due.” However, it’s more than that. I can take credit for things and often deserve it. However, as my Church Grown prof said in Seminary, “You get what you praise!” Sometimes I should give away the praise because giving it to another person means they will feel encouraged and keep giving. Others will see the praise they got and subconsciously or consciously want it and follow their good example.
In other circumstances, we owe other people credit. I remember hearing about a pastor who preached a series of sermons. The congregation loved it and it was a hit. However, one person felt like they’d heard or read it somewhere. After a Google search, the person found that most of the content wasn’t original. The ideas, the stories and even the themes came from someone else. The pastor didn’t get fired over it, but he lost some respect.
Give credit. Most people don’t mind a pastor borrowing ideas to present a good message, but they do mind dishonesty. A simple statement like, “I read a book and it inspired me. I want to share what James MacDonald said in this book, so the next four weeks we’re going to look at how he handled marriage in that book.”
Don’t do this every week, but it’s okay to borrow occasionally. If you’re doing it more than once out of every six or seven sermons or Bible studies, then you’re probably being lazy.
Never Stop Evolving
Early in my ministry I read a lot more than I do today. Let me correct that. I read more books than I do now. Today, I find more helpful stuff online in short stints. However, I still read a lot … every day!
Don’t quit growing and changing. We’re not talking about changing ethical standards or moral beliefs. Keep the fundamentals fundamental. But evolve in how you present, lead, relate and reach out. Grow more knowledgable, stronger, more humble and more confident.
The best way I know of to do this is with other people. I try to surround myself with smart, talented, creative people. This includes people in ministry and outside. I can learn from a tech journalist and a ministry mentor.
Speaking of mentors, do you have one? Good ones are hard to find. Find one. They’re worth so much, if they will love and invest in your life.
Partner with Great People
This one’s out-of-order compared to the list from Mike Elgan. It continues the previous lesson in leadership. People help you grow and putting talented, godly, creative, humble and energetic people around you will help you grow. If you praise them, they will join you in your efforts.
A great book about working with people comes from John Maxwell, leadership guru and former pastor. Be a People Person talks about how to work with, get the most out of and inspire people. Grab a copy and read it, mark it up, find someone to talk with about it, and learn what he’s saying. It’s a great book on partnering with great people.
I’m not good at his and need to learn this lesson myself. My checklists usually stay in my email inbox, the Reminders app on my iPhone, iPad or Mac, or just in my mind. I’ve not done a good job of organizing them into one daily checklist. I need to.
Mike Elgan says he learned this lesson when he took lessons on how to fly. Pilots live by checklists. They do a preflight checklist that they have to methodically follow or someone could die.
So, here’s a few areas I need to start making such lists.
- Sermon prep – there’s a list of tasks a good preacher should do for every message and I often forget them, like praying before I start or testing my message for faith-building language instead making people feel guilty until they obey.
- Ministry planning – too many times I’ve showed up at a meeting about a particular project with only a mental checklist. Recently I made a checklist for such a meeting and it was one of the most productive I’ve led in a months.
- Family time – bring the checklist home and set goals for spending the right time with family doing the right things.
Serve the Customers You Want, Not Just the Ones You Have
We don’t serve customers, but we do serve people. The concept’s the same even if the terms don’t match.
How do we “serve the customers” that we want in ministry? If you do all of your teaching at a surface, overly simple level, then your people will remain simplistic and never grow. Instead dig deep and take them along for the ride. Show people the meaning of the text and why you believe it means that. Then show them how they can find that same meaning without you. Empower people to do hermeneutics even if they don’t know what that is.
Expect things of people. Don’t assume the worst of church people. Assume they will give you the best, and then expect it of them. People will surprise us.
You get the idea. Imagine the kind of church members you wish you had, and then start treating the ones you have like they are those kinds of people. They will surprise you and become stronger, more committed, more knowledgeable and more faithful. And you might find some that already were, but never could prove it because no one expected it of them.