This past week I was supposed to be out of town at a conference, but we had a sick baby at home so I had to cancel my trip. I’d already gotten a substitute for our weekly Bible study, so I thought I’d change it up and be a part of being fed rather than be the one up front leading. I have to admit, it was one of the most refreshing things I’ve done in a while. One thing we can too often believe in leadership is that we have to always be the one leading, that’s just who we are. But if we don’t take time to be fed and encourage others to take the lead, we’re not doing our job as leaders—instead of leading a culture, we’re creating a dependency.
Think about it for a second. If you’re the only one who ever leads, teaches, and speaks, what happens when you get the flu or another opportunity comes up? You’ve done a disservice to your ministry because you’ve not equipped others to carry the mantle for you. Our leadership is best used when it’s distributed to others. If you invest in 5 volunteers who are leading in your ministry, you’ve multiplied your leadership by 6! You can in theory do six times more than you could by yourself. If you intentionally invest in an intern or associate leader, you’ve doubled your capacity to reach the entire ministry, and you’ve set up someone else for success when God moves them (or you) to a new place of service.
If you’re a leader, I want to encourage you to occasionally take a step back and let someone else have the spotlight. Of course this assumes you’ve built someone up to be in that spot! If you’ve not and you take a step back, you’ve not distributed leadership you’ve dumped it. There’s a huge difference.
1. It allows your people to hear from another voice – One thing that can happen when you’re the only voice is the Charlie Brown phenomenon. Remember the teacher’s voice in Peanuts? That’s how you can sound after time. Give them a break and let them be fed or led by someone else.
2. It gives you a chance to sit back and evaluate – When you’re up front you only get a limited perspective. But when you take a step back you can see how all the moving pieces interact and if what you’re doing is being effective. Actively listen, take notes, and don’t leave any sacred cows unturned. It also helps you to give feedback to the leader filling in for you, especially if they’re new or inexperienced. Your feedback is invaluable to them!
3. You need to be a learner – I’m convinced leaders who stop learning are leaders who can’t lead. It shows pride when you think you can’t learn something from someone else, even if they’re new or inexperienced. God still speaks through His Word, and when you sit back and let yourself learn from someone else’s perspective, you’re honoring their preparation and God’s design for you to work and rest.
4. You’re training up Kingdom workers – So many times churches assume their ministry leadership will just do the work of ministry, that they’ll basically do everything. And that’s partly true, ministry leaders should be willing to do whatever it takes, but they shouldn’t be expected to do everything. Ephesians 4 shows us that the task of ministry leadership is to equip the saints for the work of ministry. So when you’re letting others lead and helping build up people to do ministry.
Do you have any success stories on stepping back and letting others succeed in leadership?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.