One of the best visuals for leadership in the local church is a piggybank. Like a piggybank, leadership make deposits in small amounts (unless the grandparents come visit). Deposits are made when we visit someone in the hospital, show up and faithfully preach each Sunday, visit during a crisis, counsel in difficult times, come to the funeral, and more. You know when you've made a deposit in your piggybank. Yesterday our children's ministry showed what they had been working on for weeks in memorizing a long chunk of Scripture. After the service I told our children's minister he had just made a nice deposit!
The piggybank is our leadership trust that people have in us. It's the resource we have to lead people and our churches & ministries forward. It takes a long time to build, and it can get spent quickly. Leaders always have an initial deposit that comes during the honeymoon period. But over time, our deposits need to far exceed our withdrawals. Withdrawals happen when you make a decision or a move that requires people to trust you. They will if you have a good reserve. They might even if you don't and extend a line of credit. But just like a credit card, you're on the hook for far more than you realize when you lead in debt.
But our piggybank extends beyond that to the people around us we directly work with and lead. If you're a youth pastor, this is your leadership team. If you're in music, this is your choir & musicians. For lead pastors, it's your staff & other key leaders. We have to make deposits not just in the general sense, but in a real specific sense with each of our leaders around us.
Which brings us to the issue of "loyalty" in a leadership circle. There is nothing more awkward in a leadership circle than being asked for loyalty. It feels like a Mafia scene, minus the cannoli. Loyalty and Security go together, along with the idea of the piggybank. To help understand it, look at the "Ministry Loyalty Piggybank" matrix:
Can I give 5 suggestions on how to improve here?
1. Get out of your office - For a lot of us, our office can feel like a sanctuary. It's filled with books, we can listen to our Spotify playlist, and it can be a place where we "get work done." But if we're not careful, our office can become a prison. We feel like we can never leave because "someone might need me." If we can get out of our office we can make investments in our leaders and our ministries by visiting homes, hospitals, and making connections in our community. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, if we have a cell phone and a laptop we can "get work done" almost anywhere.
2. Read more - Yes, I know I just said to get away from your introversion. But leaders are readers. And if you want to be a better leader, read more. Read leadership books, read biographies, read doctrinally (and devotionally), read outside your wheelhouse. You'll pick up nuggets all around and it will help you be a better conversationalist if you've read broadly.
3. Get over yourself - A lot of insecure leaders focus way too much on themselves. Get over it. You're not that important. The Barna Group has a whole emphasis on healthy transitions because when it comes down to it, we're all interims. Someone else will take our place. Things will move on without us. You're not indispensable. You're a vessel for King Jesus to do work. That means He doesn't need you to do it. We're invited into His work to join Him, but the security a leader in ministry has doesn't come from their talent or from their calling, but from their source. For more, read Ephesians 1.
4. Listen well - Leaders aren't just readers, they're listeners. Listening well means shutting your mouth. It means seeking to understand where someone is coming from. A lot of leaders with a debt in their piggybank listen to respond. If you want to make deposits, actually listen to the people around you. Ask questions. Get to know them beyond their formal or functional role. Find out what makes them tick. Get their sense in how they see things, even when it's not how you see them.
*Pro Tip - Everyone has a favorite Sonic or Starbucks drink
5. Seek out deposits and plan your spending - There's a reason the candy near the checkout is called the "Impulse Rack," the goal is to get you to buy something without thinking about it. As leaders, we have to be careful in how we plan our spending. Jesus talked about this when he said no one builds without first "counting the cost." For us, that means we make sure we've been prudent, prayerful, listened well to others, and sought buy-in from other leaders before making a "purchase" with our piggybank. Deposits are things we should seek out. The widow on the back row who is always alone? Go seek her out. The visiting couple who always come in late? Give them a call and do lunch. The faithful Sunday school teacher who shows up week after week, year after year? Recognize them in a service.
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Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.