Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Advice to Young Leaders #10 of 10 - Don't Be Too Needed

This is the last post of ten in my series of advice for younger leaders. Here are the links to the previous nine:

10. Don't let people need you too much.

Advice #10: Don't let people need you too much.

Thanks to those of you who have been around for the entire advice-giving journey. I have enjoyed the process more than I had expected. It has caused me to think through the reasons why I do some of the things I do. I'd like to think that maybe I am a better leader for this effort - or at least a more deliberate one.

This last bit of advice may be the hardest for me to verbalize, but I believe a key to Christian leadership is finding a way to lead in such a way that the need for your leadership diminishes. This is counterintuitive in business, politics and economics.  A major consideration of the leaders in the "world" is their own sustainability and progression as a leader. Politicians are always campaigning. CEO's are watching their backs. Celebrities are tirelessly image-building. In the world, part of leadership is about personal gain. In the Kingdom, we have already died to ourselves. Leadership is about God and his reign - not us. We don't get to be the King.

So it gets a little complicated. The people we lead need us to let them need us. But they need God more. Our task as Christian leaders is, at least in part, to slowly and methodically disappear over time. We need to be ever mindful that the Kingdom of God is eternal and will exist far beyond our influence. Leadership is stewardship. Leaders do a terrible disservice to their followers when they build organizations or cultures dependent on the leader himself.

I never feel successful in a leadership environment until I can imagine walking away with very few people noticing. This has always been a conviction of mine, though in my early ministry experiences I was not very successful at accomplishing it. I held onto some things too long. I left other ministries too abruptly or too early. I made significant decisions out of my pain instead of from the heart of a spiritual father. As I have gotten older, I have done a little better at leaving ministries better than when I found them...and ready to move on without me.

God may have me at The Vineyard for the rest of my life. I think longevity is a virtue and I'd love to be known as a leader who has staying power. But staying in the same place doesn't mean staying the same. The longer I am here, the more I need to become dispensable. Many pastors fall into "old world" thinking. They need to be needed. It not only feeds their egos, but it provides a sometimes-real sense of security. "If they need me, they won't get rid of me." This might be a good way to think in the corporate world, but this isn't a's a calling. Your job is to be faithful to it.


brettfish said...

shot for the post - vineyard youth leader and pastor of sunday nite enGAGE congregation in stellenbosch, south africa

i completely agree with you in principle but have really struggled with this one - we are a student town and predominantly our sun eve service is a student and young workings one and so we often have people (the amped ones) for 3 or 4 years and then they disappear

so have struggled to create a leadership system that doesn't need me - this year alone i have had 4 or 5 leaders leave the leadership team for various reasons mostly linked to where they are with God and stuff (not a great sign i know) but most of them were the young working people

so as much as i agree with what you are saying, in practice it has just proved uber difficult and there is a huge likelihood that i wont be around next year and the leaders we do have left probably do not have the initiative/up-front-ness and some other third thing to carry things on...

Unknown said...

Joe - just loved this series. Thanks. There is an awful lot that resonates with me.

I was told as a Vineyard trainee pastor quite a few years ago that we have to prepare to go the long haul from day one. Only really in recent times have I got the profundity of this comment. Beyond the training and metoring of leaders, most of work has had to be done with me.

For me it is remembering always that I am 'the project', not the church. Or to quote John the Baptist, I must be aiming to decrease so he can increase. Easier said than done for sure, but that's the aspiration, isn't it?

As for success, coming from a business world I have asked CEOs over the years: what does success look like? But it is also a great question to ask those of us in church leadership. If we are honest, it might be a combination of something that is ugly and beautiful.

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