Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Brent Foulke’s has written a short article here discussing this question. I would add one significant point, particularly for those planting and wanting to plant in housing schemes: perseverance. This ministry is a slow burn and the fruit can grow awfully slowly. We are in a season of fruitfulness in Niddrie right now but for a couple of years we went through a time when we weren’t seeing anybody saved. I am sure we will go through dry times on the future but we just have to push on preaching the same gospel faithfully and trusting in God’s providence. That’s why people who have a real spirit of perseverance are necessary for this ministry.

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As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called (Eph. 4:1-4)

Team dynamics are always a battleground in Christian ministry. Satan can never take our salvation but he likes to sow as much mischief as he can among team members (and in congregations). Relationships can quickly become tense if disagreements are not resolved quickly, biblically and from the heart. There is nothing so poisonous to gospel work as a bitter heart storing up bile, anger and resentment. I have seen it destroy many people and teams over the years. I run a large team, many of whom are volunteers. We work in a very tiring and fast paced ministry. Some weeks are very quiet, like a little oasis of tranquility, others are choc full of activity and incidents. It’s the way of things here.

Every week, without fail, there will be a disagreement, an argument or a moment of stress between two or more of my team members. This is what happens when we put people together, working in close proximity, under pressure and rubbing up against one another constantly. The cracks start to show. The root sins begin to appear. Personalities conflict. This is where ‘being missional’ becomes more than a theoretical Porterbrook discussion. It’s the dirty side of 24/7 Christian living and discipleship. It’s the time when we sometimes wish for the good old-fashioned ‘two Sundays and one midweek meeting a week’ approach to the Christian life. Where we wish we could just get away from people for 5 minutes. The times when we get sick of looking at ‘heart issues’. The simple fact is that we can just become dog tired.

As leaders we have to be very careful how we manage, lead, care for and pastor our teams. There is not a one size fits all approach to building and maintaining healthy teams. I am a very direct person. I push myself and I have high expectations of others. Yet, I am very discerning when it comes to these issues. If I wasn’t then I wouldn’t be as successful as I am in what I do (in terms of building and establishing teams). Sometimes people need a kick and sometimes they need a word of encouragement. Much of leadership is down to discerning the moment and the character of the individual(s) concerned.

Here are some ‘don’ts’ when dealing with tired and stressed out team members:

1. Do not seek to impose your will over them. This will not help and only build resentment.

2. Do not back people into corners when it comes to dealing with arguments or tensions. People under pressure will not respond logically, never mind biblically. People need space and time to work things through. Some people, like me, need to sort things out straight away. Others need a bit more ‘processing time’.

3. Do not guilt trip them into falling into line. they need to be encouraged and prompted by the Holy Spirit in order for real heart change to occur.

4. Do not sweep issues under the carpet and hope they go away. They won’t. People need to bring sins out into the open and deal with them in a mature manner.

Here are some ‘do’s of dealing with team members:

1. Encourage them that stress and tension are a normal part of the Christian experience. Often people have an idealism when it comes to working in Christian teams. Christians argue, they sulk, they simmer, they harbour resentment and they sin. The question is not how to avoid these things but how to deal with them. This is the nuts and bolts of real spiritual growth and why we should embrace conflict (different from seeking it) and not run from it. All of our experiences are an opportunity to learn!

2. Take the sting out of any stress. Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that, ‘a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger’. Don’t rush in to the ‘presenting issue’ but rather take your time to build up a bigger picture.

3. Listen to people without interruption. This is easy if you agree with them and a whole different skill set when you know that they are in the wrong. People need to feel like they are being taken seriously even if their responses were unbiblical.

4. We need to encourage people in their gift set and not chide them for what they cannot do (1 Th. 5:2).

Above all, a good leader will pray for his team in accordance with Ephesians 4. Remember, people follow vision, vision attracts leaders, leaders make ministry, ministry upsets satan, he sows discord, ministry goes off track, leaders get dejected and satan is happy. We must break into that cycle with the healing balm of the gospel and we must apply it by knowing the personalities and quirks of each team member and being wise to the wiles of the evil one. If there is no conflict in your team then you either have (a) no team or (b) superficial relationships.

Missional living is messy but completely worthwhile. Remember, we are not inviting people onto the set of The Waltons when we invite them to our church. We are inviting them into a messy, sinful community of different kinds of people who get tired, stressed and often wind each other up. What should be different is how we respond to these things as Christians hoping to live for the glory of Christ.

We press on.

1. Make sure that your personal walk with Jesus is firing on all cylinders. Take the time each day to be with God in His Word, meditate on what the Spirit is saying to you and pray that He would fill you and keep you in step with His will for your life.

2. Remember that your family is your primary mission field. They must take priority, particularly when the children are small. You must always be true to your word and your promises. Never let them down for ‘church business’ and let them know constantly that they are supremely important to you and your life. Be present at the dinner table and ensure that they are being guided and led spiritually. Create memories, have fun and take regular time off together.

3. Don’t get cocky when things are going well. It is so easy to think that things are dependent on us as leaders and we become self-sufficient. Take heed he who thinks he stands…many a Godly man has shipwrecked His faith and ministry because of pride.

4. Love people more than you love projects. God’s people are not a means to an end for establishing ‘your’ ministry. They are the sheep of His flock and we are charged with taking care of them for the Lord. Never reduce people to strategies and methods.

5. Don’t be afraid to repent when you get it wrong. Fess up when you make mistakes. People will respect you for it. Don’t be afraid to show weakness. We are not perfect and we are not islands. We need to keep short accounts and be transparent to our people.

6. Listen to Godly advice and wisdom from those who have walked the trail before you. Not everybody is trying to slow you down and kill your vision. They may have great words of wisdom to speak into your life that may help enlarge your vision, encourage your soul and give you fresh ideas and input. Seek out men like this for they will add longevity to your ministry.

7. Trust in God even when things don’t seem to be going to plan. God works best in our lives when things are messy. Don’t get disheartened and depressed too quickly.

8. Remember that your first love is the Lord Jesus Christ and if that starts to wane then it is time to take a break and a step back from the heat of ministry.

9. Don’t be tempted to water down the gospel in order to ‘win friends’. The early days can be lonely and a bit of a slog. But, be true to the Word and the message of eternal life – for that is what will ultimately save people.

10. Have a plan but be flexible, adaptable and open to changing it at the drop of a hat. Let the context dictate the method (not the message) and remember not to try to squeeze your ideas into a cultural mould that does not fit. This will save you a lot of time and heartache.

There are three pieces of advice offered on this topic here. Here are my personal suggestions:

By Andy Constable

It can be tough working and living in a scheme at the same time. There are the ‘normal’ ministerial pressures like preparing sermons, counselling and driving the vision of the church forward. And then there are the added stresses like reaching out to the people on the scheme and discipling new converts from very difficult backgrounds. It can be even more intensive because if you never leave the place you work and minister, family and friends become one big melting pot. In the midst of the stresses, pressures and intensity it can be easy to collapse beneath the weight of it all if we aren’t careful. I’ve been learning the hard way in recent months as I’ve felt the tiredness kick in emotionally, spiritually and physically. It goes without saying that we need to guard our souls but what are some other practical things that we can do. Here are 5 things I’ve learned.

Firstly, find time to rest from work and do things that help you relax. As leaders we can often feel guilty taking time off. I know in my time working on schemes in the last 3 years that I’ve felt unjustified in taking days to rest. This was driven by a constant desire to justify my existence and ministry. I needed to repent of that and remember that I am saved by faith alone, by grace alone, in Christ alone. We are not capable of being self-sufficient and need to rely on the grace of God. We need to find a sensible rhythm of work and rest. I recently went through a period when all my nights were filled with some sort of ministry and so I decided to take a step back from some of these things. This has been great for reducing my stress levels as I am able to chill and get my head together every now and then! Remember we are no good to those around us if we are spiritually tired. So take times to rest!

Secondly, we need to learn to spread the work. Some ministers put so much pressure on themselves to be at every single thing the church puts on. They think that without them that the church will collapse. However, we need to learn to delegate responsibilities. We are in charge of driving the vision of the church forward but that doesn’t mean we have to do everything. By delegating we are able to reduce stress and also bless others by allowing them to use their gifts to serve the Lord. Do not think that you are superman and that you have to do everything! Again this drive to be involved with everything the church puts on is often driven by self-justification or pride. We need to be humble and trust the Lord.

Thirdly, its good to meet up with friends who have nothing to do with our churches. This is great because outside friends give you perspective. When you are living in the place you work it can be very easy to become introspective and forget that there is an outside world. One of the things I’ve found helpful is meeting up with friends away from church and the community because it helps you to remember that you are a person (and not just a leader) and also reminds you that there is a world around you with needs and concerns. Sometimes, just having a laugh with friends is a tonic for our souls and gives us the impetus to keep going.

Fourthly, take time to exercise. Its scientifically proven that sport of any kind helps release endorphins that make us happy! To use the old cliché, ‘healthy body, means healthy mind!’ When you are feeling like work is getting on top of you take time to work your body and don’t get lazy.

Finally, take time to read. Reading keeps our minds stimulated and fresh. Reading gives us perspective and spiritual encouragement. I find it really difficult to put this into practice so I have a reading plan for the next 6 months so that I’m working through a variety of books covering different topics. This helps me move through books systematically and will keep me focused.

If we want to be leaders in schemes for the long haul then we need to think through practically  how we are going to do this. These are some of the things that I’ve found helpful – reading, exercising, resting, hanging with friends and delegating jobs. Please pray for us as we continue to work in Niddrie and please think about how you are going to survive working long term in a very stressful environment.

The TGC websote gives their titles here.

Church planters and pastors of all ilks are united by the fact that they (normally) have strong personalities. This is doubly so for those of us who work in housing schemes and/or other similar situations. We have to lead, often make snap decisions and carry/encourage/develop/mentor a group of people seeking to live for Christ in hard places.

I have to work very hard with my Ministry Team to ensure that I don’t swamp them with the sheer force of my will. People need time to grow and develop their spiritual gifting(s) and, therefore, it is necessary to give people the space to cultivate their own ideas, make mistakes and participate in the forward momentum of our work here.

It is very easy with new and inexperienced people to be the ‘expert’ (because of my age, cultural background and life experience) and to want to continually do the job for them if they don’t perform in a way that I would. Here are some things to watch out for:

1. If people aren’t coming to you with new, fresh ministry ideas, is it because you don’t let them?

2. Does everybody around you always agree with every decision or is it debated and discussed first?

3. Are you pretty much always right? When was the last time anybody told you that you were wrong about something?

4. Do you like to manipulate people to perform according to your standards? Do you butter people up or pay them compliments you don’t mean, to get what you want?

5. Do you feel that you have to be involved in every meeting and every decision in the church?

6. When somebody else is in charge of a ministry project, do you itch to ‘get involved’ (poke your nose in)? Are you always looking for ways they could do it ‘better’?

7. You must have the final say in every meeting and decision made?

8. Do you pay particular attention to the ‘power brokers’ in the church (or organisation) in order to maintain and/or develop your power base.

9. When people disagree with you, does it becomes personal and does bitterness build up in your heart?

10. When somebody comes to you with a new idea is your immediate response, ‘Yes, but”?

11.Do we cut off, sideline and ignore those we disagree with?

I am sure there are many more. We’re all sinners and we all have to guard our hearts in leadership. I have repented of more than one of these things in my own life. The great thing about building teams is that, if you pick them right, they can keep you from most of these dangers. It is good to have ideas and dissenting voices around in order to keep you on your toes and to keep you questioning your motives and challenging heart issues. Of course, leaders must lead and decisions must be made. We cannot escape that fact. I could just as easily write an article on weak willed leaders who are swayed by every opinion and live to please others. But, in a scheme these types don’t last long. It is usually the steely eyed, determined ones that make it (with God’s grace of course) and that’s why we must watch out, for those strengths can often harm and undermine us if we are not on our guard.

This is a good little post from the Catalyst space website. Check it out here.

Vision Casting is a trendy new phrase doing the rounds at the moment, although there are those who would suggest it has been around in various guises for thousands of years. Consider this comment on one blog:

Vision casting is Satanic and is a form of sorcery. According to our Lord Jesus in Revelation 22:14,15, these people are not among those whose robes are being washed so that they have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. No, they are outside and will be among those whose names are not found in Book of Life and will be cast into the Lake of Fire when they are judged before the Great White Throne.

On the other hand, there are those such as Rick Warren who swear by it as a means of growing and developing the church.

I know my leadership style. I am a big-picture, vision-casting leader. . . . There is nothing inherently right or wrong about being a vision-casting leader. It is simply the way God wired me.” [http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/200401/200401_20_pastors.cfm]

I do think we need to be careful about using this type of  “pseudo-spiritual business guru type speak” in our churches. I have some great ideas (at least I think so) for gospel ministry in Scotland’s unreached housing schemes. It would be easy to tweak that into the following;

I have a big vision to see the gospel communicated throughout Scotland’s housing schemes. I see a future where dead places are brought to life and deep wells spring up in dry places.

Do you see what I mean? Pants. It is spiritualising a common sense idea. Any fool can do it.  However, we do not want to let uneasiness over vision casting language get in the way of encouraging visionary leadership in our churches. When I think of a church planter I think of a person who has the vision to see what others cannot. A visionary leader is somebody who:

  • Is able to see potential where others see barriers
  • Is willing to take risks
  • Is able to communicate their vision clearly and persuasively so that they attracts the followers and potential leaders
  • Is able to put a process in place that gets us from A to Z
  • is able to survive any setback and overcome any obstacle
  • Is flexible enough to change and adapt the vision on the hoof as things change on the ground
  • Is able to recruit leaders who will carry on the work long-term
  • Is able to spot the difference between what is important and what is a distraction to growth and development
  • Is able to make hard decisions and knows that consensus in the decision-making process if often impossible.
  • Somebody who is believable and trustworthy – can this person really make it happen

There is a great difference between vision casting and being a visionary leader. Ultimately, God gives the increase and we must have a complete reliance on Him, by the power of His Holy Spirit, to lead us, guide, keep taking us back to Christ and being gracious to us as we seek to serve Him. I think our problem in the UK is we have too few visionaries and risk takers.

Incarnational Living | Church Planting | Urban Youth Ministry | Missional Community| Urban Church

Proximity 2012 is a conference happening this May (25th-26th) in Salford, hosted by the Eden Network. It aims to bring these five streams above together in one place for two days of vision, conversation, inspiration and celebration. If you’re a leader or practitioner in any of these five overlapping areas of ministry Proximity could be of interest to you. Our tickets are being booked this week.

Proximity will be light-hearted and yet intelligent; fast-paced and yet reflective; boundary-pushing and yet affirming.

For more information, you can download the programme here. Or visit www.eden-network.org/proximity

by Andy Constable

One of the biggest problems in schemes across Scotland is the breakdown of male leadership. We have many young men without role models. We have lots of men living off the state to provide for their income instead of working. We have many men being bossed around by their girlfriends/partners. We have many young men hooked on street and prescription drugs. Further, while we rarely struggle to get women to look at the Bible and attend church it’s far harder to get a man along to a Sunday service. There is a real apathy among many males in schemes. I remember watching the riots last year and seeing the amount of young men who were leading the charge. They were reckless with little motivation but to smash up places. There needs to be a revival of gospel truths amongst these men.

The problem is that the outlook isn’t that much better in the church. In Darrin Patrick’s book, ‘Church Planter’ a researcher says that in 1975 the amount of 25 year olds getting married was 69% and the amount of 30 year olds was 85%. Fast forward to the year 2000 and those figures have gone down to 33% and 58% respectively. Men are extending their teenage years, getting married later and living with their parents for longer. Boys aren’t growing up into men. The phenomenon is being called ‘adult-lescence’. The prolonging of teenager years into later life. Many men play computer games and watch films more than they read their Bibles. They struggle with pornography. They struggle to communicate with their wives. They struggle to lead their wives. They are teenagers in adult form.

Watch the very interesting video below:

If we want to see the spiritual transformation of schemes in the next couple of generations, then the men in our churches need to be discipled and challenged. The men in our churches need to model what Biblical manhood looks like. The men in our churches need discipline. They need to battle with laziness and sexual immorality. They need to have vision and purpose. They need to command the respect of their wives and learn to communicate well. I think there are lots to be said about this subject and so I want to take the next couple of weeks to discuss some issues including laziness, pornography, vision and treasuring God’s Word.

But let me first and foremost lay down a challenge that Jesus gives us in Mark 8:35: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The discipleship of men doesn’t start by calling men to be all macho and manly. It doesn’t start with a call to watch football and drink beer. It starts with a call for men to deny themselves. The call is to distance ourselves as far as we can from our old lives. It means picking up our crosses and counting Christ to be the greatest treasure of our lives. The lack of biblical male leadership is fundamentally a gospel problem. More men need to be fire for their saviour. More men need to see the glory of the cross. More men need to see the problem of sin and see that there is no other place to receive forgiveness but in Christ alone. If more men were captured by the gospel then we would see laziness plummet. We would see men leading their wives. We would see men taking God’s Word seriously. We would see men with vision for the future. The gospel changes everything.

We need to pray for a revival of gospel truths amongst men in the church. And we must pray for the unconverted men on the schemes. Pray that they would think about coming to church. Pray that there would be some spiritual thirst amongst them. Pray that their eyes would be opened to the truth of the gospel and that they would see the wonder of Christ. Pray that when they come through our doors they would meet some real men.