This is not a good story, and I apologize in advance.
In between my sophomore and junior years in college, I worked the call-in desk for the Seaboard Railroad ticket office in Birmingham. Located downtown on 20th Street South, this was an attractive office with pleasant people.
The year was 1960 and during the heyday of Jim Crow laws. The police commissioner in the city was named Bull Connor, a man destined to make headlines a couple of years later when he turned the fire hoses on blacks (and maybe a few whites; I’m not sure) protesting the harsh laws and customs in our city.
This might be nerdy, but I’m going to tell you anyway. When I was a kid, sometime in elementary school, I was given a huge paint-by-numbers kit, and I loved it. I told you it’s nerdy. It was big. My memory says the picture was about two feet by three feet.
That’s a lot of paint by numbers. The picture was of the Last Supper, and it contained intricate detail.
I painted for weeks and then quit. Picked it up and painted months later. It took about a year to finish.
Here’s what I noticed: I enjoyed painting by numbers, but as I gained confidence, I began to mix the colors and paint my own colors and even went outside the lines. It was no da Vinci masterpiece, but it was pretty cool. I’m not sure what brought that to mind lately, but as I think about leadership, it rings true.
As a pastor, you have a lot of responsibilities. When your task list grows, it’s easy to overlook the need to invest in your staff. However, one of the most important parts of leadership development is helping others understand their gifts.
At some point, most of us worked for or learned from a leader who understood this responsibility. And we wouldn’t be where we are today without them. Even if we didn’t have that help, we all understand the value of it and why we should invest in our people this way.
So for all you leaders, here are three ideas for helping the people you lead develop their gifts:
Some of you may find this surprising, but I’m an introvert. I first made the confession in this blog post back in 2012.
Now, just because I’m an introvert, that doesn’t mean I don’t like connecting with people. I absolutely love it. However, I have to train myself to balance the opportunity to connect with others with the discipline of taking time to recharge.
While serving in ministry through the years, I’ve had to train myself to overcome some of my tendencies and preferences as an introvert for the sake of making others feel comfortable and welcome. Sometimes it was draining, but I felt that it was essential for my ministry to succeed.
Maybe fire isn’t the right word. But can you say no to someone in a way that suggests your church might not be the right church for them? How do you balance loving and caring for a person and not allowing him or her to leverage their personal wants and maybe even their own agenda?
I’ve been reading a great book titled The Orange Code: How ING Direct Succeeded by Being a Rebel With a Cause, by Arkadi Kuhlmann and Bruce Philp. I’ve been reading it slowly and thinking my way through it for a long time now. The chapter on staffing (“The Dirty Dozen”) is worth the book. There is another great chapter titled “You Say You Want a Revolution?” that speaks to the topic of this article.
I recall a time as a pastor when my emotional skin got so thin that I took offense at just about anything anyone said. I knew it was not good, but it was like I could not stop myself.
I liken that period to having “emotional rug burn.” Rug burn is a painful condition where friction of some sort has rubbed your skin so thin that it becomes highly sensitive to heat or touch. You can get rug burn innocently enough, like when roughhousing with your children on the floor. But when one has rug burn, the hypersensitivity it creates makes things that normally would pass unnoticed become a painful focus of our attention.