Are you choosing to be an empowered leader or an empowering one? The results for each one couldn’t be more opposite—or impacting. A leader whose focus is holding on to power will ultimately cause a ministry team to fall apart. A leader who centers on others will grow that team and ultimately develop more leaders who empower others to build the kingdom.
Teams don’t need empowered leaders but leaders who are truly empower-ing, who know that serving a church and ministry team is an honor and a privilege. They make their mark not by controlling the team but by challenging, facilitating and empowering the individuals on the team to realize their collective potential for God’s kingdom purposes.
How do you know if you’re empowered or empowering? Ask yourself some important questions and be honest with your answers: Is my leadership more about my own power or empowering the team I’m leading? When people on my team talk, am I really listening to them or am I thinking about what I’m going to say next in response? Does my team feel free to say “no” to me or is their response to me always “yes”? Do I really want and seek out people for my leadership teams who will disagree with me? Do I effectively empower the people on my team? If not, why not? If so, how can I be even better at developing leaders?
A leader who focuses on holding power instead of using it:
- monopolizes team discussions.
- fails to delegate responsibilities to the team regularly.
- has to oversee (or micromanage) every church project.
- doesn’t include the team in new hires interview process.
From Empowered to Empowering
What does it take for leaders to become empowering? The first area of change must be humility. The second is genuine interest in the lives and growth of the people you lead. The team leader is the ministry’s cultural architect and the pacesetter for the full potential of the team’s effectiveness.
Perhaps the main picture of a disconnected church (or team) in the New Testament was the Corinthian church. If the “big idea” of Paul’s first letter to Corinth could be whittled down to a declarative statement, it would probably read, and I’ll paraphrase: “Don’t compare yourselves. Don’t condemn others. Don’t condone sin. Don’t compete with each other. Don’t campaign for your own interests. Rather, commune with God and each other. Live and serve as one.”
Empowering leaders consistently study and communicate how everything and everyone in their team circle connects. Paul paints a picture of how the roles of believers and team members differ but also of how they have in common this idea of being a part of a greater body. He uses a “supporting ligaments” metaphor in Ephesians: “Instead, by speaking the truth with love, let’s grow in every way into Christ, who is the head. The whole body grows from him, as it is joined and held together by all the supporting ligaments. The body makes itself grow in that it builds itself up with love as each one does their part” (Eph. 4:15-16, CEB; italics mine).
While other body parts such as the heart and the head get much more press and attention in sermons and seminars today, Paul draws out a less familiar reference: the supporting ligaments. Physiologically, ligaments are the tough, fibrous tissues that connect our bones and create joints. In a very real sense, our ligaments hold our frame together. They literally keep us from falling apart. Paul draws upon this image to urge the believers of Ephesus to work hard at being joined, held together and built up. Paul, a true teaming leader, calls leaders to do a better job of not only working, but working together. It’s what teaming leaders do.
Robert Crosby is an author and professor of practical theology at Southeastern University. His latest book is The Teaming Church: Ministry in the Age of Collaboration (Abingdon Press).
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