3 Guidelines for More Open-Handed Leadership in Your Ministry

You don’t have to start and master all this at once, but continue to take gradual steps. (Photo by Kylie Haulk on Unsplash)

The longer you lead in any one organization, the more difficult it is to let go.

That's natural.

You've invested more, so there is more to protect. Or at least be tempted to protect.

It's not unlike the difference between a young adult who is 25 and a middle-aged adult who is 55.

If you are a young adult who is just moving out of your parent's place for the first time with a modest bank account and all you own in the back of an SUV, you are probably more willing to risk big because there's not as much to lose.

If you are a middle-aged adult with decades of life invested, married with three kids, with a mortgage and with your life savings set aside, you're still willing to risk, but you think about things differently. You handle your money differently ... you are more likely to hold onto it, and for good reasons.

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In leadership, however, it's essential to be more open-handed with your authority, influence and what you have built.

Partially because it doesn't really "belong" to you, but ultimately because the future of your church matters more than control and comfort.

Continue to take risks and give away as much authority as possible if you want your church to remain healthy and grow.

If you hold on to all the influence, your church will get stuck. Don't misunderstand; it does matter who you hand off to, along with when and how, so keep developing leaders you trust and believe in.

It may seem like I'm writing only to leaders over 40 or over 50.

I'm not. This is for leaders of every age.

The sooner your whole team embraces this idea, the faster it gets in your culture.

If you are young you may be tempted to think, I don't have much influence to give away.

Sure you do.

There's an army of incredible volunteers just waiting for you to empower them.

Here are three guidelines to follow:

  1. Stop protecting. Protecting comes naturally to good leaders.

—Good shepherds protect their flocks.

—Good flight attendants protect their passengers.

—Good parents protect their kids.

But these are examples of protection from harm, not protection from growth.

As a leader, it's important not to allow this nature to spill over into the arenas of responsibility, authority, decision-making and influence.

I'm not suggesting you give away the farm—but do open your hand.

There are things that only you can do. Of course, keep them and do them.

In leadership, however, we tend to protect out of insecurity and fear, and we give from strength and courage.

Churches always benefit from the latter of the two.

What are you holding on to that you may need to hand off to someone else?

It's not always easy to hand someone the keys. They might wreck the car, right?

But someone gave you the keys, or you could never start driving. We have to keep passing things along.

The hand-off is not always fast—and each age group defines speed differently.

Young leaders tend to think it's moving too slow. I did. And seasoned leaders often think it's moving very fast. That, too, is natural.

It's better to do it right for your church and your culture than "fast." The most important thing you can do is talk about it in open and honest conversations.

  1. Start including. All authority is transferred. No one holds the ultimate true power and authority except God.

He transferred it to His Son, and Jesus transferred it to His disciples.

God transfers authority to the Son:

"Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may also glorify you. As You have given Him authority over all flesh, He will give eternal life to all whom You have given Him" (John 17:1-2).

Jesus transfers that authority to the disciples:

"Then He called His twelve disciples together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases. And He sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick" (Luke 9:1-2).

Jesus transfers authority to the body of believers:

"Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age'" (Matt. 28:18-20).

As a leader you also transfer authority.

And these scriptures represent the foundational biblical model for this idea. (There are many more scriptures that add support to this way of thinking about leadership authority.)

Partially because it doesn't really "belong" to you, but ultimately because the future of your church matters more than control and comfort.

Continue to take risks and give away as much authority as possible if you want your church to remain healthy and grow.

The following are very practical ways to express a more "open-handed" leadership that involves more people and helps to raise up new leaders:

Think Inclusive

Whenever possible, invite more potential leaders into the process of ministry and leadership development, rather than fewer.

Include other leaders at the table.

Think movement for the many, not club for the few.

Share Ideas

Be quick to pass on great ideas, helpful articles and books, tricks of the trade, insights, new trends and insider info.

The more you give away, (lift the lids of your leaders) the more you raise your own leadership lid and the potential of your church.

Give Information

Communication is key. All churches struggle with communication to a degree, but we can't give up and resign to "it's just part of the territory."

Dig in and communicate clearly, quickly and concisely. Do your best to keep your team in the know.

Grant Responsibility

What can you hand off to other leaders?

They might not do it as well as you, but you have other big-picture things to do.

Focus any re-gained time from delegated responsibilities to thinking about the future, praying, developing leaders, solving problems and innovation.

Note, innovation is not about merely making things different; it's about making them better.

Transfer Decision-Making

Hand in hand with giving responsibility to others, transfer as much decision-making as reasonable and appropriate.

It's important to train your leaders first and remain diligent in transferring the culture that makes your church unique.

  1. Keep investing. Once you hand off responsibility, don't stop investing and developing the leaders you empower.

Remember, some of your leaders are still new and need your wisdom and experience. They are better with you, just like you are better with them.

You don't have to start and master all this at once, but continue to take steps to more "open-handed" leadership.

Dan Reiland is the executive pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as executive pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as vice president of leadership and church development at INJOY.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

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