Thursday, October 20, 2016

Leadership Maintenance


Christian Challenge is hosting its first Servant’s Heart Leadership Development meeting this Saturday. It’s something I’m really looking forward to. It’s not a staff meeting. It’s not a planning meeting. It’s not a business meeting. It’s a time of worship, vision casting, and prayer for our church family (and friends). As I've shared internally, I urge all ministry team leaders to attend. I encourage all ministry team members to attend. And I welcome all church members to attend - and visitors too! :)

As I shared on a recent Sunday morning, we are all leaders. We aren’t all leaders in exactly the same way - our roles and responsibilities in life are different - but we all have people in our lives that are watching us. We all have a degree of influence among our friends and family. So our choice as believers isn’t so much whether we will be a leader or not. The real question is whether we’ll be good leaders or bad leaders. The difference between the two often comes down to the preparation, to the work we’re willing to put into it.

We understand that our vehicles require regular preventative maintenance. We know that if we don’t change our oil, we’re putting the engine in danger. We understand that rotating our tires can extend their life. We may not like it, and it may happen at the most inopportune times, but we expect that from time to time we’ll have to repair or replace worn out parts.

But when it comes to our spiritual lives and witness, sometimes we expect ourselves (and everyone else who serves in a leadership capacity) to continue operating at a high level with zero leadership maintenance. But that’s not how it works. If we didn’t have to work at it, Paul wouldn’t have told Timothy to be ready in season and out (2 Tim 4:2). Leadership requires ongoing maintenance!

We all need some preventative maintenance. I’m not writing this as the accomplished master who has it all figured out - I am guilty of this too. I fill my calendar with so many “good” things that sometimes they crowd out the “best” things. We think we’re doing OK, so we postpone the maintenance for a more convenient time. But unless we make it a priority, that more convenient time will never come. As a result, we become fatigued, and sometimes burnt out. (Been there, got the t-shirt!) We may continue to serve and others may not even know that we’re struggling, but we lose the joy and motivation that we once had.

I’m not necessarily talking about walking through difficult times. We will all face difficult seasons, and sometimes they come no matter how prepared we think we are. But not everything we go through is a trial beyond our control. Sometimes we put ourselves into difficult seasons by neglecting the preventative maintenance that God intended for us to follow.

So what does that preventative maintenance look like for leaders?

1 - STAY CONNECTED TO THE ULTIMATE LEADER.

If your daily schedule is such that you don’t feel like you can set aside a quiet time with God, that should be a red flag to you. As the old saying goes, if you’re too busy to have time with God, you’re too busy! :)

Back in January, I started a Facebook group for anyone who wanted to commit to daily Bible reading with me. We’ve been working through several short plans, and anyone is invited to join us at any time - just go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/ReadingBibleWithBroNathan/ to sign up. And if you’ve been through our Disciple’s Heart class, you’ll remember the “Gems for Jesus” daily devotional journal that my father designed. You don’t have to use a devotional book or follow a Bible reading plan to spend time with God, but these are both great tools that can help you get on track and stay on track. So if you’re struggling in this area, consider joining us on Facebook. If you’d like a copy of the Gems devotional notebook, contact our office.

We have to work at keeping our priorities in line, because just because we’re busy doesn’t mean our busy-ness is healthy. As believers, we are all called to serve. But sometimes our service can become an idol, or at least an impediment to our relationship with God. We can get so caught up in the “what” of ministry that we completely lose sight of the “why.”

When we become disconnected, we can also become resentful. In the story of Martha and Mary, Martha was busy serving. She was doing a good thing, but she let it consume her. Instead of enjoying her service and seeing it as an act of worship to God, Martha resented her sister Mary for not helping her. When we start to resent others in that way, it’s almost always an indication that something is wrong in OUR lives, not THEIR lives.

2 - GET INPUT FROM OTHERS.

One of the dangers of leadership (and life in general) is that we can become nearsighted. We get so involved with whatever situation is right in front of us that it can become hard to see the bigger picture. Have you ever heard the phrase “Can’t see the forest for the trees?” Sometimes we need a little help to see the bigger picture. That might take the form of asking a mentor for advice, reading a book from someone you respect, listening to a podcast, or maybe attending a conference. Or sometimes we just need to “phone a friend!”

For example, as a parent, sometimes it helps to ask other parents how they would handle a situation. They’ve probably been in your position before. They’re familiar with the principles involved… but because they are outside of your family, they can offer an outsider’s perspective. In the business world, sometimes a business owner will bring in an outside consultant to help them streamline their business processes and suggest things that the in-house team might not have considered. A friend of mine just started a Facebook group for “moms of multiples” to talk to each other, help each other, encourage each other - because mothers of twins, triplets, quadruplets, etc, face special challenges that only they can understand. And they can often be each other’s best resource! Even if it’s just letting a stressed, frazzled, worn-out mother know somebody else understands!

As a pastor, I appreciate the wisdom that other pastors share. I’m part of a weekly gathering of pastors from different denominations but with a common love for Jesus. Their wisdom is invaluable to me! I’ve also taken some of our leadership team to conferences like the Right Now Conference that takes place in Dallas every November. I also love to listen to leadership podcasts, like those from Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel. I can’t overstate the importance of getting input from others as a way of keeping you in tune and providing ongoing maintenance to your leadership potential.

3 - GIVE ENCOURAGEMENT TO OTHERS.

Pure encouragement is a rare commodity these days. When someone approaches us with a compliment, we often immediately wonder what they’re looking for in return. Consider the parent who looks with suspicion on the smiling child who tells them how smart, or nice, or pretty they are. :) Pure encouragement is given with no strings attached and no attempt at manipulation. We’re not trying to close the sale, curry favor, or make up for a previous offense.

For maximum effectiveness, the encouragement needs to be more than a simple compliment. Don’t misunderstand me, compliments do have their place and should definitely flow more freely from us than criticisms. But encouragement goes deeper than a compliment. If it’s something you could say with equal conviction to anyone, even a perfect stranger, it’s probably not something that will have much of an impact on the person you’re trying to encourage.

“You look nice today” is a compliment, but it won’t mean near as much as saying “You handled XXX situation very well.” A single substantial word of encouragement, something that doesn’t ring hollow or feel manipulative to the person receiving it, can carry that person for a very long time. It’s a little bit of “preventative maintenance” for them. So look for opportunities to give sincere, meaningful encouragement to others. It will make the that person’s day. But it’s also a tune-up for you, getting you in the positive habit of changing your focus and perspective. Encouraging others requires that you take your eyes off of yourself and focus on the positive things in others.

My prayer is that Saturday’s Servant’s Heart Leadership Development meeting will touch on each of these areas for everyone who attends and will provide much needed encouragement and leadership maintenance! If you’re in central Louisiana and would like to join us Saturday at 9:00 AM, we’d love to have you. While my focus is on the leadership team of Christian Challenge, I welcome anyone to attend if you’re interested in doing a little leadership maintenance! But remember this, no matter where you are, no matter how faithful or neglectful you’ve been with your own spiritual preventative maintenance, we can all benefit from keeping our focus on God, receiving input from others, and training ourselves to see others through God’s eyes.
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