Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hey, I Like Me

I’ve been learning a lot about myself recently. It comes with the territory when you are a pastor leading congregational transformation in a church made up of leaders who are successfully reversing nearly 50 years of decline. Engaging such work and ministry, I learn things that I like about myself and also things that make me cringe. Lately, if you don’t mind me saying, mostly what I am learning has been more on the side of what I like. It’s been a nice feeling. (Think Dell Griffith: “I like me.”)

As I noted in my previous post, I have been reading a most helpful book called Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times, by Peter Steinke. The book has come at an interesting time, since our leadership is dialoguing about transitions (read: changes) in worship to reach, frankly, a different demographic (read: people who are not already coming to church). As you can imagine, given a generation of the church’s wars around worship, such a dialogue runs the potential of being highly charged with emotion (read: it can easily get ugly).

And here is where Steinke’s book has helped. Given that the “field” we are entering into in this dialogue on worship is a hugely emotional one, Steinke has reminded me that my presence as a leader can detract or enhance the process. Maybe another way of saying this is: How I lead has the potential to give life to the process – or not.

Three things are really important for me to keep in mind as I engage leaders in this dialogue and help move us toward our congregation’s shared vision of bringing more people into a vital relationship with Jesus. Moving closer to the shared vision is – I believe this is true – the positive outcome that we are all hoping for. And so, the first thing for me to keep in mind is to function in my role as a leader from “principled” ground. Steinke says it this way, “A positive outcome will emerge if the leader’s presence and functioning are centered in principle.” The question I need to be asking myself regularly is this: Am I making choices based on principle or am I choosing based on expediency?

The second thing is to manage myself well in the midst of a “field” that is charged with intensity and the expressions of strong opinions. How I respond to the anxiety directly impacts the nature of the outcome. That doesn’t mean that everything is dependent on me, but it does mean that I can foster a spirit of creativity in others or shut that down real quickly, leaving a field characterized by chaos.

The third thing for me to keep in mind is about making sure I am taking a thoughtful position in the matter. Or maybe another way to put it is to take a stand. Not that I have a corner on the market for what God is doing, but taking a stand does allow for us all to have a place to start, a point of orientation for dialogue. Ultimately, the stand we take on any number of things in the church is best done looking into an eternal mission and a clear vision. The decisions we make are best made when they are a reflection of our best thinking about accomplishing the vision and mission of Jesus.

What I am learning about myself in leading out in this process of transitioning worship is that my instincts have been good. And I’ll have to admit, that’s been a nice thing to learn.