Preachers, do you play well with others?
In my experience, we preachers can sometimes be difficult, inflexible, demanding, prideful, territorial, inaccessible, and really hard to play with.
Are you hard to play with?
“Do people seem to enjoy working with me?”
“Do people seem to enjoy being around me?”
“Does my staff show a desire to hang out with me outside of the office?”
“Do other preachers ask me out to lunch, just to get to know me better?”
“Does my staff make it obvious that they feel that I value them?”
“Is there a lot of turnover on my staff?”
“Do I take myself out to lunch on ‘Bosses Appreciation Day’?”
“Does my dog walk out of the room when I walk in?”
I’m definitely not perfect (just ask my dogs), but let me share a few things I do to be intentional about being easier to “play” with.
I surround myself with people who will tell me the truth.
Recently I read a blog by an influential Christian leader full of pontifications that I found both arrogant and ignorant. As I choked my way through the post I found myself wondering if that guy has anyone in his life who tells him the truth. Anyone who will say to him, “Have you really thought that through?” or “Do not publish this because you have not thought this through!” I know he has fans but does he have true friends who love him enough to tell him the truth and whom he loves enough to listen.
We preachers tend to receive a lot of public praise, which is such a blessing. We often receive a lot of private criticism, which doesn’t feel like such a blessing. The problem I find is that often both the praise and criticism of which I’m writing comes from people who don’t really know us. I listen to both the praise or criticism, process it, and take or leave it based on the source (if not anonymous), the facts, and the validity of the person’s observation.
That being said, there are people who know me–and their opinions, concerns, praise, etc., resonate more than others. I have been very intentional about surrounding myself with staff, mentors, leaders, and disciplers who know me and love me enough to tell me the truth. I want to be a good, humble, and godly man, preacher, father, friend, leader, father, husband, person, one who plays well with others so I need people in my life who will tell me the truth–even if that truth hurts.
I share the “pulpit.”
SermonCentral.com recently published an article entitled, “4 Reasons Why You Should Share the Pulpit” by Kevin Larson. In the article, Kevin points to the importance of sharing and equipping as two of the reasons we preachers should let other people preach. I completely agree and have been very intentional about sharing the “pulpit”(and I keep writing “pulpit” because we don’t have a pulpit, but I think you get my point).
Since coming to Journey Christian Church I’ve been preaching that all leaders need to reproduce themselves. We need to be intentional about raising up other leaders. With this in mind, I’ve surrounded myself with at least 3 guys who can preach on any given Sunday. In any given 8-week series I will only preach about 5 times. We have 4 services on Sundays, so sharing the also has practical physical benefits but I do it mainly because it’s in the best interest of the church for different voices to be heard, for me to have the opportunity to listen to sermons, and for this (or any) church to not become a “one-man-show.”
I Trust People.
You don’t have to earn my trust; you have it. You can lose it, but only after a lot of effort. I’ve been very intentional about cultivating an atmosphere on my team where we trust God, we trust each other, and we trust the people we’re serving.
I trust my team. I trust their ideas. I am not the smartest guy in any room I inhabit unless I’m in the room all by myself and even then, it’s up for debate. I’m a visionary leader with a lot of ideas, but I’ve learned that it’s one thing to have an idea and another thing altogether to enact an idea. I’ve surrounded myself with people I respect and trust and I expect them to participate actively and verbally as we humbly serve Christ’s Church together. My team is so talented and wise and I love how they think. With my team I have an open door policy partnered with an open ear policy. I want my key leaders to come to the “table” (and I’m writing “table” because I don’t have a table in my office, but I think you get my point) with original ideas that will make what we’re trying to do for God as good as it can be and help us to reach as many people as possible.
Leaders who aren’t trustworthy don’t trust people (see previous post: The Guilty Leader) so they micromanage people because they think that’s the only way to ensure the work gets done. I’ve learned that people who feel trusted don’t need to be micro managed because they are even more committed to being trustworthy and getting the job done. I’ve also learned that it’s no fun to “play” (and I’m writing “play” because it sounds more clever than interact, work with, or be around, but I trust you get my point) with a leader who doesn’t trust his team.
I remember that we’re all broken.
I’m writing a book on this subject so I won’t rewrite it here. Just let me say that this leader has learned that we’re all broken and in need of grace. I’m a sinner saved by grace serving other sinners saved by the same wonder. It’s easier to play well with others when we realize that we’re all in the same sandbox. None of us are perfect. We all stand in need of grace, but sometimes we preachers play along with the stereotype that we have “it all together” and–in doing so–end up playing a role that alienates us from our staff and congregation and vice versa.
We’re alienated from our staff and congregation when we fail to admit our failures, thus propagating the illusion that we have none. This is so easily done–especially when we are too concerned about job security. Face it, how many preachers would lose their jobs next week if they confessed on Sunday that they are struggling with a temptation to sin of a sexual nature. Not giving in to said temptation, but simply struggling with said temptation. I believe some congregations would immediately surround their preacher to lay hands of support on him, but I believe others would surround their preacher so they could get their hands on him and throw him out of the pulpit as quickly as possible.
So, we preachers play the “I’m Holier Than Thou” game and–in so doing–become more alienated from others, more isolated from others, and more insulated from others, which all combines to make us inaccessible and really hard to play with.
Church members, preachers aren’t perfect. So, love them and forgive them.
Dear Staff, I’m not perfect. But honestly, they already know this. The men from my staff and I meet now every two weeks for accountability. During this time we are learning to pray for each other, invest in each other, trust each other, help each other, and how we can better “play with each other” in this “sandbox” we call ministry in the local church.
Preachers, we aren’t perfect. So let’s stop acting like we are and get real and get off of our high horses and get connected with other Christians–especially our staff and other preachers.
So there. Those are my random thoughts on how we can better play well with others and avoid buying our own lunch on Bosses Appreciation Day (and I’m writing “buying our own lunch on Bosses Appreciation Day”….oh, enough already….you get my point).