I just read an interesting blog post by a guy named Mark Behl http://tinyurl.com/oqt649e. He explains that if we are not good at managing expectations we better be good at managing emotions. This thought got me to thinking about all of the churches I am working with that don’t have a pastor, and all of the pastors I know who don’t have a church. I don’t particularly like playing “match maker” because so often what I think is a great fit doesn’t work out. There are so many reasons things can go bad between a pastor and a church. But, I am beginning to realize that difference in expectations is one of the most critical causes for bad matches. Here are some examples:
I will see a pastor with strong leadership abilities go into a church that doesn’t expect their pastor to lead. They begin to resent the pastor when he makes decisions without “going through the proper channels”.
Or I will see a Youth Pastor who spends most of his energy out in the community trying to reach unchurched teenagers, while his church is frustrated that he isn’t spending enough time with the kids who are already in the church.
I know pastors who put a lot of emphasis on teaching the Word, delivering long well thought out sermons each week, while their people get frustrated that the service always “goes over time” each Sunday.
There are children’s pastors who spend their time developing a leadership team to care for children, while other people in the church can’t understand why that pastor is never down on the floor playing with the children.
I could go on and on. The thing all of these situations have in common is conflicting expectations. And so, a lot of emotional energy is spent dealing with the conflict. Behl is right that if you don’t learn to manage expectations you better be good at managing emotions.
I wish more pastors and more churches knew how to communicate with each other clearly and honestly before entering into a bad marriage with each other. Maybe we need pre-pastoral counseling. A professional counselor could meet with the pastor and church leader before they come together to make sure they are all clear on expectations, leadership styles, time management, etc. just like a pre-marriage counselor does. Maybe then we wouldn’t have so many premature “divorces” between pastors and churches.
There is no end to the material being written about leadership these days. One that I am looking forward to reading is The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick. Brad is in the unique position of being able to rub shoulders with the best and brightest Christian leaders in the world today through his work with The Catalyst Conference. Brad has become a great leader in the process. After I read the book, I’ll blog some of his principles.
But, for now I just want to state one of the most important leadership principles I know. I have the privilege of working around a lot of young adults and second chair leaders who want to be first chair leaders. Observing these potential leaders, I have decided on what I feel is a key beginning point for being a leader. Are you ready? Here it is: Show up… On time.
Let me explain. In a world where we are all connected to the hilt with electronic devices, there is no excuse for missing a meeting, or showing up late any more. Let me break this down into two parts.
SHOW UP. This is simple. If you say you will be somewhere, be there. I find a lot of young adults have a fluid sense of priorities with meetings. They will set a meeting, and then allow almost any reason get in the way of keeping that commitment. A commitment is a commitment. Here is why this is important: Leadership is based on trust. Trust is based on reliability. If you are reliable, I will begin to trust you. If you are not reliable I cannot trust you. If I can’t trust you, I won’t let you lead me. You want to be my leader – be reliable!
Occasionally we all need to cancel a meeting. That’s life. But if you have a reputation of blowing off meetings on a regular basis, don’t expect forgiveness over and over again. Expect a reputation for being unreliable instead.
BE ON TIME. My time is important to me. If I give you space on my calendar, I am choosing to give you priority over a bunch of other stuff I could be doing. Right now I am waiting on someone who wanted to meet with me to get my help. He is now 15 minutes late. “No big deal” you say. It is to me. What this says to me is that this person doesn’t respect my time. And this person wants my help in finding a job? So what am I supposed to say to the potential employer who calls for a reference on this person?
Showing up late to a meeting involving multiple people is in some ways even worse. By being late you are saying you don’t respect any of those people’s time. Do you want them to see you as a leader? But you don’t respect them. Fat chance!
This person is now 28 minutes late. He is only cheating himself at this point. I’ve got another meeting in 32 minutes. At least I used this wasted time to write a blog post.
I’m slowly working through Will Mancini’s book “Church Unique”. I say “slowly” because he makes me stop and think a lot. Will spends a lot of time talking about vision clarity. In one place he talks about “Clarity Gaps”. He mentions four of these:
1. The gap between the leader’s perception and reality. Ouch! That one hurts already. Is he saying that we as leaders aren’t always in touch with reality? Here are a couple of questions he suggests:” Do you know the morale level of your congregation?” “Do you know how your leadership team feels today?”
2. The gap between what the leader is thinking and saying. He asks, “What really is the most important thing you need to say to your people?” I have a bad habit of asking people that I coach to give me their vision in as few words as possible. I usually stop them about five minutes into the answer. By then I am confused by all of their words.
3. The gap between the leader’s words and how the followers receive those words. We’ve all got filters. People hear what we say through their unique filters. So many times what we say and what they hear are two very different things. Mancini asks “How will their hearts receive your words and metaphors?” And “How many ways will they need to hear your ideas?”
4. The gap between the followers’ understanding and the words they use to communicate their understanding. Mancini admits that this one is beyond the leader’s ability to control. But the leader needs to monitor what the people are saying, looking for inaccuracies and misconceptions.
Each of these gaps is commonly found in churches (and any organization for that matter). It is the leader’s responsibility to communicate as clearly as possible, as often as possible and to listen for the feedback from the people.