Tuesday, February 28, 2012

You Can't Lead from Behind Your Desk

In 1997 I spent almost an entire year creating and writing documents that led to the launch of Pace Community Church in 1998.  I wrote our mission statement, vision statement, core values statement, and faith statement.  I wrote our strategy, and developed systems.  I wrote a document about church structure and government.  It was a good plan.

However, none of those things directly resulted in one person joining our launch team, our church, or showing up for any of our services.  Not one person has ever arrived at PCC with a print-out from our web site claiming that our mission statement is what drew them in.

There’s an important lesson here: LEADERSHIP INVOLVES PEOPLE, NOT JUST PAPER.

A pastor’s comfort zone is his study.  In there he can get lost in his books, reading, praying, studying, discovering new insights, preparing sermons, and connected to blogs.  He can lose touch with people too.  As a church planter I quickly discovered that I could not spend all week in my study.  I had to get my Sunday message prepared in one day (two at the most) and then spend the rest of the week making phone calls and actually meeting people so that someone would show up to hear my sermons. I mean, what good is it to spend all week in the study preparing the best sermon I can prepare if only thirteen people show up to hear it?  Consequently, I spent a more time in the community or among people in our flock than anywhere else.

You cannot make disciples via Facebook.  Sure, you can find out what vampire you are most like, or join the pirate army, or maybe even discuss some obscure Old Testament passage in the 100-Million-Christians-Strong-Study-Group.  You can quote authors and promote doctrine.  You can post cute sayings about Jesus that sound like they that came right out of a Hallmark gift card.  And you can have a friends list a mile long.  But for all the media that Facebook offers, life doesn’t happen there.  Facebook may give us a window into life, but it’s not real life.

You can’t develop other leaders on twitter either.  You can put out an All Points Bulletin for Help Wanted online or in the church bulletin, and if you’re lucky someone might respond.  But frequent calls for help like this are a sign that there isn’t a culture of real relationships.  If you need help, new volunteers, new leaders, new teachers, or new musicians, you have to walk up to people, tap them on the shoulder and personally ask.

When volunteers show up to do their work at church, they should be thanked and appreciated.  That means pushing away from your desk and paperwork and spreadsheets, and getting out there where they are, walking the hallway, and spending some face time with them.  It's how a leader says thank-you to real people.

If we’re going to make a difference, it’s going to involve conversations; the face-to-face kind.  For me it’s better to spend less time on status updates and more time on relationship updates.  A cup of coffee with the right person is often more effective that an e-mail blast sent to hundreds of the wrong people.

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