This summer marked 34 years in ministry for me. Although I appreciate what I learned in seminary, I have learned from experience five key lessons I wish I had known from the start.
1. Silence does not mean people agree with you.
Early on when I would lead meetings, I tried very hard to sell ideas about which I was excited. I would enthusiastically share the idea, ask if there were questions, and when none came I assumed everybody agreed. I learned the hard way that silence often did not mean they agreed with my idea. Rather, they were simply reluctant to share their concerns. Only later would I find out that the idea was not a good one and lacked support. My overbearing “sell job” actually stifled feedback I needed to hear.
Although I appreciate what I learned in seminary, I have learned from experience five key lessons I wish I had known from the start.
2. Collaboration helps.
I once thought that to prove my leadership mettle, I had to originate all major ministry initiatives and ideas. If someone suggested an idea, although I may have appeared to listen to them, mentally I would often dismiss their idea if it did not jive with mine. Why? Because it didn’t originate with me. I have since learned that if I used a collaborative process to determine vision and major objectives, I get more buy-in and, in the long run, make greater progress.
3. You cannot over communicate.
Most church people do not spend the hours we do thinking about church matters. Therefore, I have learned that it is almost impossible to over communicate issues like vision, values, and core strategies. Recently we created banners, book marks, and cool graphics to communicate our church’s current theme, “Unified yet Unique.” When I asked our church this past Sunday to quote that simple phrase, few could repeat it. You always need to communicate.
4. Others mirror a leader’s emotional temperature.
Groups actually “catch” the emotional state of their leaders. I used to feel I had the right to get angry, pout, or emotionally cut myself off from others if things did not go well. I was being “authentic,” or so I thought. While not discounting the importance of authenticity, I have learned that I must bring a positive and hopeful tone to my leadership daily. When I experience something painful, and it is appropriate to share it, I do it with those closest to me in a way that actually can build trust.
5. Less is more.
I will never forget my first elders meeting. I had started a church in the Atlanta area, and we had just elected our first slate of elders. I planned the agenda for the first meeting. It was three pages long. I am not kidding. I still remember racing through the agenda at breakneck speed so we could check off all the items. The meeting was a flop. I have learned that “less is more” applies not only to agendas but to many things. People in general deal with one or a few things much better than many.
This article is adapted from Charles’ blog, www.charlesstone.com, and used by permission.