Speak Like a Leader

Last week, I shared three ideas with our staff on leadership in the church.  Over the next few days, I thought I’d share them on here as well.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

Speak Like a Leader

Often, as leaders in the church, we reach deep into our toolboxes to help motivate people to give their time, energy, prayer, and talents to ministry.  Without a paycheck, as we discussed in previous posts, we don’t have as easy leverage as employers have with employees.

One of the things we can lean into is a relational pull.  We genuinely love the people in our ministries, and we recruit people to serve sometimes by getting them to engage with us and like us, and pull them in.  At a base level, it’s great to serve with people you like.  It makes for stronger teams.

But, if that is our primary draw, we set people up for failure.  When they come in to serve, thinking that it’s a stepping stone to a deep relationship with this leader, we let them down.  Anyone with a team of five or more volunteers will quickly find out they can’t be best friends with everyone on their team.  The person agreed to serve as a sound tech, a small group leader, a 4th grade teacher, a greeter primarily to get closer to us and build a deep friendship.  We really want them to serve, and when we need someone else, we have to move on to the next person, recruiting them in the same way.  This leaves the first person disappointed and disallusioned with us.

Or, maybe you don’t have this issue, at least not at this level.  But many of us as pastor’s foster this idea by how we speak to team members.  When we soften our conversations with them by using buddy language, we can inadvertently lead them to the same conclusion as above.  By no means am I advocating being impersonal, but be aware of how you speak to your volunteers.  If you find yourself making a mess everytime you have to correct or coach a volunteer, some of it may be the miscues in your language.

If we recruit people to a role that is gift based, with a clear set of values for service, then when the relationship grows at any level, it based on mutual love and respect and is a bonus.  The role is the foundation.  When we shift that to the relationship being the foundation; then correction, coaching, or changes cause emotional loss in our volunteers.  If we use language that confuses our team on where they stand, it subtly makes things worse.

So, learn to speak like a leader.  Be a loving, caring, Jesus centered leader.  But speak like a leader.  Be their friend.  But speak from the seat of a leader.  Don’t manipulate your team by acting like their buddy when you aren’t going to actually be their buddy.

A good litmus test is this:  if they leave your ministry, will you change your schedule to continue to spend as much time with them as you do now?  If not, then you are primarily their leader.  Act, speak, communicate like their leader.  It is a more honest way of treating them than setting them up for emotional let down.

What do you think?  How have you done this well?  Where have you made these mistakes?  I’d love to hear.