Wednesday, April 05, 2023

Leadership and the Ministry of Absence

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Monroe County Community College

At Redeemer we have many who serve in areas of ministry. I must trust them with this and  release them to it, without trying to control them. A some point I must not do the work for them. To help the laborers without invitation is to frustrate them. They will feel micromanaged, and grow resentful. And, it is often foolish to think I can do the work for them.

I must keep my hands off areas of ministry where I am not qualified. To assist where I am incompetent destroys trust. Unskilled pastoral assistance breeds mediocrity.

All this requires setting aside of "self" and ego. While the motivation to be of assistance can be pure, it can also be a sign of control. When this is the case, helping is wrong. 

Susan Cain, in her book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, tells the story of an introverted wing commander in the U.S. Air Force. He was in command of thousands of people, was a classically introverted person, and a great leader. Cain writes:

"He was also widely admired; when he spoke, everyone listened. This was not necessarily remarkable— if you’re at the top of the military hierarchy, people are supposed to listen to you. But in the case of this commander, people respected not just his formal authority, but also the way he led: by supporting his employees’ efforts to take the initiative. He gave subordinates input into key decisions, implementing the ideas that made sense, while making it clear that he had the final authority. He wasn’t concerned with getting credit or even with being in charge; he simply assigned work to those who could perform it best. This meant delegating some of his most interesting, meaningful, and important tasks— work that other leaders would have kept for themselves." (Cain, 55-56)

Pastoral leaders need to know when to help, and when not to help; to know when to be with others, when to be without others. In effective leadership there is a ministry of presence, and a ministry of absence.

Pastoral leaders must allow more qualified people to lead areas of ministry, and get out of their way.

Pastoral leaders must get over themselves, and allow others to come forth and shine.

To lead is not always to help; indeed, there are times when helping subverts leadership.