Church leaders often have the responsibility of achieving a lot with a little. Whether it be a little bit of time or a small staff, one way you can positively affect change as a church organization is to cultivate a healthy culture of leadership. After all, a healthy church leader will cultivate a healthy church. Here are some simple tips to build a culture of leadership for your church:
1. Keep your spiritual relationship your #1 priority
When you’re in alignment with God and keeping close to His word, you’ll be able to lead out of God’s strength and not your own. Too often we see leaders, experience burnout and frustration because they are trying to carry everything on their shoulders.
Worry and anxiety are other by products of being disconnected from God. This can be avoided by praying more, reading scripture, and drawing near to God. It may sound simple and potentially a little trite, but it’s incredibly true and important. You may know these to be good habits, but aren’t practicing them which can lead to a downward spiral to unhealthy leadership. These were the exact healthy habits that Jesus himself lived out. His leadership flowed from a closeness and oneness with the Father through prayer and knowing God intimately.
“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33 (NASB)
2. Establish accountability and have a mentor
Ask a trusted peer to meet with you regularly so you have a safe place to talk through issues, concerns, and even celebrate what’s going on in your life. This trusted person will be able to point out character flaws, share in your struggles, and support you when times are tough. Not everyone can be this person for you, so be selective and talk through your specific expectations of the relationship. Give them permission to speak openly and candidly with you. The accountability part won’t work if they don’t feel like you will receive the words or advice well. Make all of your expectations of this intentional time extremely clear and make sure they understand and agree. This relationship will be invaluable to your personal well-being and leadership.
3. Trust your team and don’t micromanage
Distrust in your team, whether it be your staff team or high-capacity volunteers, can produce an extremely toxic working environment. It will stop momentum, resist change, create silos, and prevent growth personally and organizationally. Trust in your team will directly affect team unity, productivity, and communication. In some cases, team members will likely withhold opinions in large meetings, but then privately share discontentment and/or frustrations. This will bleed over into their volunteer teams and attendees will be able to sense discourse. If you find yourself consistently second-guessing your team leaders, holding private meetings about other team members, or being frustrated with results, pause to take a step back and ask yourself whether or not you truly trust individuals on your team. Positive and negative leadership habits will come from the top down.
A great resource to read as a leader to ensure you are leading by example and encouraging leadership within your team is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni.
4. Take consistent time to rest and give your team time to rest
Rest is vital for mental, emotional, and physical health. Look at your calendar and schedule the time. It can be in the middle of the day where you get up and walk outside for 15 minutes or shutting down your phone and laptop when you get home from the office. Even more important is discovering what recharges you. For some, energy recharges when it’s outside in nature, playing sports, exercise, reading a novel, going to the beach. Whatever it is, plan it and take it. You cannot think clearly or pour out to others properly when you yourself are drained. If you have a family, ensure you are including them in your rest. Your spouse and children are just as much a part of church leadership as you are. They are experiencing the side effects of long hours and the stresses that come with leading in the church. Give them quality time and treat them like you would treat yourself.
A good leader also recognizes when their team members or volunteers need rest. Plan recovery days after major holidays, events, or big weekends. Take it a step further and coordinate vacation times throughout the entire year for each team member. Make it happen for them when they themselves may not be able to see the need.
5. Prioritize personal and team development
Leaders are learners. Read books, listen to podcasts, plan retreats and team activities, host book discussions with your team, attend conferences, collaborate with other leaders. All of these habits will continue to grow your knowledge and skills. Don’t expect your church or team members to grow if you yourself aren’t growing. Personal and team development will help you all be sharper and see potential problem areas throughout the church. Your scope will be wider and therefore you will be able to see bigger and from a higher perspective.
Your responsibility as church leaders each day is great. The work you do is purposeful and serves the Great Commission. Consistently taking care of yourself and your team as leaders of the church can ensure a healthy culture for both the staff and your attendees. And the more people you reach, the more people you can teach about Jesus.