Is it time to slow down?
I’ve been ruminating on the correct pace for our church eldership team recently, and thought it might be good to float some ideas. I should probably say up front that I am not really interested in much of the Christian discussion about “Leadership” that does the rounds (even though I have probably benefitted from elements of the superfluity of material available on the subject!) I guess I am just unconvinced that much of what comes and goes under that general heading (and it can be VERY general, to be honest) is particularly good for the spiritual, emotional, and mental health of myself, my team or the church we lead together (at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit for example, the only contributor to come across as half-way sane was an unbeliever. Make of that what you will).
I am the only full-time member of staff at our church (York City Church), and I am the only elder who is on the staff team. We have administrative staff, and other ministry staff, but I’m currently the only elder employed by the church. My eldership team work in local government, scientific research, and public health, so we are a relatively diverse bunch in terms of work. I am the oldest “elder” at the ripe old age of 40, and the youngest is just shy of 30. We each have young families, with my son being the oldest at 5. These guys are my best friends, and we have a fantastic relationship as brothers and co-elders (something I am incredibly thankful to God for).
Having a team that is made up of both staff and non-staff elders is great, but complex. Sometimes, being the “lead” elder and on staff, I feel something of a lag- we are not able to go as quickly as we would if all of us were employed by church. Leaving aside that being employed by the church is not a magical pinnacle of Christian life, and that the guys are important witnesses to Jesus in their respective spheres of employment, this lag has made me think quite a bit about the pace of Christian leadership (and senior Christian leaders). I have had to learn- we are all learning together- that the fastest we can really go is the comfortable top speed of our slowest team member.
Let me say that again so you know it wasn’t a mistake. The fastest we can really go is the comfortable top speed of our slowest team member.
There is something mortifying about this (in the old, puritan use of that word). Sometimes I really want to get something done, and the temptation is to act in a unilateral way because it somehow seems cleaner. But that undercuts the value of leading as a team, so to lead as a team I need to die to myself and my desire to get stuff done and humble myself to the pace set by my brothers. I’d say that fewer things get done this way, for sure, but where does the idea that it’s all about getting things done come from? I don’t think it is God, I really don’t.
By faith we operate at a pace that we can all sustain together for as long as the Lord wants us to lead as this team. I think that we will probably get more done in the long run doing it this way (if you really want to measure the success of Christian leadership on quantitive values). It’s like my friend Ian Galloway told me, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”