Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Things I've learned as Rector

I have been a rector (head priest of a congregation) for a little over a year now. I am inspired to share a few things I've learned and/or relearned by my friend Liz over at Stick and Snakes. So, in no particular order I have learned in leadership to:

  • Pray

    • My father once told me that the only way to do ministry is to work on your relationship with God. As that relationship blossoms it over flows to the people around you. This is so true that I can't emphasize it enough. When I have been consistent in my prayers, the more on top of administrative tasks I have been, offered better pastoral care, and have made and led the congregation to make better decisions.

  • Trust is the currency of leadership
    • No one will follow if they don't trust you. Without trust it takes anywhere from twice to six times as long to do anything. On the other hand, if people trust you then you can get a lot done very fast. You'll ultimately see change happen faster if you spend a year building trust, then if you start changing things the moment you walk in the door.

  • Build trust through little things

    • Jesus said in a parable somewhere that the one who can be trusted with little things can be trusted with bigger things. He was talking about leadership there. You can build trust with a congregation by taking care of small things like showing up on time, being prepared, and doing what you say you will do. Even if it is something as small as remembering to email someone to set up a meeting time, the more you consistently deliver on the actions you say you are going to take, the more people will trust you.*

  • To inspire change or transformation, start with yourself.

    • A mentor of mine once said for everything you ask a parish to change, change two things about yourself. I would add not only change yourself, but don't talk about it either. Simply do it and let people notice it on their own. I have lost 35 pounds over the last year and it has increased my leadership credibility; not because I'm thinner, rather because they see I can stick to something and produce results. Plus, if I am able to keep a commitment to myself, then I am more likely to keep the commitments I make to them.

  • Preach what you believe.

    • This too is from my dad, but again he is right. If for a half a moment you preach by your words or deeds something you don't believe, the congregation will smell it and you will have blown all your credibility. It is better to say you have no clue what a particular scripture means while in the pulpit, or to say you believe something that 90 percent of the congregation will disagree with, then to preach something you do not believe.

*For a further discussion on trust see Stephen M. R. Covey's book Leading at the Speed of Trust.

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