Is Your Team Turning You into a Better Person?
Have you ever thought about how the team or board that you are serving on is influencing the person you are becoming? Wouldn’t it be an amazing compliment if someone made the connection between a given person and a board that you previously served on because of who that person had become and how they went about their life and ministry?
In Acts 4:13 we read the following words, “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Peter had just finished responding to the question, “By what power or what name did you do this?” related to the healing of the man who had been lame from birth. The text doesn’t specify whether they took note because of Jesus’s boldness and knowledge beyond His training or because like Jesus, Peter and John were a threat to their peace and seen as dangerous people. Taken positively, I see this as a confirmation that being in the company of Jesus had favourably impacted the lives of Peter and John so that others saw unmistakable evidence of it in their lives.
By God's grace, we also have the opportunity and responsibility to lead and serve in such a way that we create environments for transformation in the lives of the people who we serve with. The activities and decisions that teams and boards make together is important, but the kind of environment and relationships they develop isn’t just a means to greater effectiveness. Who and how they are together matters. Sadly, there are too many examples of church or ministry boards that have the reputation of being powerful and effective, but their relationships and the environment they create doesn’t empower anyone toward God’s desires and purposes. However, your board or team has the potential to demonstrate the kind of community that reflects God’s nature and character.
Imagine yourself driving across the Prairies. As you travel through Saskatchewan, you come across some demonstration plots, a strip of land where a new fertilizer, method, or seed is used to raise a crop, with the hope that in due time it will demonstrate better performance than the crops in the surrounding fields . A demonstration plot seeks to create the ideal environment for a given seed to grow, leading to a bountiful harvest. In their book, The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence, the authors state that "the ability to initiate and sustain positive cultural changes may prove to be the single greatest need of twenty-first-century organizations." A church board or team functions like a demonstration plot because their environment and relationships are what they hope to initiate and sustain in the whole church or organization. Leaders have the unique challenge to discern and develop the kind of environment where people can thrive in pursuit of God’s desires and purposes for them, their church, and the world.
Please provide yourself with a snapshot of your current environment and relationships by responding to the following questions:
- How would you describe the demonstration plot (the board/team) that you’re part of?
- Who are you becoming as you serve on this board/team?
- What kind of environment are you and your board/team building?
- How would you describe the relationships on your board/team?
- How is your board/team impacting the relationships and environment of your congregation/organization?
- If your congregation/organization were to transform into the environment and relationships that your board/team models, would this reflect God’s nature and character positively?
Wayne Cordeiro has said, "You teach what you know, but you reproduce what you are." Leadership isn’t just something we do but also who we are. Dallas Willard put it this way, “As a leader, the greatest gift you give people is who you are becoming in Christ. People follow you for who you are more than what you do.” In the book Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Kouzes and Posner make the point that credibility answers the question whether someone is worthy of our trust. In the end, it is not the leaders who decide who leads but followers who do. Are the teams or boards we serve on stretching us to become people who are worthy of trust? Are we becoming leaders who point beyond ourselves to Jesus?
Building environments and relationships marked by grace requires us to shift our focus from skills and competencies to character and transformation. How do we do that and still make it through a meeting agenda? There isn’t a quick fix or a one-size-fits-all solution, but asking and responding honestly to some of the questions above is a helpful starting point. From there, getting some outside perspective will be invaluable. It’s nearly impossible to get an accurate read on the environment that we’re part of. Mentoring and coaching are helpful in becoming intentional in identifying and addressing systemic issues. Another necessary step is prayerfully discerning together what environments empower and what kind of relationships nurture and sustain us. It will take time and the urgent and pragmatic tasks will tend to crowd the agenda. But over time and with God’s grace, we can build environments and relationships that will have a lasting positive impact on those who are part of our board or team, as well as the church or organization they lead together.
Daniel Beutler serves on the Leaders to Learners (L2L) team of the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches. He is an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) through the International Coach Federation (ICF) and is passionate about coaching and equipping leaders and churches to discern their next steps towards God’s desires and purposes. This blog entry is based on some of the content he presented in a session called Spiritual Leadership in Community from MinistryLift's Building Healthy Boards series. For more information on the ministry resources that Daniel and his team can provide, please visit www.l2lnet.org.
 Adapted from Craig Van Gelder in his book The Essence of the Church: A Community Created by the Spirit where he introduces the idea of the church as God’s demonstration plot in the world.