Art Birch of Ross Road Community Church, Abbotsford, B.C., has learned about leadership the hard way. Understanding leadership, he told BCMB leaders, starts with the theology of leadership. Scripture points to servant leadership: “taking the initiative. It doesn’t have anything to do with position,” Birch said.
Birch was one of two presenters at Friday’s pre-convention “equipping session” of the B.C. MB conference at Williams Lake. The second presenter, Janet Thiessen, North Langley (B.C.) Community Church, spoke on team building, based on her leadership experience in raising up a women’s ministry of 200 people. Both offered many practical ideas to build body life.
Leadership must take initiative to empower others, said Birch – something every hockey and soccer player must know how to do, not just the captain or coach. Teamwork, he said, depends upon leaders and teammates investing in each other.
Thiessen said people mistakenly assume the priesthood of all believers is about governance. “It is not about exercise of authority, but about a Spirit-directed brotherhood based on a gift-oriented community.” She warned that relying on a few people to do all the work in a church leads to burnout and animosity.
John Wesley made a major contribution to church life through his utilization of church members, said Thiessen. “He trained ordinary people to carry the gospel, trained bands of small people for pastoral care.” She said he engaged labouring men and women – people with only spiritual gifts and an eagerness
Birch also emphasized training, saying it is important to have high-quality mentoring for team members, individually and as a group. He said individual meetings need to be regular. “Have a standing appointment for a time on a certain day to get together” with team members. “When I prepare for those appointments, I show care; I am there on time; and I listen well, being honest about my own vulnerabilities.”
Clarity is vital to a team, said Birch. Well-done, periodic team meetings emphasize the mission, propagate the preferred culture and reinforce the central ministry focus and the values. Study together, he says. Birch likes the “sandbox” exercise as a focus tool. Thiessen said team members must know why the team exists, know the values the team has, and identify what’s required. They should also be encouraged to pray and brainstorm about who might be invited to join the team, who would fit well in each part of the work.
Thiessen is in constant search mode for leaders. “Work on your team first before you start them on an actual ministry,” she said.
Then trust. “Out of a lack of trust and anonymity, all the other dysfunctions flow,” said Thiessen. Both speakers build trust and model vulnerability. Ephesians 4 is a good place to start.
—Barrie McMaster, B.C. correspondent