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Ministering up

Kurt Madden, in his book The Synergetic Follower: Changing Our World Without Being the Leader introduced me to the phrase “managing up.” When an employee – the “follower” – notices when the leader is about to make a bad decision, is in need of information, or is struggling with a project outside his or her skill set. The wise follower will offer their opinion, gather the necessary information, or offer to take on part of the project. This is “managing up,” taking the initiative to assist the leader do their job more successfully.

Most of us think a good follower is a yes-man or yes-woman. But in the words of Madden, “Good leaders know they don’t have all the wisdom and knowledge, so finding followers, who complement their own strengths, is a top priority” (Madden 142). Business leaders need staff-people who are willing to take a risk to assist them, care for them, and help them, and the company, be successful. The same is true of our church leaders.

Too often a church staff will defer to the lead pastor, even when a mistake is about to be made. We want to be good soldiers, carrying out our work under the leadership of a good lead pastor. We want to be supportive and encouraging. We want to say yes as much as possible. This is an appropriate strategy most of the time, but the wise associate will recognize when it is appropriate to minister up.

For example, the lead pastor is about to make a decision you know will be taken as a direct assault my a member or group within the congregation. That is information your pastor needs, not to change the decision, but to give her the ability to be proactive in addressing strong objections or hurt feelings. Maybe the lead pastor is going through a personal struggle or a spiritual dry spell. If you are gifted in the area of counseling, lend a listening ear. Say, “Hey, it seems like things aren’t quite right. Wanna talk about it?” Or maybe you are hearing about your pastor’s integrity being questioned because of time spent with a member of the other gender, questions about procedures for the way money is handled, or questionable theological stances. While it may be difficult, it is good for you to bring those concerns to the lead pastor’s attention.

The wise associate knows when it is time to take the initiative and minister up.


Madden, Kurt. The Synergetic Follower: Changing Our World Without Being the Leader. 2011. Kindle.

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