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Tag: leadership

Leading the league in assists

James Worthy, Michael Jordan, and Dean Smith
Left to right: James Worthy, Michael Jordan, and coach Dean Smith, legends of University of North Carolina basketball. Photo by Zeke Smith, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

I have been a college basketball fan since high school. I remember my heart breaking that night in 1982 when Georgetown guard Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, mistakenly passed the ball to North Carolina’s James Worthy with 7 seconds on the clock, icing the championship game for the Tarheels.

This weekend I plan to watch all three games. While I’m not a fan of any one of the four teams left in this year’s madness, I will be rooting for Michigan State and Kentucky (a) because I picked them, and (b) because one is the underdog and the other is going for history. Won’t that make for a great championship game story?

One of the things I like about college basketball is the importance placed on the assist. For those not familiar with basketball, a player receives an assist when they make a pass that leads to another player scoring. While the guy hitting the 3-point shot or making the thunderous dunk may get most of the applause and headlines, assists get noticed. They are an official stat listed alongside points and rebounds in the boxscore.

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A leader of leaders

As an associate it is tempting to become a “doer of ministry.” We can see the lead pastor as the visionary for the congregation/ministry and our role in Christian Education, Youth Ministry, Visitation, etc. as where that vision gets carried out. We have been hired to do youth ministry, we think, so we had better do the youth ministry. Whenever someone volunteers to help us, we say, “No thanks,” because we view the assistance as a veiled condemnation of our inability to do our jobs. We do a disservice to our congregation when we become the professional experts who do everything in our ministry area.

The Apostle Paul intentionally brought others around him. We read of Luke, Mark, Timothy, and others joining him on his missionary journeys (e.g. 2 Timothy 4:11). He wrote of those whom he sent to be with the churches in his absence. He appointed leaders to the congregations he had raised up and worked with other leaders who were also about building up the churches with whom he had relationships. As you read the New Testament letters you get the sense Paul was managing a network of church leaders.   I would argue this is one of the major reasons Christianity grew under Paul’s leadership. He wasn’t trying to do it all on his own.

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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.

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I walk the line

Being an associate is like walking a tightrope. Well, I’ve never actually walked a tightrope. I’m afraid of heights. So I guess I’m saying that being an associate is like what I imagine it would be like to walk a tightrope. Or maybe it is more like a Johnny Cash song. Either way you have to walk the line.

The line we associates walk is the fine one between overstepping and paralysis, between competing with the lead pastor and waiting for her/his blessing before doing anything, between being a help and being a burden, between owning your ministry and disregarding the rest of the ministry of the congregation. Lean too far either way and you are headed for a crash.

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