I was recently reminded of an old Smothers Brothers skit where Tom and Dick are singing Boil the Cabbage Down. At one point, Dick turns to Tom and says “Take it.” Tom turns his head and ignores Dick. The music stops and Dick explains to Tom that he is supposed to take the lead, but Tom evades the issue.
The music stops.
Sound familiar? Have you tried to hand off leadership to someone who refuses to take it? Meanwhile, the ministry stops.
There’s a lot of talk these days about releasing people into ministry, empowering leaders and avoiding the urge to micromanage. Like a knee-jerk reaction, I can’t help but wonder sometimes if the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction. Have we become so eager to avoid the appearance of hording ministry or micromanaging that we we have abdicated our responsibility to properly vet and prepare leaders before releasing them into ministry?
There’s a lot to be said for having a process for developing leaders before you hand off the ministry to them. Creating a solid infrastructure is critical to successful leadership development. Consider these steps:
- Identification. Who are the potential leaders? It’s easy to default to the cultural norm–that is, the charismatic extravert–and completely overlook the “diamond in the rough.” You might begin with these questions:
- Who do others talk about?
- Who do others listen to?
Begin a list and keep adding to it as names come to your attention.
- Investment. It’s a mistake harried ministry leaders often make: Just as we must fight the tendency to plug warm bodies into ministry slots, so we must refuse to release the seemingly competent marketplace leader into ministry leadership without first investing time and energy in discipling them. A leader worth having is a leader worth investing in…and a leader worth having is willing to invest their time and energy in being discipled.
- Incremental release. Last summer I took my four-year-old grandson to his swimming lesson a few times. In the beginning, he was afraid to move off the steps leading down into the water, but when the instructor promised she wouldn’t let go, he would venture into the pool. By his last lesson, he was much more confident, willing to let go of the side of the pool even without the instructor close by. The “grand finale” was jumping off the diving board–a long way from the steps at the shallow end of the pool! What do you think would have happened if he had been told to jump off the diving board at the very first lesson?
These three steps of identifying, investing in, and incrementally releasing leaders are essential keys to preventing ministry stoppage as you try to convince someone that it’s time for them to “take it.”