I was meeting with a leader of one of our Community Groups who was exhausted. He was ready to give up, discouraged by the lack of participation from the rest of the community and felt like he was doing too much. He thought the best answer was to quit leading and end the Community Group. After a good conversation over lunch, it became clear that one of the biggest issues facing the Community Group was that he was trying to lead everything. This seemed counterintuitive to him and to most of us. “If I’m the leader, shouldn’t I be leading everything?”
The biggest issue I see in leadership is hoarding responsibility. It comes from a great place, but does not serve the leader, nor does it serve those being led. It burns out leaders, frustrates those being led and rarely mobilizes or develops other leaders.
This is a major issue for gospel-centered communities on mission. To lead well, leaders must share well. Leadership is not about doing everything, being the superhero who plans every event, meets with every person, or finds every opportunity for mission for the community.
Leading like Christ leads us takes an empowering approach, especially to a community. This kind of leadership reflects the gospel of Jesus Christ. Believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ requires people to believe that we have flaws and only Christ was truly perfect in every way and sphere of life. A leader who is a follower of Christ does not assume that they can do everything the community or group needs accomplished.
Missional communities desperately need leaders who humbly seek to share responsibility for leading the community. The question we need to answer is why do we typically hoard leadership?
We View it as Scriptural Expectation
For many of us, we view this type of leadership as very scriptural. Aren’t we supposed to lead like Christ? Doesn’t this mean we sacrifice most and take on most responsibility, not demanding from others? This is a view of leadership doesn’t think a leader is ever supposed to share responsibility.
The good news for every leader: they are not Jesus Christ. Christ alone could fully embody every perfect gift and bear the burden of us all. The scriptures that follow Christ’s life, death, and resurrection point the need for communal leadership that seeks to empower every Christ follower for the work of ministry.
This is the point of passages in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4 that speak to the reality we see everyday. We are all gifted uniquely, which leads us to need one another to accomplish the mission that God has placed in front of us. We cannot do this alone and the community can lead through individuals taking leadership in a variety of ways.
This how the scriptures speak of leadership and how it is demonstrated for us in the stories of the Bible. A community led by a community of people.
We Fear Losing Control
For some of us, if we’re honest, we fear losing control of the outcome. This could be born out of fearing that quality will suffer or that it won’t get done or done perfectly.
The gospel of Jesus Christ can free us from this. Christ’s gospel reminds us that we couldn’t accomplish salvation on our own and we were in need of Jesus to do it right for us. It frees us from thinking so highly of ourselves that we think we need to do everything or it won’t be done well.
Quality tends to suffer most when people hoard leadership most. Sharing leadership may result in a dip in quality, but part of good leadership is coaching and empowering those you share with to better than you were.
This sounds that a nice ideal, but it may actually be what is preventing us from sharing leadership in the first place.
We Fear Others Being Better Than Us
There are some leaders who don’t share responsibility and if they were really honest, would admit that some of it has to do with fear of others doing it better than them.
When we look at Jesus and His leadership, once again we are encouraged to move beyond this fear and make it a hope. Jesus says that His disciples will do greater things than what they saw Him do. He didn’t have a fear that they would accomplish more and do greater things, it was His hope and plan! Isn’t that amazing?
We see this same mentality in Barnabas in the book of Acts. If you follow the story of Barnabas, you see that he was the one who took a risk on Paul and discipled him. Over time Acts tells the story of how the discipler (Barnabas) takes a back seat to the disciple (Paul).
Great leaders don’t fear others being better than them, they aim for it. Sharing leadership can be the best way to empower and develop leaders that will take the community to greater places. It will redefine success for leaders who tend towards wanting credit and seeking glory, to wanting the same for others.
Leader who seek the glory can tend towards using people to get their own ends, instead of being for people, wanting greatness for those they lead.
We Don’t Know How
For others, and specifically for the Community Group leader I had lunch with, they don’t know how to share leadership.
Over lunch, we discuss the various aspects of his Community Group. They were seeking to be a healthy missional community. A community that prayed and discussed the scriptures together, ate meals together, served together, had accountability and incorporate non-Christ followers into the community. The main problem was that he was the only one initiating all of these things.
After discussing the people in his community and what they are passionate about in the community or naturally gifted in, it became apparent that the next step in his leadership development was to help them and given them ownership.
The first step in sharing leadership is personal invitation as opposed to mass messages of requesting help. This means identifying the potential gifts of those in the community, encouraging them in those gifts and personally asking them to use their gifts for the benefit of the community.
I encouraged the leader to work with them to get started and follow up with them after they began leading, but then to give them the freedom to lead. Eventually, a leader has to move from directing to coaching to fully trusting those with whom they share leadership.
The biggest transformation that takes place through shared leadership is the death of a consumer community and the birth of a contributing community. An entire community that seeks to contribute to the overall health of the missional community based on the gifts God has given them.
Only when this happens can the community truly display Jesus to one another and their neighborhood.