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- Servant Leadership or Leading Servants? (Part 1), | Living Leadership
Servant Leadership or Leading Servants? (Part 1) Back to all Articles Servant Leadership or Leading Servants? (Part 1) Paul Coulter explores the idea of "servant leadership" and its roots Download Related articles Servant Leadership or Leading Servants? Part 2
- The Leader's Home (Part 2), | Living Leadership
The Leader's Home (Part 2) Back to all Articles The Leader's Home (Part 2) How is your home? "We are callted to ministy, but we are created for family" and yet so many times our home life bears the brunt of the pressure of our ministry life. In this article, Marcus Honeysett thinks further on this issue. Download Related articles The Leader's Home: Part 1
- Singleness and Reality, undefined | Living Leadership
Singleness and Reality Back to all Articles Singleness and Reality Genevieve Jennings lays out nine helpful "principles of life" for single people Download
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- A Rewarding Recipe
The soup is simmering on the stove, filling the kitchen with hearty smells of autumn. The table is laid with brownies, cheeses, and chutneys. I want this lunch to be special. I want each guest to feel honoured. To know how much they are loved, how valuable they are. As I scan the room for last-minute tweaks, my heart is full of thankfulness. This isn’t just any Friday lunch with friends. This lunch is a testimony to God’s gracious provision and kindness. There will be joy and laughter around this table, but the joy will be tinged with sorrow. For one seat will be left empty. That seat belonged to the person who prayed this group into being. It belonged to Jos. Over the last few years, our women’s Friday nurture group has grown. Jos, my co-leader, and I have longed for the Lord to do a deep work in each of us, and so we began asking God to raise up women to lead alongside us. A ratio of two leaders to twenty group members isn’t ideal. When Jos sadly passed away six months ago, I knew I couldn’t continue leading alone. Our nurture group is filled with wise and godly women with wonderful servant hearts. Any one of them could be a leader. But as I asked them to consider helping me lead, they each responded with a version of “Oh, I couldn’t do that”. I knew this couldn’t be due to laziness or spiritual apathy, given their generous and servant-hearted natures. I wanted to understand why these women felt inhibited from serving in a leadership role. Through many conversations over coffee, I started to understand what would help these women flourish. These insights I share with you now. A SAFE ENVIRONMENT A local church should be an environment where everyone can thrive and serve without the fear of getting it wrong. This is critical. Is there a spirit of generosity and encouragement, or one of correction and fault finding? How do we respond when someone gives the wrong answer in a bible study? One negative experience here led one woman to withdraw. For many years, she stopped contributing, her confidence shattered by one moment in time. So a couple of questions. How does your church handle imperfection? Do your leaders exhibit an openness about their own struggles and weaknesses? Or do they present a ‘front’ which gives the impression that weakness is not tolerated? THOUGHTFUL LANGUAGE Language matters. With a background in cross-cultural mission, I should know, but somehow, to my shame, I had forgotten. Words matter. The words we speak and the words that others hear. Consider the word ‘leader’ and ‘lead’. I thought I was asking for someone to facilitate a group discussion on a bible passage. They heard ‘must be articulate, intelligent, educated and know an awful lot of information!’ I didn’t say that but that’s what they heard. And so they were intimidated. On top of this, some have had a negative experience of leadership, which made things worse. So, I asked the women to ‘share’ their thoughts on a passage rather than ‘lead’ a study. Slowly something beautiful began to happen. One woman gave us a theologically rich overview of Romans 5. She wouldn’t say that’s what she had done, but it was. Another expressed herself artistically though creating a piece of art around the passage. As they saw others willing to share, they found they could have a go too. Our time became so much richer. In this way the Dream Team was born. Removing the word ‘leader’ took away much of their anxiety. A few women took the plunge and said ‘yes’. Not everyone on the team leads by leading bible studies. They each have different gifts, but most importantly they are godly, wise, loving women who are willing to step out in faith to serve Christ, trusting that he will supply all their needs. LOTS OF TIME People take time to recover from a season of change or settle into a new church environment. For some, it takes a long time. The newest member of the Dream Team has been around church for around five years. She’s quietly faithful, thoughtful, and extraordinarily gifted. She has been coming along, listening, watching, figuring us out, asking herself, ‘Is this a place where I am safe to try?’ It’s taken time. But this year she is flourishing. We’ve discovered she is a talented musician and finally feels safe enough to join the music group. She’s now teaching the kids, reaching out to newcomers, bringing friends into church. She has stepped into leading the discipleship group for young Christians, a role she loves. She has enthusiastically agreed to join our team. When new people arrive at our churches, clearly godly and gifted, it’s tempting in our enthusiasm to plug them into the gaps. But often, people need time. Perhaps time is needed to heal from a previous damaging church experience. Or it might be time to rest from a busy season of serving. Or time to acclimatize themselves to our way of doing things. Time to figure us out. Time to feel safe. Of course, as leaders, we see the gaps. And they can become burdens to us. Who will serve coffee, lead a children’s group, help at the newcomers’ course? But we need patience. A lot more patience. For there is a deep wisdom in knowing when to ask people to serve, and when to hold back, giving them space to sit and receive. As I wait for the doorbell to ring, I thank God for each one and for Jos who prayed big prayers with me all those months ago. She passed away before she could see her prayers answered in beautiful ways. She had a vision, and the Lord has done wonderful things because of her willingness to pray. We are grateful for her life. Putting some finishing touches to the table settings, I pray that each woman coming for lunch would find real joy in serving together, in finding strength through weakness. I pray that as we plan, share, and encourage one another over lunch, God would deepen our connection with each other and with him. Most importantly, I pray that we would experience the truth of the apostle Paul’s words. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Cor 12.9
- Collingwood’s Acorns
I have to say, I wasn’t expecting it. It just seemed to creep up on me. Perhaps it’s my age—I’m not sure—but my fascination with history is starting to leak out.* And before you suggest that I’m rather odd—or I lack self-control—I must say I know a lot of guys around my age who are starting to betray a secret obsession with history. We all listen to The Rest is History podcast presented by Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook, and it shows. For me, it shows when an historical illustration finds its way into my sermons. Fewer references to people like David Beckham, and a lot more anecdotes about Wellington and Alfred the Great! I’m learning to attribute my sources promptly, or I’ll be caught out. A few months back, there was a whole episode devoted to great dogs in history. So it was that I learned that Admiral Collingwood’s dog was named Bounce. Collingwood was a naval commander during the Napoleonic wars, fighting alongside Nelson at Trafalgar. When on dry land, he liked nothing better than to stride the Northumbrian hills with Bounce at his side. He also stuffed his pockets full of acorns, and every so often he would plant one of them. Why did he do this? Because he was a man of vision. He knew how much the British Navy relied on mighty oaks for its fleet. He wanted there to be oaks growing for decades, centuries even. He knew that these trees would keep the Navy well supplied and strong. And though he didn’t predict the advent of iron and steel that would radically alter how ships were built (how could he?), the point remains. He recognised that a navy would be needed long after he was gone, and he wanted to do what he could, literally sowing seeds for the future. Well, the church needs mighty oaks for the future too. The Lord uses this precise image to describe his people. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord, for the display of his splendour. Isa 61.3 Amazingly, he wants us to join in with his forestry project. Because here’s the truth—one day, we’ll be gone. And most of us won't have books written about us. Nor will we be a featured historical figure on The Rest is History. Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook won’t be waxing lyrical about our achievements. But that doesn’t matter. Not one bit. Because our significance lies in the fact that we’re planting acorns. That’s what matters. That takes real vision. It requires that we look past our own petty egos and ambitions and invest in God’s kingdom for the ages; indeed, for eternity. Such vision calls us to see our lives as just one leg of a relay race down through the millennia. We’re not called to be better, more noticeable, or more glorious than the other runners. We’re called to carry the baton safely and pass it on. We see this baton-passing mentioned often in the Bible. Here are some verses on this subject worth reading. Proverbs 13.20; 27.17 Romans 15.14. 1 Corinthians 4.15; 11.1. Philippians 4.9 2 Timothy 2.2; 3:14. Hebrews 10.24-25; 13.7 Surely this is also a crucial element in Jesus’ great commission. Go and make disciples . . . teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you . . . Matt 28.19a;20a How do we do this? Certainly, we can do it through formal mentoring or discipling relationships, but actually these acorns are planted in all kinds of ways. It doesn’t require us to have younger believers sat at our feet, hanging on our every word as we recount our wisdom and experience. If that’s our method, we’ll probably be disappointed to find that not many want to sit and listen to our old war stories. Most often, and perhaps more effectively, it’s about drawing alongside people, listening intently, showing interest, and speaking words of encouragement. When we do this, our relationships blossom into ones in which we can ask gentle, open questions that spur growth. These budding acorns we then water with our prayers. Though it’s not fully realised yet, I have a vision of a church community in which the twenty-somethings walk alongside teenagers; the middle-aged walk alongside the younger adults; the mature and seasoned saints draw close to the bemused mid-lifers, just letting them know that they’ve walked similar paths and learned from their mistakes. And are still learning. God’s kingdom needs mighty oaks for the future. For those of us who more readily identify with the dandelion, it is wonderful to know that even our weaknesses—especially our weaknesses—can be used by the Lord to build up and encourage mighty oaks for the coming generations. Many reading this will already be planting acorns in all kinds of ways. But you may also be discouraged. Sometimes we don’t see the impact we’re having. Sometimes we wonder if our acorns are growing at all. If this is you, I have a word of encouragement. Please remember, acorns take time to grow. A long time. Welsh poet R.S. Thomas once wrote a poem entitled ‘The Country Clergy’. He was himself a clergyman, and he wrote of little-recognised ministers, working in obscure country parishes who . . . “…left no books, Memorial to their lonely thought In grey parishes; rather they wrote On men’s hearts and in the minds Of young children sublime words Too soon forgotten. God in his time Or out of time will correct this.” ** It’s a great vision, to be writing on people’s hearts, planting acorns for the future. For they are becoming mighty oaks, displaying not my renown but God’s splendour. That’s what I want to be doing. I’m sure you do too. *Why do men of a certain age display a fascination with history? Now there’s a possible blog post for someone else. Watch this space! ** R.S. Thomas, in Collected Poems, 1945–1990 (London: Dent, 1993), p.82
- More Growth in the Garden
Here at Living Leadership, we offer pastoral support to leaders and their spouses. That’s one of our raisons d'être. We offer many services here, but all our activities are focused on caring for and equipping those who lead (in churches and Christian organisations) and their spouses. PASTORAL SUPPORT When God calls us to fulfil a short-term need for support, we have no idea where it might take us in the longer term. I have experienced a few times relationships developing from mentoring - maybe focused on a single issue - into friendship. One pastor came to me in crisis ten years ago. Ten years has been enough time for the relationship to develop and grow. We’ve shared many of our life’s challenges with each other, and though it began in crisis, we have moved on. We now have a deep bond of friendship that we both cherish. And we’re still doing what matters most: studying the bible and praying together. Before the pandemic, I was meeting with a brother who had recently left parish ministry to pursue a chaplaincy role. God had placed a burden on him to establish a charity offering chaplains to a particular demographic. As his vision sharpened, God began to provide people, resources, and opportunities. It was an exciting time, and I found that my own role began to change. I still offered soul care to my friend, but he invited me to take part in supporting the work of the charity. I was elected as Interim Chair to take the organisation through to its first AGM. It was a real honour to attend and chair a meeting which not only appointed new trustees but also a much more appropriate and skilled chairman! The past four years have seen a whirlwind of activity, but our primary focus has never wavered. As we’ve always done, we meet to offer mutual encouragement based on bible study and prayer. GROWTH IN THE GARDEN In a previous post, I wrote about my gardening exploits. I particularly enjoy watching tiny seeds or bulbs growing into fully mature plants. When you look at the packet, you can see a photo of what the plant is supposed to look like once it’s full-grown. Occasionally, however, a rogue seed finds its way into the soil, and as you watch your begonias grow, you’re not quite sure what’s happening. What is that nasty coiling greenery wrapped around my budding flowers?! Sometimes you’re fooled into thinking you’ve gained a new, interesting plant, but perhaps that’s the Scotsman in me—excited about acquiring something for free! There is a similarity here with a mentoring or pastoral relationship. We come alongside a person, who is seeking care, guidance, or perhaps just some spiritual food. Often there is a ‘presenting issue’, a spiritual need. At times, there may be weeds. We begin in one place but it soon emerges that we’re dealing with the persistent weed of some sinful behaviour, attitude, or habit. When this occurs, we provide support by walking alongside people. Through mutual study, prayer, and conversation, a relationship develops. Trust builds. And as it does, a bond is forged which can stand the moment when we must sometimes gently challenge what may be a deep-rooted issue. The relationship, if it is to develop well, needs not only a foundation of trust built up over time, but an end goal. It must be focused on helping the tender shoot to stand up on its own. When we begin to see this happening, it is a wonder to behold, because it is dependent on the work of God. In nature, sunlight causes photosynthesis to occur—a process that triggers growth in a plant. The hormones of the plant and its DNA, along with the nutrients of the soil and water molecules combine to give us ears of grain, flowers, seeds and leaves. Just as we can’t see atoms with our eyes, we don’t really see all that goes on in the chemistry of plant growth—but it happens because God designed plants this way. It’s an inevitable process when the combination is right, and Jesus even talks about it in the parable of the growing seed. Night and day, whether he* sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come. Mark 4.27-29 *The farmer. Just as the Kingdom of God commences inconspicuously and then grows slowly until it’s ready for harvest, so it is with spiritual growth in individuals. To help people grow and enjoy the benefits of the mentor/mentee relationship, we use careful and persistent questions to plant the seed of God’s word, and we entrust them to the presence of God, the Holy Spirit. Mentors cannot force growth—that is not in our power. However, we can provide an environment in which our conversations become spiritual food that generates growth. Our words, by the grace of God, feed the soul. And it’s only by his grace that they do. We are merely servants, guided by the Spirit. Have you ever kept watch as grass seeds gradually turn into a smooth green lawn? Or have you watched a new plant sprout new growth? It’s so exciting. The green fuzz that slowly appears, or the buds that begin to erupt into colour—they are such splendid works of our Creator. So it is when we see others grow in the knowledge and grace of God. When it happens, we should give thanks, of course. But we should also pass on to our mentees what we’re seeing. Encouragement nurtures and feeds the soul. At Living Leadership, we are privileged to be able to walk with leaders and their spouses, to support and encourage them. Each person is like a ‘tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season (Ps 1.3a). Every person I’ve mentored fills me with joy for I have watched them become ‘oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour’ (Isa 61.3c). Editor’s Note: If you are involved in Christian ministry, and are interested in receiving pastoral support, do visit our Refresh Ministries page to find out about all the ways we can support you.