One Thing That Will Short-Circuit Your Leadership
Thinking is an important part of your ministry job
A few months ago, I was wrestling with the question, Sam, what do you do for a living? Many answers came to my mind: leadership consultant, author, speaker, etc. However, the one that finally made more sense than any other was thinker. I think for a living.< /> My guess is that’s true for you as well. As a minister, you think for a living. This is not the only thing you do, of course. Right thinking comes from Spirit-filled living, prayer, time in Scripture, obedience, and love for God and His people (Romans 12:2).
Nevertheless, thinking does pervade your daily activities. You read and interpret the Bible for preaching and teaching, for example. You listen and offer verbal counsel to people in distress. You discern God’s vision for your church or ministry and write a statement of vision, mission and values. You create strategic plans for your ministry and craft a budget to implement them. Regardless of the specifics of your ministry, when you’re a pastor or church leader, thinking is an important part of the job.
You need to know who God called you to be and what is (and is not) essential to your ministry leadership.
Thinking requires mental margin, broader bandwidth and the ability to be a reflective person — a leader who is willing to churn rather than rush to change. As a leader, regardless of your ministry, you rose to your present position by solving problems in one form or another. The better you became at solving problems, the more responsibilities you received. Your church or ministry values your ability to identify problems and work toward solutions with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
One thing that will short-circuit your leadership is the inability to think at higher levels than your present stage and age of ministry leadership requires.
Three characteristics affect your thinking. The first is how you deal with distractions, those things that take your attention away from what you’re supposed to be doing. The second is whether you pay appropriate attention, actively engaging your mind on the person in front of you or the task at hand. The third is whether you have the ability to maintain focus, the center of mental activity that requires full concentration.
Of the three items above, let me focus on focus, because it is the most crucial. As a minister, you have choices to make daily about the Five P’s: people, places, programs, procedures and plans. These choices, and the range of issues they touch on, can feel overwhelming. How, then, do you focus on the critical few while still managing to deal with the important many?
Years ago, my friend Pastor Scott Wilson of Oaks Church (AG) in Red Oak, Texas, shared with me the acronym FOCUS (First things first; Other things second; Cut out the unimportant; Unify the vision; Stick with it).
Isn’t that a great definition? Focus requires us to prioritize our ministry tasks, discerning what we must do, what we can delegate to others, and what we can stop doing entirely. Then it requires us to unify our team behind the vision of what everyone is supposed to be doing — and developing the perseverance to see our individualized tasks through to successful completion.
In other words, focus comes from the who. The starting place for finding focus should always be with questions like, Who am I? What can I alone do? And if I were to die today, what would I most regret leaving unfinished? You need to know who God called you to be and what is (and is not) essential to your ministry leadership.
You also need to identify what drains focus. As a leadership consultant, I’ve discovered that focus drains away when leaders feel marginalized. Marginalization happens when others limit our input and influence in areas where we should have decision-making authority. Diversion can also drain focus. This happens when nonessential things occupy our time and thoughts and divert them from the important to the trivial.
A third reason leaders lose focus is because they are attacked. Resistance and overt attacks can remove focus from the main issues. Finally, being seduced by the need for approval drains focus. When pleasing our allies becomes more important than staying on a difficult course, we’re definitely distracted. The leader is seduced by a need to be liked.
Once you know who you are and what you must do, and once you’ve determined to plug the drain on your focus, you need to communicate it to others in your ministry. That means you and members of your ministry team have a clear understanding of each person’s roles and responsibilities. Multitaskers may look good on paper, but they will ultimately lose focus. The main task they were hired for will become the most neglected one.
Be a leader, and avoid the temptation of helping others do their jobs. You stay focused so they can do the same. If everyone wears only one hat, everyone can function at higher levels of accountability and performance — including you!
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2020 edition of Influence magazine.