Growing Small

What do I do when the church plant actually begins to grow?  What about when it outgrows my leadership?  Do I slow it down or is there a better solution?  This is a great question for any role of leadership in any organization but especially something as new and fragile as a church plant.  After all, our hope is to share the Good News of Jesus and see His Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven…aren’t we expecting things to grow bigger than we can handle on our own? 

Moses was leading a multiplying nation out of a horrific exile and found that his influence had outgrown his leadership capability using the model that might have worked while smaller (he did it all).  At the point of crisis, Moses received some solid counsel.  You can read about it here: http://www.esvbible.org/Exodus%2018%3A13-27/ - Exodus 18:13-27

The gist of Moses’ father-in-law’s advice (yes - you can get good advice from your in-laws unless your in-laws are out-laws) was that the nation was so large that to govern, manage and care for it effectively they would need to grow it down to a manageable size…they needed to grow small.  Day-to-day things would be managed by other leaders and mission-critical things would still flow up to Moses.  This is a beautiful concept!  Yet, it requires big changes from a traditional model.  Here are some things I am learning that are required to lead a growing organization (a church plant in my case):

  1. Give away Leadership - this isn’t easy and can initially be tough on pride but to lead well we must give away the leadership we have gained.  We can only hold on too so much and what we hold will limit us from picking up anything else.  Give it away and only take it back if there are issues of morality or something just as serious. 
  2. Empower Leadership - As you give away leadership you must empower that leader.  This is a two-fold process.  First, you empower the person to whom you are entrusting leadership by clearly defining the opportunity and expectation.  Next, you empower those who will be led by dis-connecting that leadership from yourself and casting a vision for the new structure.
  3. Equip Leaders - Leadership fails when we put somebody in a position that they are not equipped to handle.  The Gospel Ministry is all about equipping leaders (see http://www.esvbible.org/Ephesians%204%3A11-13/).  Make sure your leaders have the tools they need to serve with excellence. 
  4. Incubate Future Leaders - I love how the MLB has a farm system to develop future major-leaguer’s. We must have a pipeline to raise up the next leader.  This will likely be an area of significant investment for you.  Where will you find the time to do that?  By executing 1-2-3 above!
  5. Encourage & Respite Your Leaders - Burnout is a ministry killer.  Here are the two greatest weapons I have found to combat burnout.  Encouragement should be built deep within the DNA of your leadership system.  Not flimsy or surface-level stuff…encouraging from the heart and to the heart…whether the leader is up or down.  No matter the amount of encouragement you will need to develop a structure for proper respite’s and rest for all of your leaders.  If this is built into the front-end of your vision then you can prevent anyone worrying about turf when they get to rest.
  6. Develop Accountable Structures - Your leadership will only rise as far as it is equipped and will only fall to the point it is accountable.  Do you have solid accountability?  Will your leadership team?  
  7. Accept Results - When you give away leadership to an empowered and equipped leader you must be willing to live with the results.  This does not mean to settle…this means to accept.  You accept results and you work to improve along the way.  If your leadership model is strong enough you will look at the overall organization and realize it would be impossible to direct all of it without the leaders you have.  We serve a God that makes impossibilities seem very possible!

Do you need to grow your organization small?  Have you ‘out-kicked your coverage’ and need to re-evaluate for future success?  Growing small is not just an Old Testament idea…check out Acts 2 (link to my week 7 blog here).  To be effective minister’s of the Gospel for the Kingdom maybe we need to grow small!