This Kind of Church Leader Never Gets Bored or Complacent
I was reading a post by Seth Goden recently on initiative. Here's the big idea: "The only way to get initiative is to take it. It’s never given."
Over the years, I've met thousands of church leaders. It's easy to catch the ones that have a high degree of initiative. It's easier to spot those that don't.
Simply put, initiative is "the power to act or take charge before others do."
Initiators are change agents.
Not because they have the best ideas.
Not because they're the smartest person in the room.
Not because they are the most winsome or handsome.
But because they see what can or should be done, and they do it
Without being told.
Without being guilted into it.
Without being compensated.
But because they see something that should be done, and they do it.
When our kids were growing up, we repeated this phrase to our kids: "initiative is the highest form of obedience".
For example, it was one thing if our kids cleaned their room when we told them to. It was a complete other thing when they cleaned their room WITHOUT us telling them to.
That is a great example of initiative.
The expectation was clear (your mom and dad would like you to have a clean room). But one outcome came after a direct command ('go clean your room'). The other came because they took initiative (knowing that having a clean room would make us happy).
As church leaders, we all have one great command: to go and make disciples. And as 'paid' church leaders, most all of us find our role on a church staff as at least having this command in mind.
But here's the problem.
Sunday rolls around every 7th day. Like clockwork. And if we're not careful, we're consumed by the weekly grind that we lose the spirit of leading with initiative.
To be honest (and to further compound the situation), most churches do not acknowledge initiative and/or discourage it.
Many church staff members feel micromanaged. Others feel like whenever they have taken initiative in the past, it has gotten them reprimanded or criticized.
I get it.
How do you take allowable initiative in whatever context you're in?
Here are three ideas:
- Don't equate initiative with innovation. Taking initiative doesn't mean that you have to do something brand new. Taking initiative means that you have to try your best to make something better. Even slightly better. Look for things that you see that need to be done and do it. Maybe no one will see it, and that's ok. The feeling that you get when you take initiative will help keep you motivated and will make your job more interesting.
- Don't equate initiative with risk. Just because you take initiative doesn't mean that you're doing something risky. Taking initiative most of the times means that you create change, and many churches, don't deal with change well. But start by doing something that has zero risk. Like noticing someone that is serving faithfully and writing them a note telling them how much you appreciate them. The simple act of writing a quick note will make their day and keep your head in the game.
- Don't equate initiative with money or compensation. Taking initiative on a task is many times an 'over and above' proposition. No one may notice. And you're probably not going to get directly compensated for your initiative. That's fine. In fact, that's why initiative can be the highest form of obedience... because you're doing it because you CAN not because you HAVE TO.
Let me ask you two quick questions:
When was the last time you took real initiative in your role at your church?
What is just ONE thing you could do this week to show initiative?
One last thing about initiative: if you don't do it, no one will.
If you see something that needs to be done and you let someone else do it, it's their initiative, not yours.
Be the one this week that sees that extra need and meets it.
PS - If you supervise staff at your church, be on the watch for initiative from your staff. Call it out when you see it with a pat on the back and a ‘great job’. It will make a world of difference in your staff culture.