Here is Tip #20 for Ministry Leaders in 2016…
Change your shoes.
You’ve heard the old adage, “You never truly know someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes.” This challenges us as leaders with questions like, “How well do we know the people we serve and serve with? Do we have any idea what it’s like to live and work in their world? What must it be like to work with or for me? (Ouch!) And, how do we go about finding out?”
Get down to the business of getting to know others. Here are a few suggestions…
Don’t do business. Not only business, that is. Avoid making every staff meeting or conversation in the hall about someone’s role, potential role or task and just get to know them. Ask about their day, their family, their job (if they are volunteers), fears, problems, hopes, plans and more. Everybody has a life that goes way beyond the one we know about. So, get to it, get to know them before getting down to business. Remember this, everyone is in the people business, and this goes double for ministry leaders. After all, Jesus was and is the ultimate people person.
Load some lime. We started a new prayer ministry, seeking to involve the congregation in prayer strategies for personal, family and ministry health. In retrospect this played no small roll in helping to see dozens decide to follow Jesus in the next couple of years… not bad considering the church only ran around 80 at the time. My team leader was a hog farmer and I didn’t know him as well as I needed to. So, I got in the old jeep and headed out to the farm. A few hours and a few hundred bags of lime feed later, I understood why my new prayer team leader would sometimes fall asleep in my sermons, but was otherwise passionate about prayer. From about 4:30am until 9:00pm at night, he was raising pigs to provide for his family and supply the rest of us with the bacon, sausage and chops we love so much. Oh… and praying throughout the day as he worked in an environment (and smell!) that most would not prefer.
Is it possible to hang out with some of your team while they are “on the job?” Maybe this is overkill? Maybe not. Ride along with that police officer, sit in on that lecture, help unclog that drain, show that house, change the oil, or edit that video. Walk in their shoes by working in them from time to time.
Do lunch (or breakfast, late night coffee, etc). This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to overlook this and eat alone, or skip it all together. Call it the proverbial “breaking bread” or just chilling out together. Take advantage of our common need to feed and routinely eat with team members.
Play as a team. Whether it’s hiking, bowling, a fantasy sport’s league, softball, rope’s course, team scrabble, ping-pong, geocaching… whatever! Get to know one another by having some good ole’ fashioned fun together.
RETREAT! Plan a retreat to combine all the above. Give everyone a blank “story board” (poster board) and then give each person the floor to share their story. Don’t just vision and engage in strategic planning. Get away to get to know one another more as people, not just staff.
This is all about creating community and you can’t create it visioning, studying, planning or even praying in your office all day. If you want to lead like Jesus, follow in His footsteps as he walked with and got to know people in the marketplace, along the road, at the beach, on a boat, at the temple, in their homes, by the proverbial “water cooler” and more. Wherever people were, Jesus was… and still is.
It’s time to change your shoes.