Looking back at a time when I was a fit young man, I loved white water paddling. In this sport I was solely responsible for my safety. The decisions that I made had to take into account unsafe conditions and potential unsafe acts. These decisions relied on my having acquired the experience and competency needed to avoid errors of judgment.
As an enterprise grows, leadership requirements change, as is the case when growing from a one person to a two person team. This was the case when I introduced my wife to white water canoeing and we paddled together in the same vessel.
In this situation, change was introduced that had implications from a management perspective.The new structure required communication and teamwork that was not needed by a single paddler. The two people in the canoe need to have an appreciation of each other’s skill set. This small team must also have established a shared mental model of the task ahead. This includes the route to be taken, the role of each person, and how instructions will be communicated. The benefits of learning to work together as a team greatly outweighed the effort it took to develop these skills and allowed us to paddle many hundreds of kilometres on rivers in both NSW and Tasmania. As a team, we had the added advantage of a concept referred to as ‘challenge and response’. If a team member sees or suspects that something is not going as planned, this is communicated and assessed, and if necessary, acted upon by the other team member. This contributed to our safety and helped us to develop a strong bond of trust.
As a team continues to grow, new challenges arise. A white water trip that many paddlers aspire to is the Franklin River in Tasmania. In this case, my wife opted to join a rafting team which allowed me to paddle my kayak.
The rafting team had increased to five people. The team had a leader. In this case, the leader was familiar with the river as well as the most appropriate ways to communicate the actions required of the four others in the team. Each of the four paddlers were briefed and trained in what commands will be issued and what they are required to do with the paddle stroke for each command. This team quickly developed a trust in their team leader and in each other. However, if this trust does not develop there is a strong potential for a poor outcome. This model is similar to what may be encountered in small to medium sized enterprises. However, a point will be reached where one person’s expertise will be insufficient and a barrier to growth will very likely be encountered.
FROM KAYAK TO CRUISE SHIP
Any enterprise including a church, requires leadership that is appropriate for the current needs of that enterprise. The passenger ship Royal Princess provides us with a good example of this concept.
Photo: Princess Cruises
This ship carries 5,600 passengers and crew. The navigational management of this vessel during high risk operations such as entering and leaving port requires a seven person team.
Photo: Princess Cruises
This is very different from the rafting team leadership model. In this case each team member is a leader in his or her own area of expertise. Each team member has delegated roles and responsibilities. Advice is provided by the harbour pilot, the vessel is navigated by two deck officers (Navigator and Co-Navigator), steering is conducted by the helmsperson, general oversight is provided by the ship’s captain and an administrator ensures that bridge procedures, documentation and checklists are adhered to. A lookout will also be interacting with the team to report lights, navigational marks and other vessels to the bridge team members.
FROM CRUISE SHIP TO CHURCH
The bridge management model is similar to one that can be applied to a growing church. Leaders with particular skill-sets look after specific areas of church life, are able to communicate well and work under oversight. This model faciliates growth but is generally associated with challenges. As more people join an organisation there is increased potential for poor outcomes. Leadership that is unable to adapt to changing circumstances runs the risk of burning out. We have a good example of this situation described in Exodus Chapter 18.
JETHRO’S ADVICE FOR A GROWING ENTERPRISE
Jethro was the priest of Midian and was Moses’ father in-law. Exodus chapter 18 describes how he observed that the leadership model being applied to the Hebrews in the wilderness was becoming problematic.
When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”
Although Moses’ one person team had been a successful model for a time, it had reached a limit. Endurance was becoming a challenge and burnout a very likely outcome.
“You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone.”
Jethro then proceeds to do what most leaders expect from those who have identified a problem; he suggests a solution. He suggests that Moses should have a team to assist him and that each team member should possess a basic skillset. Moses was counselled to select able men from the people, who were God fearing and trustworthy. These people could then be developed to be effective leaders.
“Morever, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe.”
Jethro then provides further advice that is still used in leadership and teamwork training today. He introduces the elements of appropriate delegation, roles, responsibility and limits. He does this by recognising that these new leaders will have differing abilities based on their experience and skillsets.
and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.”
Another aspect of delegation is defining authority and limits.
“And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you.
“If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their place in peace.”
HEEDING JETHRO’S ADVICE
One may wonder what heeding Jethros’s advice to Moses might look like for a growing church. According to this biblical model, getting ready for growth will require understanding and wise people to take on leadership roles. People who love God and have a desire to serve Him in a capacity somewhere on the tens to thousand continuum.
Effective leadership results from having a willingness to offer a willing sacrifice of praise, and if required, become equipped through training and mentoring that others already in leadership are able to provide. Has God been whispering to you? Do you have a skill set that may be the right skill for our current phase of growth or perhaps for an event? Are you up for personal development? Let’s not forget that the Holy Spirit equips and prepares us when we are willing to serve sacrificially and have our eyes focused on Jesus our Lord.
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Your executive pastor,
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