Sunday, June 06, 2010

Leader or Nutcase? Time and followers will tell...

I'm in the midst of a challenging period in my ministry. Challenging in a good way, but challenging nonetheless. The challenge is that I've gotten what I've prayed for--a parish eager to grow and knowing that there is a clear choice between growing and thriving or shrinking and dying. Many churches, though they say that they want to grow, are perfectly happy just the way they are. St. Edward's, thankfully, is not one of them.

That's not to say life is without difficulties. We're ending the time of transition between the former Rector's tenure and where we hope to be in the near future. This summer is a turning point, a tipping point, between the old St. Edward's and the new St. Edward's. As we end the transition and look towards the future, we also are spending money previously thought of as inviolate--walled off from being touched and, in some ways, a part f the parish's identity. We're having to let go of that identity a bit, without any real assurance about the future. To add to that, we're discovering as we go that, much like when one renovates a home, as we explore further we discover issues that need to be addressed, sometimes requiring more funding than originally anticipated. While I'm sure of our direction, such discoveries nevertheless give me pause.

My seminary classmate and Bishop of Texas, The Rt. Rev. C. Andrew Doyle (Andy to me) passed along the following to Episcopal Café. I think it is really an interesting commentary on leadership:

This was personally a revelation to me in a number of ways. The biggest is that it takes almost more courage to he a "first follower" than it does to be a leader. You can be a leader and be a nutcase. However, as a follower, you have the choice to follow or not to follow a given leader. Once someone gains a few followers, it is no longer about the leader.  I'd really like to get to that point, though we're still early in my time at St. Edward's. One challenge, of course, is that the priest is the identified leader and there is a continued differentiation between the priest and the lay leadership (vestry, ministry leaders, etc...) It is only when you get a large enough group to actually obscure the priest that such a person simply becomes nothing more than a rather specialized ministry leader. Food for thought about how I can become such a person.

Besides dancing with my shirt off, that is. No one wants to see that. Trust me.