In his April 4 ENews blog Conference Minister Pleva wrote an especially perceptive piece (I have to say that. He’s my boss after all. But it really was pretty good.) about the lack of effective leadership in many of our congregations. I don’t disagree with anything he said about leadership, but I want to take a look at the same topic through the other end of the telescope. After almost six years of working with congregations large and small, I have come to the conclusion that whatever the state of congregational leadership is in the Conference, we are also suffering from a decided lack of followership, as well.
The most gifted, most effective leaders in the world are completely hamstrung without a group of people willing to follow their lead. Even the most original, creative ideas in the world will die aborning without folks who are willing to roll up their sleeves, park their egos at the door and do the work that needs doing.
Poor followership is a state of mind with several symptoms. Among the most prominent:
- If I didn’t think it, it’s not a good idea.
- If I didn’t say it, it hasn’t been said.
- I’m the idea person, the creative force. Somebody else can make the phone calls, set up the tables, order premarin online serve the coffee….
I remember a friend and former colleague of mine using a Native American-based metaphor about the relative distribution of chiefs and Indians to explain why his congregation—which consisted of well-educated, affluent professionals who were always coming up with really creative ideas never actually got anything done. It wasn’t that they didn’t care. It wasn’t that they weren’t concerned. It was simply that far too many of the folks in the congregation saw themselves as leaders and far too few saw themselves as followers. Once the goals had been defined and the plans had been made, most of the congregation thought their work was done. They simply didn’t see themselves manning the booths, passing out the flyers, ringing the doorbells, standing behind the counters.
A good illustration of this phenomenon comes from a story another friend and colleague of mine is fond of telling. It’s about the old pastor who stands in the pulpit one Sunday at the start of planting season and says to his rural congregation: “If you want your prayers for a good harvest answered, you better have a hoe in your hands when you say ‘Amen.’”
We definitely need leaders in our congregations, but maybe we also need hoers.
Tony Stoik, Association Conference Minister