I’m Asking for Trust, Not Power

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I’ve spent a little over a year doing some self examination, particularly in the area of leadership.  I came to a realization today, and jumped right to the keyboard to share it.  What I realized was my greatest struggle in leadership (now, and in the past) has always fallen in the difference between POWER and TRUST.   This applies to my management background and even within my ministry work.

Men, generally speaking, are looking for power and authority.  They climb the corporate ladder because they want to be top dog.  This isn’t true for all men, and this doesn’t negate that they work really hard and make sacrifices to get there.  It is that drive to “be their own boss” that makes men want to elevate their position or even start their own company.   Even in the church there is usually a progression:  Youth Pastor => Associate Pastor => Head Pastor.  In ministry it is common for a man to work his way up too, he may start out as an usher and then become head usher.  This forward movement is normal for men.

Women, I contend, have a different motivation.  Most women are not looking to be in power or have ultimate authority, but instead they want to be trusted to get the job done.  Women will stay in the same role for years, even a lifetime, if they find the job fulfilling.  In ministry, you can see this displayed in Sunday School teachers or Women’s Ministry leaders who have happily been serving for decades.  For many years the predominant use of women in the church came down to very domesticated roles, like rocking babies in the nursery, teaching Sunday School, singing in the choir, decorating the church, secretarial, and acts of hospitality (coffee on Sunday mornings, or food for the sick).  Historically, that is a fairly accurate role… but as time passed and women became educated and entered the workforce, there was a shift.

Women have become innovators and inventors, they write software, perform surgeries, run multi-million dollar organizations and corporations.  They have become college professors with doctorates, leading experts in many fields, politicians, business owners, and entrepreneurs.  Women have contributed significantly to the world through art, music, and literature.  When they raise their hand to volunteer at church, they are looking for a way to use those talents and skills to help the church in it’s vision.  However it is pretty common to usher her toward the children’s ministry director or hospitality team.

After my first was born, I chose to become a stay at home mom.  In nearly seventeen years, and multiple churches as we moved, there has not been a single conversation regarding my professional background among church leaders.  Not one.  Yet many of those skills would benefit any church or organization I have worked with. 

Not a single one could tell you that I was the fasting rising, and youngest manager in my company.  Nor, that my numbers were the best in our region (and in some instances our state).  They wouldn’t know that I wrote training manuals on how to more efficiently execute certain positions in the company, and was moved to a training location to prepare future managers.  That I managed a staff off one hundred people, nearly a hundred thousand dollars per day in sales, and nearly half million dollars in inventory on any given day.  I have hired people, trained people, and fired people.  I have negotiated commissions, raises and contracts.  I have experience in marketing campaigns, organizational structuring, etc… etc.

I don’t list this as a source of pride, but simply a fact… a short resume of experience that goes continually untapped in multiple arenas.  I know that I am not the only one, I am not the only woman who has sat in the pews from week to week and knows deep down she could be doing more. I’ve talked to women who have approached their Pastors offering up their experience, only to be brushed aside. 

I spoke with a woman recently who lamented that her church hired a young barely experienced guy for a job that she had thirty years of experience in.  She would have VOLUNTEERED to do the job, but she had no clue her church was even hiring.  When I asked her if the church knew she had experience in that field, she said YES.  Apparently on numerous occasions she volunteered and every time was told her services were not needed.  She wasn’t even given a chance.

I know that feeling.  I’ve offered my services and been told “no thank you”, I have been mirco-managed too.  I also know what it is like to be in a leadership role with the total support and trust.  As I reflect upon those experiences I realized it really had nothing to do with being in authority, power, or being the top dog.  Knowing that those whom you are working or serving with TRUST you is the game changer.

If a woman in your church has experience running a multi-million dollar organization, her gifts are better utilized on a finance committee, building committee, or even on staff versus putting out coffee and donuts each Sunday.  The woman in your church who has been a hiring manager is a great person to include on your Pastor/Staff search committees, creating clear cut job descriptions, and listing your job postings.  A woman in your church who has a background in hospitality is a great person to consult when the church wants to throw a large event to ensure nothing is overlooked.  My great aunt was an accountant for a major corporation, and served as the treasurer of her church for decades. 

It would be irresponsible to not consider that some of these women who left a given field may NOT want to do the same job in the church.  Or, they may be happy to be consulted with for major projects but have no interested in full time commitment to a particular role.  This is especially true for our retirees who are using this time to travel and spend time with their growing families.  However, even some of our retirees are happy to share their experience and knowledge, so we can’t discount them either.  In as much, you may find the corporate CEO who never had a family of her own is happy to rock babies every chance she can get.  We shouldn’t assume the best place for women to serve in the church.  Instead we should be proactively placing them based on their experience, spiritual gifts tests, and speaking to them in regards to their area of interests. 

Women in church leadership want the staff members to trust that they are capable to do the job and to allow them to lead, not without accountability of course… but with support.   Women want the church leaders (and this includes women’s ministry leaders, and other subministry leaders) to talk to them about their professional or educational background.  Then work together as a team to find where you are best suited to serve.  I recently read that there is growth in the number of women who are leaving the church, and I can’t help but think this may be the reason why.

Generally speaking, when you give a person a job or a role within a church that uses their gifts and talents… they become invested.  They will remain part of the body long term.  However, when a person feels overlooked, unappreciated, or undervalued they tend to leave and find a place where they are.  If we want to slow down or even stop the departure of women from the church, we need to be proactive in connecting them to the church in a meaningful way.

KEEP IT SHUT – You can’t stick your foot in your mouth, if you keep it shut.

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Confession time: I am a chronic “foot in mouther”.  Sometimes, more than I’d care to admit, I smack myself in the head for the words that seemingly fall out of my mouth.  It’s not that I am saying something offensive or distasteful; I just seem to have a tendency to just let the thoughts swirling in my head fall right out of my mouth.  Occasionally, they are thoughts that would have been better of kept in the vault, or at least said in different circumstances.  I’ve also been known to NOT speak up when I should.

Do you relate?  Do you sound like me, or do you know someone who does?

The struggle is very real, for people like me.  The bible says to speak truth in love, but it also tells us to tame our tongues.  How do we find that balance, of knowing when to speak and when not to?  And, when it is time to speak up… how do we say it in a way that is appropriate?

As a child, I was taught to speak the truth.  When people would ask my opinions of things, I didn’t hold back.

It was in middle school, when my friend asked me if I liked her new hair cut, that I would tell her that it made her look like a stalk of blonde broccoli.

In high school, I told the boy who had just met my mother EXACTLY what she thought of him.

In college, when a friend lamented about people were talking about her behind her back, I politely told her that she was providing them with plenty of ammunition and should rethink her decisions.

Over time, I learned to soften the blow on the superficial things.

“I really like the other shirt better.”

“That is an interesting color, what made you pick it?”

But, I still manage to “insert foot in mouth”.  Some times, I open my mouth on subjects where I have no reason to even be involved.

When serving on a ministry team, we were preparing for an event, and I got caught in a triangle.  One of the Pastors didn’t necessarily agree with how the event was being planned.  He came to me to ask my opinion, which I gave.  Yet, I wasn’t on that committee.  I ended up getting a phone call from the coordinator, totally caught off guard, who was very upset.   This was a situation where I really should have kept my opinions to myself, it wasn’t my job.  I wasn’t on the committee.   At the same time, what I should have done was directed him to share his concerns with her directly.  After all, as the Pastor overseeing the ministry, he certainly had the authority to speak to her on the issue & make changes to the event if he felt it was necessary.  It was his job, just not my place to be involved.  She was very upset with me for getting involved, and rightfully so.  And, to be entirely honest, it has affected our relationship when working together on ministry projects.

Other times, I neglect to speak up when I should.

There was as situation with a close friend, where her behavior was out of line.  Instead of calling her out on it gently, when it started, I stayed quiet.  I knew she was a fragile person, and I thought I could just stuff my feelings.  It was easier to be a peacemaker, right?  WRONG.  Instead, because I didn’t speak up in the beginning… I stuffed… and stuffed…. and stuffed.  Then I blew up.  It was more than I could take, and something had to be said.  Unfortunately, by blowing up like I did, there was more damage done than if I had spoken up from the very beginning.

We need discernment about the things we say:  what to say, when to say it, and how to say it.  We also need discernment to tame our tongues. The only way we get this discernment is by seeking God’s wisdom.  The scriptures tell us exactly how to speak in love, when to tame our tongues, and the scriptures we can use to filter our thoughts through.

I recently received a copy of Keep It Shut by Karen Ehman from Family Christian.  Let’s be real, I needed this book in my life.  And, interestingly enough, I’m not alone.  This is a problem we will all face at one time or another, some of us more frequently than we should.  HA.  Even when we learn to tame our tongue, it can still happen… we say that thing, we simply can’t take back.

Things we say to our kids.   Our husbands.  Our coworkers and friends.  Those we serve with in ministry.  Even complete strangers.

Keep It Shut is a book that focuses on what to say, how to say it and when to say nothing at all.   It is a funny book, that is really open and honest about those things that plague us in our every day lives.  I also appreciate that Karen Ehman doesn’t lump everyone in to a single category, but recognizes that different people will require different approaches.   Keep It Shut also address our digital tongue, which has the potential to do even more damage.

Digital tongue is how we speak through email, text messages, and social media.   These dialogues can be harder to decode emotion and intention because you can’t see the people you are speaking to.  You may not even realize how offensive your statements sound, because in your head they seem innocent enough.  Or, as a reader, you may not realize a person is telling a joke or sincere.

The digital tongue is something still fairly new, but has become a primary way to communicate with people.  We have to learn to use it correctly, and to remember that nothing replaces real life conversations… where sound communicates more than the written word.

Keep It Shut doesn’t neglect to hit the topics that may sting a bit, like gossiping (especially under the guise of a prayer request) or when we speak in hate as a response to being hurt.  There is a biblical approach to the advice and guidance from the book, that helps us not only keep control over our words but understanding why it is important to do so.   Complete with examples from the scriptures of people who were put into positions where their words had great power over the outcome of their life and others.

Just as any good book should, Keep It Shut concludes with a reminder that we can use our words in good, positive, God honoring ways and leaves us with some tips and verses we can reference in the future.  I really like the last pages of the book that have speaking prompts that you can copy or print out & place in visible areas as reminders.  These can be placed next to your computer or home phone, or even create a cute background photo for your phone that you’ll see before answering every call or text.

Here are a few great quotes from the book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Before I engage my lips, I must know with absolute certainty that what I am saying is true.  If I know for sure that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.  If I have a strong hunch that something is not the truth, I need to be quiet.  If I have even the slightest doubt that something might not be true, I need to be quiet.  But just because something is true does not mean I always need to say it.  Motives and manners matter.”

“Do your words online add value to the conversation at hand?”

“My daughter simply vocalized a truth she noticed in my life:  I tend to lose my cool with my family, but somehow manage to keep calm when I interact with others.”

“Do I open my mouth with wisdom, or do I just open my mouth, spewing out whatever is bubbling up in my angry heart?”

 

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