Saturday, October 16, 2010

Growing leaders 1

I've mentioned a couple of times that we are running the CPAS Growing Leaders course here at Kea. As we run through it I'm going to blog my thoughts. This is not really about the course itself, although it's excellent and I can recommend it - with a bit of imagination it would be applicable to any church context. It's more about my reflections on the way, and what it reveals and teaches us about the church.

Session 1 is demanding and takes participants quickly to the heart of the question - "what is leadership?" Then it asks them to start analysing their own preferred style of leadership. The aim here is simple: to get people to the point where they understand themselves a little better, and to help them see that, since there is not just one style of leadership, they can find a style that fits their own preferences.

What still surprises me on these occasions is how many people still struggle to see themselves as leaders within the church. They are able, gifted people, some of them have significant responsibilities in other parts of their life, but still they have trouble with the idea of taking a lead among their fellow Christians.

It makes me wonder what the church has done to them. Despite my earlier moans about churchgoers expecting the vicar to do everything, there is also a strong counter-trend within the UK church, one which encourages members to be passive when they should be active - often propagated by vicars who actually quite like doing everything. Anglican blogger Lesley Fellows (who happens to be a member of the clergy) has written several times about the infantilisation of people within the church, something which rings true for me.

Often in churches we find powerful figures (usually, but not always, the minister) who are "up front", controlling the show and keeping everyone in their place. Ideas and and initiative are not welcome, although doing the flowers and serving coffee are strongly encouraged. The church provides a standard menu and the role of the congregation is to take it or leave it. It's relatively easy to create and maintain a church culture like that. The difficult bit is to move it to one where people have permission to step up and take responsibility, perhaps even to lead the church in new directions. It's hard to make those changes, especially if like me, you're not a risk-taking leader by instinct. But I want to share the leadership with others, and that's what I'm going to do, even if they don't realise it yet.

2 comments:

ramtopsrac said...

I too am doing Growing Leaders this year - on the receiving end of it, rather than delivery end. (I'm only just into my 2nd year as a Reader.)

We are fortunate that we have a strong history of lay leadership in our multi-congregational parish, but unfortunate that it was not trained or equipped until our new local clergy started doing GL 4 years ago.

It is bearing fruit, as more become clear what their calling is, or confident enough to step out into new things. But even among the laity there still seems the danger of people keeping remit's very closely to themselves rather than taking risks to grow more leaders - if only because that way jobs are felt to 'get done properly' when time is of the essence! (I know this, because I know I'm probably one of the culprits).

I shall look forward to your further insights - and glad to be newly following your blog!

Charlie said...

Thanks for the comment. I think that clarifies what I was trying to say. I shouldn't be too hard on the clergy - often the vicar is actually the one who is actively delegating authority, while others, who are a bit more permanent, find it hard to let go of things that have belonged to them for years. This can be a challenge for Readers, if you don't mind me saying so - the C of E has discovered lay ministers, only to try and turn them into "mini-clergy" of the old-fashioned kind. I hope you are able to be yourself in Reader ministry.
(good name, btw. You're not related to Esmeralda Weatherwax, by any chance?)