Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Freedom of Admitting Our Weaknesses

"Good leaders are aware of both their strngths and weaknesses. They are not afraid to admit to the latter. The know how to find support and are humble enough to ask for it. There is no perfect leader who has all the gifts necessary for good leadership."

Leaders, by their very gifting, like to run things. We like to be in charge. We like to be in control. Our problem is that we sometimes take on too much responsiblity or try to control things that would be better left in another's hands.

I know. I've been one of those leaders.

When I first started leading small groups and teaching classes, I felt like everything was up to me. I assumed responsibility for content devlopment of the study or topic, for discussion facilitation, for hospitality, for refreshments, for soul care, for leadership-liason roles between church leadership and the group, for social activities... and well, you get the idea. Like a one-woman band, I tried to play all parts simultaneously and ended up flat and off-key.

Then I learned about delegation. I studied the Scriptures about the Body of Christ and how we need each other. God humbled me and let me know I wasn't indispensible, and that, in fact, He could accomplish some things far better without me.

By trying to do it all, I in effect denied someone else the chance to use her gifts or to develop her gifting. I denied that someone the privilege and blessing of serving others with her gifts. My compulsion to do everything barred her from becoming a vessel of God's grace in the lives of others (1 Peter 4:10). Father, forgive me.

Through a painful process of growth and learning, I've finally found rest in knowing I'm free to use only my gifts and no more. I can focus on what God as prepared me to do and leave the rest to those who are better equipped.

So now, in our Bible study classes, each class has a leadership team: two teachers, one hostess, and one care team coordinator. The teachers are responsible to prepare content, teach the class, and foster small group interactions within the larger classes. The hostess handles room set-up, refreshment coordination, and overall responsibility for creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. The care-team coordinator is responsible for creating a class care-team (a small group of people) who will see to the group's special needs (meals, visitation, notes of encouragement, condolences in loss, support in injury, etc...).

Each role requires gifting specific to the task.

And what a relief it is for me, as one whose primary gifting is teaching, to turn over the reigns of hostessing and care. Though I was competent in those roles, I was not gifted. And when I tried to assume those roles too, the responsibilities of care and hostessing drained me and compromised my ability to teach.

What fun it is to focus on teaching! And what grace it is to serve with a team. Team leadership beats one-woman-band leading any day.

I'm thankful for my team. I delight to see God in and at work through them. I'm releaved to be able to focus on my strengths. And the class is far better for it, as are we all.

Consider delegating. Try team leadership. I suspect you'll be glad you did.

'Til next time,

Monday, April 25, 2005

Leader Quote of the Week - April 25, 2005

"Faith is that attitude in which, acknowledging our complete insufficiency for any of the high ends of life, we rely utterly on the sufficiency of God....It is an act which is the negation of all activity, a moment of passivity out of which the strength for action comes, because in it God acts.
--C.H. Dodd

I have to agree with the insight provided by twentieth-century British theologian and biblical scholar C.H. Dodd (1884-1973) in his quote above.

Until we realize that we, even as leaders, cannot change hearts or give someone understanding—until we realize our insufficiency—we won't rely on God (the only true heart-changer and source of all understanding) as we should.

Dodd’s words are a wake-up call for me this week. How much do I really rely on God alone to accomplish life change in the hearts of those I serve? How much do truly realize how insufficient I am to do anything of eternal significance in and of my own resources?

May God give us grace this week to realize our inadequacy and to rely on His sufficiency in all we undertake.

'Til next time,

Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Importance of Pauses

Read the following:

raphbutatleastyoumightgi veitatryiusedthisactivitythis
weektoillustratealessononsi mplifyingandfocusinghoww
thisparagraphwillmakelitt lesenseitneedscapitalizations
pacesbetweenwordsandpar agraphscommasperiodsan

I suspect the paragraph above will seem difficult to read and decipher. It maybe confusing, too. If, however, I insert the necessary spaces between the words, add correct punctuation, and capitalize letters as needed, the paragraph becomes readable.

Now try it:

I'm not sure if you're going to be able to make sense of this paragraph but at least you might give it a try. I used this activity this week to illustrate a lesson on simplifying and focusing how we use our time. Without capital letters or punctuation, however, this paragraph will make little sense; it needs capitalization, spaces between words and paragraphs, commas, periods, and other punctuation for it to become readable.

What a difference a few pauses make!

We need pauses (spaces and punctuation) and priorities (capitalization) to help us make sense of our lives. Do we bother to pause to think about what we're doing and how we're using our time? Do we take time to prioritize? When we do, instead of living lives that feel like endless streams of activities and demands, we end up with lives that flow like words of a well-written paragraph.

A punctuated life makes more sense. It's easier to follow and understand. It's easier to live.

Won't you take time this week to pause and prioritize? You'll feel refreshed and refocused if you do.


Monday, April 18, 2005

Leader Quote of the Week - April 18, 2005

"Leaders are human. They get tired, frustrated, discouraged, and confused. They also fail and sin time and again. Yet, by God's grace, your humanity does not disqualify you from serving God in all that you do. In fact, it becomes the means for God to reveal his power and mercy to you and through you."

--Touchpoints for Leaders (Tyndale, 2004)

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Stay the Course

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; [24] and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
Hebrews 10:23-24 (NASB-U)

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. [36] For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
Hebrews 10:35-36 (NASB-U)

Ah. Endurance. Perseverence. Determination. Holding on. Hanging in there. These traits and attitudes are part of biblical leadership. And it's no wonder.

What leader hasn't felt like quitting? Who hasn't wanted to give up? How often have we wanted to throw in the towel? Sometimes we're so exhausted or discouraged we just don't feel like going on.

I can say, without exception, that the times I've wanted to quit or give up have been the times when my eyes were focused most on myself, my inadequacies, and my circumstances and least on the character and power of God.

If you're discouraged just now, remember these truths from God's word:

2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB-U): And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;

Philippians 1:6 (NASB-U): For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

1 Cor. 15:58 (NASB-U): Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

2 Cor. 1:8-9 (NASB-U): For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; [9] indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;

2 Cor. 12:9 (NASB-U): And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

1 Thes. 5:24 (NASB-U): Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.

When I'm discouraged and feel like quitting, I ask God to lift my eyes from my circumstances and my inability to His sovereignty and might. The vehicle through which God accomplishes this in me in His word. Scripture moves my eyes to Him.

If I'm physically exhausted, I take time to sleep, exercise, and eat right, and I pray for strength. If I'm spirit-weary, I pray for renewal. But most of all I ask God to reveal more of Himself to me. I ask Him to move my eyes to Him. And He does.

If you're discouraged today, take a few moments to meditate on the passages above. Allow God to renew you through His word. Allow Him to move your eyes off yourself and your circumstances and to set them squarely on Him.

Hang in there.

'Til next time,


Friday, April 15, 2005

Thought Provoking Lists Make Great Teaching Tools

My apologies for my recent two-week absence. Life's been a bit crazy, but I haven't forgotten you! I'm back now, and will be posting regularly again.

And I'm continuing to learn about new (and new-to-me) resources that can enrich my teaching.

One group of teaching illustration resources I've discovered recently are those countless books of lists on the market today. Wow, are they filled with topics that can generate great discussions! Here are just some of the list books in which I've found useful teaching prompts or intriguing discussion starters:

Checklist for Life: The Ultimate Handbook (2002, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Lists to Live By: The Christian Collection (2004, Multnomah)

List to Live By for Smart Living (2002, Multnomah)

Lists to Live By: The First Collection (1999, Multnomah)

I have found these books clearanced at overstock book sales, second-hand novelty shops, and public library used-book sales (have yet to pay full price for one). The cheapest cost only 50 cents; the most expensive was $5.97 (far less than retail). I'm sure you can find them on sale, too.

And they are loaded. Their lists cover topics like these: wisdom; virtue; sin; prayer; marriage; success; leadership; rest; forgiveness; time management; handling criticism; building character; memorizing Scripture; endurance; contentment--you name it; it's probably covered in one of these lists.

Sometimes I use the lists "as is" (duly credited, of course) as a resource handout for my students; sometime I adapt the lists to suit my lesson-planning needs (again, duly credited). Sometimes I just use the lists to springboard my own thought process.

In any case, I think these lists can stimulate our thinking and foster creativity in our teaching.

I hope you find them as useful as I've found them.

'Til next time,