Entry 2: Shared Leadership

A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest. But he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

Luke 22:24-27

In later entries I will dig into revitalization nuts and bolts. But the next three entries will describe how we are structured at St. Marks and explore three essential concepts for revitalization: 1. shared leadership, 2. team-based ministry, and 3. the priesthood of all believers.

One of the major mistakes clergy make in a revitalization is rushing in headlong to “fix the problems” of the community with the application of positional leadership. We see ourselves as the solution, the heroic solo leader who will save the day. We begin doing the “work of ministry” to and for the people. In some cases, this can lead to a revitalization (if we don’t burn out in the process). But those revitalizations won’t last long. What we actually do in that approach is make ourselves indispensable. The whole system starts to orient around us and our gifts. When we leave the revitalization collapses.

I know this from my own track record of failures. Each of the revitalizations I led early in my ministry collapsed as soon as I left. Additionally, I burned out several times in the process.    

Shared Leadership (Luke 22: 24-27)

Leadership is energizing a community of people toward accomplishing some shared mission. The essence of this kind of leadership is actually followership… following Jesus well is the source of all leadership. Also, the focus is not on the action of the “leader” but on the community. The community must internalize their own challenges and discover their own inner resources to meet those challenges.

The dominant leadership model in the institutional church is a positional/hierarchal and individualistic approach. The individual acts on a system from a position of perceived power and the system responds. But revitalization is not about implementing strategic goals toward some preconceived outcome. It is not about an appointed leader, operating from a place of positional power, creating a new vision statement, and delegating responsibilities toward its fulfillment.

Shared leadership has become a well studied phenomenon in organizational research for the last twenty-five years. It is the fastest growing style of leadership today, particularly in the form of leadership teams. Shared leadership flattens the dominating hierarchal mode of denominations.

We can draw upon the communal life of the Trinity as the model for the kind of leadership we need in a revitalization. Perichoresis, the relational dance of mutual indwelling, is not about one person of the Trinity ruling over the others. It is a shared mode, each making room for the other, each taking the lead of the divine dance at different times. 

Shared leadership theory helps us understand how each person in a complex system can offer leadership. It is the true design for Jesus’ church as the “priesthood of all believers.”

Thus, we all have a part, but Jesus is the true leader. As Bach says, we play the notes as they are written, “but it is God who makes the music.” The music we make is less orchestra, with a conductor standing on a pedestal with pre-decided sheet music and more like a jazz band. We sit down together, choose a tempo and tone, and then just start to play. Doing the creative work together improvisationally. Shared leadership requires a strategically team-based approach, which I will explore in the next entry. Stay tuned!

Want to join a community of fellow practitioners of revitalization, check out … https://www.facebook.com/RevitalizationPractitionersNetwork

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