Tag Archives: Leadership

The Beehive Church

Collaborative Honey Bees

Collaborative Honey Bees

Having just finished and handed in one of my final portfolios, it has given me an opportunity to reflect on the sort of ministry I would hope to engage with in the future – and it’s all to do with bees! Now before you succumb to an image of a wild apiarist reverend roaming the parish bedecked in a wide-brimmed veil touting honey as a cure-all, think instead about collaboration.

We have much to learn about working together collaboratively, and by that I don’t mean working well as a team under the authority and  expertise of a ‘good’ leader. No indeed, because for so long we have had a hierarchical model of leadership in the Church, where decisions are filtered downwards and authority is shared amongst those deemed to be ‘worthy’ or competent; but it doesn’t have to be like that.

The fact is we already have the ultimate authority in God, and collaborative ministry is nowhere better demonstrated than through the Holy Trinity, which acts as an example of synergy, the whole being greater than the parts and yet each part is distinctive and committed to working together both internally as well as externally

One true leader

One true leader

True collaboration can only take place when we place God at the pinnacle of the leadership tree, and when every ministry that is revealed through the gifts or charisms imparted by the Holy Spirit to each person are equally esteemed and valued. These gifts are all undoubtedly diverse, but the leader that facilitates opportunities for all to be heard, establishes lines of communications between different groups and safeguards accountability, while at the same time recognising that others may be better equipped to undertake various tasks is surely one that will succeed in fulfilling their primary role of reminding the community whose initiative they need to follow and who the source of their mission and unity is.

Not an easy task for someone whose personality tends towards natural introversion, who will often carry out a task independently to simply get it done quickly. However, over the last few years I have been introduced to more and more examples of collaborative ministry and have come to realise just how important it is; and above all I truly believe that in order to progress the work that God asks us to undertake, we need to use Christ as our example and the Holy Spirit as our guide,

What then has this to do with bees? Well the writer Tolstoy spent a lot of time musing philosophically about the collaborative nature of bees within a beehive, often comparing it to the Christian church, not always in a kind way. However, what we can learn from honeybees is that they collaborate together almost unconsciously to ensure that the colony not only survives but thrives.

The fruits of the hive

The fruits of the hive

Foraging bees will continuously collect nectar, often being led to new sources by any one of its apparent insignificant members, whose dance can influence the rest of the hive to venture to new and plentiful supplies, whilst the worker bees use this raw material to construct complex precise honeycombs all without the need for supervisors, each contributing a small piece of beeswax before moving aside to allow a co-worker to add their contribution. At the same time the bees respect nature by giving back to their habitat the gift of pollination.

Admittedly the drone bees could be considered the lotharios of the bee world, but hey-ho it takes all sorts; and at the very centre of the hive is the queen bee, without whom the colony would not survive and yet who selflessly gives herself to ensure the next generation of bees is produced and nurtured*.

What then of the product of this collaboration – surely there is nothing sweeter than being prepared to share with others the glorious fruits of all this shared ministry.  It’s just a thought, but maybe the ‘beehive church’ is one that we could all be striving toward. Why not let me know what you think?

The collaborative church

The collaborative church

*Within this analogy, God the creator is wholly represented through all of his creation, whilst the Holy Spirit provides the wisdom, energy and drive. At the centre is Christ, the selfless example of whom the minister is called to represent and emulate.

Pearls of Wisdom

Pearls of Wisdom

Pearls of Wisdom

During my recent course on Leading God’s People Today (LGPT) we had the opportunity to create an Open Space in which a question of our choice could be asked by two or three of us, who then proceeded to set up ‘market-stalls’ in different venues, where the only thing on offer was the question and a request for thoughts or answers. The other participants could then choose to come and browse your ‘stall’ for a long or as short a time as they wished, drift off to another stall and return again if they wanted

I felt this was too good an opportunity to miss! Here were about a dozen ‘leaders’ of various types. Some with vast knowledge in their particular field, some who were still learning as they went along and others with lots of concrete life experiences. The majority of them were clergy with a sprinkling of lay people thrown into the mix.

My question?…… What advice would you give to a new Ordinand? Subtext – Spill the beans on all of those things that your training establishment might neglect to tell you

Their answers turned out to be not unsurprisingly good and honest. In fact they were not only valid points for a clergy person but could also be useful to anyone whose life involves meeting, caring for and engaging with other people. I share them with you here:

On finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it’ Matthew 13:46

Value Friendships – Remember friendship like any other relationships needs time and effort on both sides. Hold on to those who have travelled longest with you, don’t leave them out of your lives even though your job may mean that you are having to meet lots of new people. There will probably be many who will want to know you simply because of your position; some of them will turn out to be true friends others pastoral  acquaintances.

Take care of yourself – You’re of no use to anyone else if you end up being the one who needs looking after. Give yourself time off and don’t feel guilty. If you’re feeling stressed recognise that it’s time you found a safety valve in order to let off steam. Find a hobby that’s completely away from your line of work – collect orchids, take up tap dancing, play online computer games with the pseudonym Daft Vacar

You’re in it for the long haul – Things may be new and exciting at first and you might be buzzing with ideas, but you have to pace yourself. You are not going to change the world overnight or the choir’s penchant for repeatedly singing the Wesley brothers 18th century top twenty hits. These things take time… make the most of making memories for the future.

However – Be aware that change is inevitable – You may think after a few years that you’ve got it just right and it will be all plain sailing from now on; but there’s no time for complacency. You only have to look back over the last ten years and realise how much things have already changed, not only in your life but in the world around you. So be flexible and accepting of change – it might not be as bad as you or those around you think

You won’t get it right all the time – so be prepared to admit it was all your fault and ask for forgiveness. Sometimes it may be easier to take the blame anyway as this will allow things to move forward. Moreover, on those occasions where you so very clearly were right, suppress the urge to do a victory dance up and down the aisle shouting ‘Go me, go me!’* and instead be gracious and forgiving yourself. After all we all make mistakes!

Don’t forget to laugh a lot – We know that Jesus wept, and no doubt there will be plenty to be sorrowful about over the years. There are also bound to be days when you want to scream at the world to sort itself out. However, maintaining a sense of humour should be a priority. Laugh at the absurdity of life, laugh with your friends, laugh out loud – it really is still the best medicine. Be mindful though that not everyone is going to be appreciative of your sense of comedy – they may not laugh at your jokes…. or if they do it might be out of pity!

Remember to laugh a lot

Remember to laugh a lot

Some really valuable advice then to hold on to – genuine pearls of wisdom

*This apparently is particularly unhelpful during the Sunday morning Eucharist service

Follow the Leader!

What Style of Leadership Do You Have?

What Style of Leadership Do You Have?

Over the last six months, I have taken part in a course entitled ‘Leading God’s People Today’ (LGPT). Over the ten sessions we worked on developing collaborative leadership skills, and learning all sorts of management techniques. A lot of these were not specifically for church leaders but could be thought of as tools that may be useful in our ministry.

As well as our personality types being revealed (one for a whole other blog!) we role-played group discussions using Appreciative Inquiry – ‘I have a problem’ …. Action Learning – ‘What you could do is’…. and Open Space – ‘Well, what do you think?’ …. all of which will be great when I get to chair PCC meetings!*

Now before you leave this ‘marketplace’ – sorry blog, thinking that you’ve stumbled on a Richard Branson type guide to ‘Running a Successful Business‘ let me share with you one other thing that I found particularly interesting.

Over thousands of years there has been much discussion about whether leaders are born or created. Consider the likes of Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, born into humble beginnings yet rising to become two of the greatest leaders of the last century or Horatio Nelson and Winston Churchill, both from prosperous backgrounds, whose superb grasp of strategy and unconventional tactics saw them become inspirational leaders. What is clear is that all leaders have a particular style to their leadership

How then is a humble vicar-to-be to compete and what might be their leadership style? Well Keith Lamdin’s book, ‘Finding Your Leadership Style‘ breaks this down into six different styles which I have precised. Read through them and decide what YOUR style of leadership might be – then read my take on ‘How to Become a Great Leader’

  • The Monarch: His or her word is law and because they don’t have to waste time on consultation they are often able to get things done quickly with little fuss. People look up to them because of their desire to feel safe and protected, however they may also feel unable to challenge this type of leader
  • The Warrior: This type of leader frequently performs exceptional deeds. They have a deep desire to bring about changes in social welfare and are energised by charitable work. With charismatic personalities they lead by pursuing a clear direction and have a certain knowledge of what is right and wrong. Their devoted followers live by a simple mantra, but what happens if the leader turns out not to be right? Do they recognise their own flaws?
  • The Servant: Their belief is that humans function best when they are part of a community. They are good listeners and are skilled at identifying people’s needs. There is a great acceptance of others with whom they seek to empathise and build up a relationships. They do, however, need to be aware that people may try and take advantage of their loving nature
  • The Elder: One who is perceived to be wise; who will invite you to talk with them about what needs doing but will leave you to reflect and then make up your own mind. They place great importance on listening and their life experiences often enable them to discuss things as broadly as possible. Their leadership can be liberating to their followers but frustrating when clear, decisive direction is needed
  • The Contemplative: There is no attempt to overtly lead you, believing that it is God’s job to bring about the work of mission. They call on people to hold God in their heart’s, recognising that we are not necessarily called to be successful but to be faithful. Therefore, prayer is an important tool and they will encourage people to pray into situations. To some people though, this may look like a lack of initiative and purpose.
  • The Prophet: Their success as a leader is not measured by numbers, despite the modern obsession with numerical growth. They are closely in touch with local issues and take a prayerful and meditative approach, preferring to wait on God

So which style do you fit into? On a personal level which style do I fit into? What I do know is that ‘Great leaders rally people to a better future’ (Marcus Buckingham, ‘The One Thing You Need To Know‘) so here is my own guide to how to be a great leader

How to Be a Great Leader

Choose your team carefully. Having a team with a range of skills will give you more flexibility. It is important to check people’s availability; if they are able to come together fairly quickly then they will be able to bond together and identify themselves more easily as part of the team.

Get to know your team on a social as well as professional level, showing a interest in their home lives, perhaps visiting them or their relatives or attending conventional social occasions such as weddings and funerals. This will not only give you an insight as to what makes them tick but will show them that you are interested in them as whole people

Share your knowledge with your team: there are many ways this can be done and you should be aware of the different learning styles of the group, whether they are auditory, visual or kinaesthetic learners. Some will learn best through question and answer sessions; others by seeing you demonstrate these skills, and then having a go themselves. It is important for you to be able to assess their progress from time to time by setting them specific targets and providing opportunities for reflection afterwards.

You will soon find that one or more of your team will clearly show potential to take on more of a leadership role themselves. Build up their confidence with positive encouragement at the same time being prepared to provide a safe environment in which to allow them to make mistakes. Make it clear of your expectations for them as individuals, whilst being fair but firm about the standards you require

Eventually there will come a time when members of the team will decide to leave, perhaps after being head hunted for a new career; often it will be you. It would be good therefore that you prepare your team for this eventuality. You may have to deal with their feelings of fear, resentment and abandonment, as the team adjusts to your absence and reorganises itself. A testament of your leadership skills will be how the remaining members of the team pull together and go on to continue and expand the work you started.

Reunions can be tricky things as people will often have moved on emotionally. However these can be joyous occasions, seeing how people have changed and sharing fond memories. In years to come you may be proud to know that they still hold you in high regard and have remained true to the basic tenets that brought the team together in the first place. Surely the marks of a great leader!

Now I wonder…  just who might fulfil that description?

The Holy Lamb of God detail in stained glass window, St John the Evangelist, Hedge End

The Holy Lamb of God detail in stained glass window, St John the Evangelist, Hedge End

*PCC = Parochial Church Council meetings. These are notorious (although not in all instances I hasten to add) for being very long and micro-focused on the minutiae of church management such as whether custard cream biscuits are too extravagant for after church service refreshments – I kid you not!