Leading with… LOVE

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If we’re being honest, sometimes leadership means… doing things you don’t want to do. What do I mean, you ask? Well, think about it this way. As a parent, probably 50% of what I do are things I don’t necessarily WANT to do, but HAVE to do. When we are raising children, they are looking up to us and in a lot of ways, following our lead! (Or at a minimum, taking notes!!) So we always need to bring our “A” game if we expect the same of them, right? Remember your manners, put your dirty clothes in the hamper so they’re not strewn across your bedroom floor, have patience for other people, use kind words, love God and study His word, show love to others in real, tangible ways, etc. We are constantly being challenged to not just ‘talk the talk’ but ‘walk the walk’ by our little ones.

This is no different in leadership. If you are going to lead a team at work or at church or out in the community, your words HAVE to match your actions. And let’s be honest, this is hard sometimes. Sometimes I don’t feel well and don’t have the physical or mental energy to carry out my tasks with the same passion and vigor as usual. Or sometimes we come across obstacles that just seem too great and it’d be so easy to throw in the towel. Or sometimes we don’t agree with the leadership over us and their direction and we just want to push back and dig our heels in deeper until we get our way!

But we can’t! People are watching! People are looking to YOU to see how YOU will handle these times of fatigue or strife or challenge. What you do MATTERS, as those around you will almost always follow your lead, for better or worse!

So if the people we lead are constantly watching us and how we act and react, this got me thinking about HOW we lead. I also remembered that as we learn about Leadership this month, many are focusing on something else – Valentine’s Day! A day of showing and sharing our affection and appreciation by handing out chocolates and cards and sending flowers. So wait: could these two things be more tied together than I originally thought?

What does leadership have to do with love? 

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” WOW! What a statement. Read that again: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”! If this isn’t a great summary of leadership, then we here at DMC don’t know what is. [Some of you may be thinking, so whose line is this anyway??? Not that that totally matters, but as one pastor/author put it, “My… professor got it from John Maxwell who got it from Howard Hendricks who got it from Theodore Roosevelt who got it from Jesus when He washed his disciples’ feet.”]

While this quote can be used in many different contexts and is a good one to ponder and digest and hopefully live out, for the sake of this post, the point of the quote is simple: leaders can’t just talk at people and/or tell them what to do; leaders have to show them they care first! Care about what, you ask? Care about them as a person and what they care about, care about the organization, care about the mission and what they’ve been called to do. Once people know you care, which is primarily displayed by your ACTIONS, then and only then will they care about what you SAY and what you know. Only then will you have earned their respect and their loyalty.

So this is where the ‘LOVE’ comes in! Hmmmm… this could actually change the entire way we lead, no? Let’s think about this. If we start with caring for our teams and who they are as individuals and as a whole AND if we care about the people we are serving, then everything else comes second: the mission or purpose of your organization or group; the task(s) you are called to do, etc. This doesn’t mean the mission or tasks don’t matter anymore or as much, but in a crazy, backwards way, what you are trying to accomplish will actually get done in a better way than you thought possible!

Why? Well, think about what motivates you. As a spouse, as an employee, as a volunteer, etc. For myself – as a mom, wife, sister, daughter, friend, employee, co-worker AND as a follower of Christ – when I consider how much God loves me – that He sent His one and only Son to die for me and that not a hair can fall from my head without Him knowing about it and caring about it – wowzers! That’s a game-changer!!! How can that NOT change/affect me and how I live? How can that not change how I turn around and love my husband, my kids, my family, my friends, my neighbours! How can that not spill over into how I lead those around me?

And the bonus (and/or the gravy on top): what I do will almost always be RECEIVED more openly by the ones I am serving! Because it comes from a place of love; not of obligation or duty or drudgery. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

So as a refresher, let’s look at the definition of love. We’re gonna turn to the most famous passage in the bible on this topic. Yep, 1 Corinthians 13. We’ve probably heard it a thousand times. BUT!!!! Let’s try something new! What if we inserted the word leadership for the word love? Can these words be interchangeable? Are they that closely related that we can even do that?! Here goes:

4 Leadership is patient, leadership is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Leadership does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Leadership never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 

What would this kind of leadership look like in our homes, churches, schools, workplaces and communities? We don’t have to look far to see this kind of leadership modelled for us by our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Gospels record story after story of Jesus and how He led in this kind of way. When Jesus began His ministry, He didn’t start with just preaching and teaching. He began with miracles, showing He cared about the people around Him. He cared about their stories and about their situations. And later on, when Jesus was HOURS away from being arrested, beaten, crucified and completely abandoned by his so-called ‘friends’, He washed their feet. He humbled Himself, got down on His hands and feet, and washed each of his disciple’s stinky, dirty feet. Let that one sink in for a minute. Talk about servant leadership. Talk about doing what you don’t necessarily want to do or feel like doing, in the midst of such turmoil and angst. Jesus knew what He was about to endure: horrific suffering and death upon a cross. Jesus had every right to blast his disciples for their lack of loyalty and their ongoing doubt and annoying questions! And yet. And yet! He remained their leader At. All. Times. He remained patient and kind and humble and he did NOT throw their mistakes (their past, present and future mistakes) in their faces. His leadership always protected and always trusted and always hoped and always persevered, EVEN to death upon a cross. WOW!

So there it is. Leadership: it ain’t always easy and it will certainly mean having to do things we don’t always WANT to do. But let us be spurred on by the love we receive from our heavenly Father. A Father who loved us so much, He sent his Son to die. (John 3:16) God showed every single one of us that He cared FIRST; and then He asks us to respond.

Next Steps 

So as deacons, are we able to take up this challenge? Are we able to lead like Jesus in our churches and communities? What are ways we can show how much we care before we show how much we know and/or carry out our tasks?

One step for you as Deacons in your church is to show this kind of love and trust and perseverance in your own diaconates. Start there. Put your love for each other and your church first, BEFORE the zillions tasks you need to accomplish. We have a resource that’s been around for awhile but it’s still a good one; and we keep updating it to make it even better. Check out our Growing as a Community of Deacons handout and start there. And we know that it will spill over into your church and out into your community in no time. Don’t see the people around you as ‘projects’ or things to get done. See them as God sees them; as worthy of our time and energy and of course, our love.


Let’s Keep the Conversation Going! 

What have you learned about leadership in your journey as a deacon, or perhaps a boss or manager or parent or volunteer? Fill in this blank for yourself:  Sometimes leadership means ____________________________.

“Oh When the …DEACONS(?!)… Come Marching In!”

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I love marching bands!!! Don’t you?! It’s one of the biggest reasons I attend parades, much to the chagrin of my lovely husband. Sometime I wonder if he had some horrible childhood experience or something because c’mon; who hates parades?! Am I right? It’s like hating fireworks. How is that even possible?!

But back to marching bands… they are a wonder to behold aren’t they? The guy or gal out front, called the Drum Major or Field Commander, and who is often dressed slightly different and fancier than the rest of the band, is responsible for providing commands to the ensemble and leads them while marching. He/she directs them on what to play, when to play, and what time to keep. The commands can be communicated in a variety of ways: verbally, through hand gestures, using a whistle or a baton, or with a mace (a weapon!) in the military. “Essentially, a drum major is the leader that keeps the rhythm and beat of time with the use of its baton or other forms of time keeping such as conducting. The drum major often holds the responsibility to keep the band organized and structured.” (Thanks Wikipedia! Click here to read more on the history and role of Drum Majors.)

While doing some research on marching bands (because UNFORTUNATELY I’ve never been part of one), it was interesting to read why people loved being a part of one so much. One blogger wrote that she much preferred being part of a marching band than participating on a sports team. With band, she writes, “everyone participates, regardless of how well you march or your skill with an instrument. While those things are important—they’re kind of what the whole thing is built around—every student has a necessary role to play for the band. When you march, you are not simply a single musician or color guard member. You are part of a larger instrument. You have to be aware of where your bandmates are so you can fit into the shape…and also not get run over by the tuba player or hit with a flag. We are all responsible for sounding good and looking good on the field.”

Hmmmm, interesting. And that got me thinking about this month’s theme of LEADERSHIP. Being part of a marching band, and particularly being the Drum Major, is a pretty tall order. One slip-up and the entire ensemble falls apart, and typically in front of thousands! No pressure, eh? Talk about teamwork!

Whether you recognize this or not, deacons are LEADERS! And as you likely already know (and have experienced), deacons have been given a pretty hefty mandate. To sum it all up, Diaconal Ministry focuses on the following areas:

  • Compassion – Deacons model and demonstrate compassion to those who are hurting; they provide hope and encouragement;
  • Community Ministry – Deacons model and encourage the congregation to be engaged in community ministry in their community;
  • Stewardship – Deacons encourage church members to be stewards of God’s creation and to practice authentic stewardship with their time, gifts, and money;
  • Justice – Deacons model and encourage the congregation to be advocates for, and with, the marginalized and vulnerable people in their local community.

Did you notice anything when reading these categories and explanations? Did you notice the words MODEL…DEMONSTRATE…ENCOURAGE…? In summary, Deacons are called to serve by “leading and equipping the church to minister to its members and the world in a rich diversity of ministries, awakening compassion, demonstrating mercy, seeking justice, and collaborating with God’s Spirit for the transformation of persons and communities.” Deacons are not to just perform diaconal ministry on behalf of the church, but to mobilize and equip their entire churches to fulfill its calling.

Deacons are the “Field Commanders” in their congregations! You have an entire congregation picking up their instruments (their talents, their resources, and their time) and following you into the great wide open! Being an ordained Deacon is not about doing all the work or having all of the ideas. But it’s also not about being dictators who give orders to those around them. Remember those words MODEL, DEMONSTRATE and ENCOURAGE? This is what being an ordained Deacon is all about. And this is essentially what being a leader is all about! As it reads in the Form of Ordination, “…Deacons are to identify and develop gifts in both the church and community. By adding to all this words of encouragement and hope, deacons demonstrate in word and deed the care of the Lord himself.” [emphasis mine]

So as we journey through this month together, let’s learn together what it means for you to be effective leaders in your churches and communities. This is a tough task, especially in today’s society. While it used to be looked down upon when someone ‘marched to the beat of our own drum’, nowadays it’s become the objective for many. And while this philosophy can help us embrace our own unique gifts and talents and find our purpose in life, the glorification of this philosophy has actually segregated our society instead of made it beautiful and harmonious. It’s promoted self and placed the individual before the whole. This has become one of the biggest challenges for leaders inside and outside the church.

So, how can Deacons lead their entire congregations, filled with various church members having their own interests and opinions and needs and wants, and equip them to perform one unified, glorious masterpiece? How can we all march to the beat of the same drum – the drum that echoes the heartbeat of God himself – as we do what He requires of us.

Let’s wrestle with that one a bit more this month, along with many other aspects and challenges of leadership. And perhaps these marching bands can teach us a few more things. 🙂