The Bible is full of the stories of some of the greatest saints and sinners in history. But based on this assessment, we often assume that these characters are either too good or too bad to teach us any really concrete life lessons. This summer, our parish has been surveying “imperfect” characters from the Bible in a series called “Liars, Cheaters, Cowards and Other Bible Heroes,” (See Barbara Hosbach’s similarly themed book), and discovering lessons for real people today. One consistent topic is how to be a good leader in your church, family, and community. There are more lessons than we can count, but here are four.
- Don’t Rest on Your Laurels
David was anointed a king (1 Sam 16:13), but he knew this alone did not make him an effective leader. Had David never summoned the courage to face Goliath, who knows how things may have turned out in history? Leadership is more an exercise of courage than position or authority. Authority, as important and necessary as it is in church leadership, is never a replacement for courage and responsibility. As a regular item in our leadership team meetings we constantly re-evaluate the status quo.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Fail
Courage is not the absence of fear. Look at Joshua (Josh 1:1-18). God keeps telling him to be strong because he’s afraid. But fear didn’t stop him from taking Jericho. Great leaders simply fear missed opportunities more than failure. The Bible is full of people who fail. But is it any surprise that usually these same people end up doing great things for God? Jesus called failures to follow him. Jesus knew that their past and future failings would never overcome their desire to proclaim the kingdom of God. An important part of our staff culture here is what we call “permission to fail” if they can learn and grow from their failure.
- Be Generous in Your Praise
St. Paul is a great example of someone constantly giving credit where credit is due. Throughout his letters, he always points out the good work and efforts of others and thanks them publicly. Each week at Nativity, we take time as a staff to share “wins.” It is a brief session in which we acknowledge where we saw God work through people or ministries over the course of the previous week. Everyone leaves encouraged and motivated. Awareness of our own limitations should force us to look to, depend on, and reward or celebrate the strengths of others.
- Rely on God’s Wisdom
Leaders know that in the end, every gift and human success is granted because it is for the glory of God and is guided by God’s divine plan. This was Moses throughout the Exodus. He turned to God for every decision and each problem as it arose. Same for us in parish work, prayer should be a part of the staff culture. Each week our entire staff gathers for intercessory prayer, Eucharistic Adoration, and Mass.