Last week, I mentioned that conflict arises in stories in one of two ways: someone/thing new enters an environment and changes it, or someone goes out into a new place on some sort of quest.
This year, in my story, I have been on a sort of quest. I’ve been trying to understand the answer to this question: What does my leadership look like?
I’m an elder here at Second Mile, but I was having trouble seeing the imprint of my leadership. Sure, I managed and took care of and helped out when necessary. I met and discussed and spoke and supported. I felt like I was filling A Leadership Role, but not like I was leading out of the way God gifted me.
The difference between filling a role and leading out of giftedness is difficult to articulate. The best metaphor I can come up with is the feeling of trying to wear clothes that belong to someone about my size, but maybe an inch or two taller and ten pounds heavier. I felt loose in it, baggy, like I’d always be trying to fill it out. I wanted to know what it felt like to have this elder role fit like clothes that belonged to me.
I remember this question coming into my head while driving home from a meeting with Chad. I’d never thought of it before. It felt strange and new and possible, yet frustrating. I prayed in the car that God would help me see how I could lead, not just fill a leadership role. Since then, I’ve had a few points of clarity.
The first had to do with Second Mile’s creatives. We are a young church with plenty of artists, designers, filmmakers, writers, and generally creative people. I love creativity and originality, and I greatly value these traits as a part of our expression of worship, so I wondered if I could help those people connect to support one another, to share ideas, to find ways to unleash their artistic brilliance.
That one felt like a shirt I liked at the store but wouldn’t actual choose when I went to my closet in the morning. I liked the idea of it, but I didn’t know how I would function in that role on a day-to-day basis. Plus, other people were serving in that area and were frankly better suited to do so. That was was a No. I was thankful for the clarity, but left without a definitive answer to my question.
The second had to do with producing content. We did a series awhile back that I have always wanted to turn into a book. It’s called Son of God, Son of Man, and it focuses on Jesus’ divine+human nature. Each message was a different aspect of human life that Jesus experienced, understands, and transcends. I got all the old podcasts from Chad (I think this was pre-iTunes, or perhaps on our old website, not our current one), listened to them, and started making plans for deep, scholarly theological research, for ways to incorporate art from our community into the design of the book, and for ways to make it more than just a sit-down-and-read experience.
I love the idea of working on projects like this. I would also love to help turn Eric Kelly’s God’s Economy series into a book/study, as well, but it just don’t fit with my life right now. In another moment of clarity, I set those things aside for another time, a time in the future when I can get uninterrupted time to focus, write, and edit. (To continue the clothing metaphor, this one feels like a bespoke suit that I only want to buy when I know I have someplace to wear it.)
Then, after the Seeds meeting earlier this summer, we were all tasked with giving Collin an idea of what our next steps were in terms of involvement with the project. I drove home from that meeting not with an answer, but with a possibility. Seeds needs to sustain momentum, I thought. The idea of Seeds-focused community group floated around in my head, but I wasn’t sure what to do with that.
Janice and I spent a month or so talking about all the implications of that idea. It would certainly send ripples into other community groups, not to mention our own, so we wanted to talk plenty of time to pray and seek counsel on this next move.
One Wednesday evening, we ate dinner with the Haynes and then sat down to talk this idea through. After discussing the process, looking at what’s in place for Seeds now, and what dominoes would fall if we went in this direction, we decided that this isn’t what Seeds or Second Mile needed. There was enough support from the committed people currently leading the project to keep momentum.
But we weren’t done. In my thoughts about the Seeds group, I figured it would be best if it met every two weeks to give people time to get tasks done. In the meantime, I told Janice that it would be cool if I could pop into other community groups just to learn and observe and support.
That realization combined with a conversation Chad and Angel had on their way back from visiting family in New Mexico about leadership needs. One of them: community groups. Not on the micro level of individual groups, but in terms of the macro, of the whole network. We all realized that the side project I saw as a possibility inbetween the Seeds group meetings was actually something that could be very healthy for all the community groups at Second Mile.
Here’s where I started to get genuinely excited. I’m a learner. I observe and make connections, and here is a chance to do just that. I would be visiting groups with the intention of learning how they’re functioning, what strengths and weaknesses each exhibits, and what can be done to help this network be stronger and healthier.
I am also an encourager. God has blessed me with the gift of looking into other people’s lives and giving them a nudge forward or a lift up. With this new role, I saw the opportunity to encourage the leaders, to connect them for support, and to help them continue to develop. I also have the chance to look at how we can develop more leaders and prepare them to lead well for a long time.
I left that discussion with the first positive point of clarity in terms of leadership all year. This fall, I’ll be going on a new adventure in community. I’ll be bouncing around to different living rooms, meeting with leaders, and taking time to see what God is doing in all these little pockets of community.
This means a big change for our family. Janice and I have lead a community group for probably three or four years now. Elly has grown up knowing that community group comes over, and she gets so excited that she asks about it. We’re taking a break from that role now. It felt weird to tell our group about this, but I know there are community group homes for them here.
I’ve already had in-depth conversation about what’s going on in our groups, and I visited Carol+Tenney’s house to hang out with their group last Tuesday evening. I’ve got a page in my notebook already full of directions/points/questions/discussions about community groups. Chad has a shelf full of books on the subject that I can peruse.
To wrap it up with the clothes metaphor, this role feels like my favorite thing to wear. At school, on Fridays: jeans, sneakers, shirt+tie. I’m excited that my leadership this fall includes observing, learning, supporting, and encouraging in the area of community groups.