It keeps coming up in conversations I’m having about church initiatives: somebody needs to be in charge. Without leadership from someone who cares, no project can succeed.
I heard about a young mothers group that met in homes and was led by a motivated volunteer who didn’t ask but just took charge of things like scheduling. It was great. But it stopped working when it tried to meet at the church and become part of the organizational decision-making structure.
I’ve seen adult Sunday School classes whither after a committed leader quits or moves away. In her absence, nobody feels qualified to lead, so no one does, and everyone is the worse for it.
It’s not just church. Seth Godin developed and gave away free curriculum for self-directed groups of leaders to use for their own development. It didn’t work. Nobody felt they had permission to lead them, so they were ineffective.
It’s not just the church, this problem, but it has a particular shape in the church. Because we deal in “spiritual” matters, and because the Bible, theology, and church history are things that titled church leaders tend to know a lot about, many people in congregations feel like that knowledge is what is required of those who would lead.
How do we normalize the behavior of taking permission to lead? How do we not only tolerate but encourage the habit of inviting people to join you in the thing you’re interested in, without waiting for direction from a person on the staff or on a committee?