Dear GCI Family and Friends,
So that they may become part of our GCI leadership DNA, in 2023 we will continue to focus on the 4 Es of leadership development and ministry actions – Engage, Equip, Empower and Encourage. This letter will be focused on Empowering and Encouraging.
To empower simply means to give power or authority. I’m reminded of Matthew 28:18 where Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.” Just as Jesus is fully enabled to act, he wraps us into his mission. We, too, are permitted to go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching all things about Jesus. There is confidence in going when we know we are backed by Jesus, and when we realize that as we go, he is always present with us. That’s empowerment with real power.
In the February 22 Update, I wrote about the practical ways Jesus included the original disciples in the feeding of the 5,000. This was a wonderful example of how he equipped and prepared them for what was to come in the commissioning of Matthew 28, when he sent them out into the world to make more disciples and to establish the community of the church. Both accounts display doing ministry with Jesus – one was directed by the earthly Jesus, the second from the heavenly Jesus by the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
We then see that empowerment comes after an appropriate training period. Empowerment includes an endorsement, a sending, and a backing. (For further study, explore the times when Paul sent his son in the faith, Timothy, as his representative.)
True-life stories help to better paint the picture. See the story below of an important lesson learned by Rick Shallenberger as he took advice from his mentor on adapting his approach with an intern.Read More
Our annual Mother’s Day celebration was a colossal failure – at least initially. To give our intern meaningful, practical experience, I asked him to organize the event. I encouraged him to seek counsel from others, gave him names as resources, and told him I was always available. He readily accepted. But then fear set in – fear of failure. He let it get the best of him and he didn’t seek counsel, he didn’t come to me, and when Mother’s Day came, nothing was prepared. I was angry – not just at the lack of effort, but because we had promoted the event and it shed a bad light on the congregation. I knew our Monday debrief was going to be unpleasant to say the least. Then my friend and mentor, John Halford, reminded me of the importance of allowing failure to be a learning experience.
John and I spent a lot of time discussing how to train an intern; how to help him be the best pastor he could be. John had seen many interns and trainees grow frustrated because they weren’t given responsibility or respect. To shield them against failure, they were not given meaningful ministry to organize and lead. We determined from the beginning to give our intern practical experience – even if it led to failure. John reminded me that we had both experienced failures in ministry, and we learned from them. We determined to not let our intern fall into a pit of despair when things went wrong, but to learn from the experience.
When my intern came to the Monday debrief, it was clear he expected a tongue-lashing. I didn’t bring up the topic. Finally, he asked, “Aren’t you going to talk about my failure?” I responded, “What did you learn from it?” He shared several lessons, and I said, “So, do you think you’ll make this same mistake again?” He shook his head, “It’s only a failure when you don’t learn from your mistakes. I am confident you learned a valuable lesson,” I said, then prayed for him.
I praise God for the conversations I had with John about empowering and encouraging others. Those talks helped me be a better pastor and leader, and I know it had the same benefits for my intern. Failure is a part of learning. Healthy leaders understand this and expect it. Never let the fear of failure prevent you from empowering and encouraging others to participate in meaningful and practical ministry.
Encourage means to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope. It is intended to stimulate and spur on. In Bible teaching, the general idea is to build one another up. It is a positive relationship, and yet it involves both truth and love. Encouragement is most often thought of as affirmation – “You’re doing a great job, keep it up!” We all hope to hear those words from the people we work for as well as the people we serve. The other side of this coin is that sometimes we need to be encouraged to either see things we don’t yet see or to have adjustments and corrections pointed out so that improvements can be made.
GCI’s Communication and Media Director, Michelle Fleming, is one of those rare people who wants both sides of the coin when it comes to encouragement.
In 2018, my role in GCI changed from Communications & Training Coordinator to Media Director. My new role required a steep learning curve of publications’ best practices, design principles, unfamiliar software programs, marketing basics, and management of both projects and people. It was not just a new role, but a whole new department with new and essential job functions.
I had a few months of overlap with the previous Media Director and dedicated a lot of time researching and learning about these different lines of work. This provided a solid foundation when I officially stepped into the role. However, I think my greatest lessons and support came through the encouragement of my team. Their praise and acknowledgement of the investment of time and energy I was making in establishing our team and leading our department meant the world to me, but their willingness to share their knowledge and expertise with me was even more encouraging and meaningful.
Although I was new to the world of Media, I was blessed with a team who had education and years of experience in their respective fields. As I developed our content, they would show appreciation for the concept I presented, but also graciously shared about rules like “unity and diversity” in design, industry-standard ways of communicating about our work, and branding best practices. I appreciated their patience in supporting me through my learning curve and taking the time to impart their hard-earned knowledge.
This experience reminded me that as we continue to live in a fast-paced and quickly changing world, healthy leaders learn not only from those who have gone before them but also from those who come alongside them regardless of age, years of experience, or all kinds of factors we may consider for credibility. The beauty of team-based ministry is that it gives us diverse perspectives to open up our way of seeing the world and diverse voices to speak into our shared work. I learned that sometimes it may even be the people who report to us that teach us the most. Our encouragement of one other, both in seeing what we have to offer and the potential that might be drawn out through changes and corrections, spurs us on for the good work God has set before us.
The magic of an environment where empowerment and encouragement exist and become the standard mode of operation is a space where others come to know that we are for them. This reflects who Jesus is – a God who is for us, with us, and patiently abides as we grow and mature.
The package of the 4 Es, Engage, Equip, Empower and Encourage, moves GCI toward a culture of liberation. This ultimate freedom allows us to be who we are in Christ and to exercise the gifts bestowed on us by the Spirit as we live out our lives in this community called the church.
I pray that all GCI pastors and ministry leaders will vigilantly attend to the 4 Es as they see and serve others. Helping others grow in their participation with Jesus is the ongoing pastoral work of the church.
P.S. Are you looking for a fun way to empower your members aged 8-17? Encourage their involvement in the Healthy Church Challenge! Videos selected in the first round will be shown at the Denominational Celebration. Final winners will receive a prize. Here’s more information.