October 2, 2012

Easier or More Meaningful?

When it comes to our commitments to church, are we about making things easier or are we ultimately about making those commitments more meaningful?

This issue came up last Wednesday night during a web conference on Identifying and Recruiting New Leaders led by Ella Auchincloss of the Diocese of Massachusetts’ Leadership Development Initiative. After Ella had presented about how churches can move toward a more networked leadership model, and about how we can discern gifts and commitment through strategic one-on-one meetings, we received a question which brought the difficulty of recruiting new leaders home. A participant asked:

“We have trouble every year recruiting nominees for the vestry. Right now we have a focus group that is working on making vestry duty ‘easier.’ But this sounds like the opposite of getting someone to commit. Thoughts?”

Toward Bolder Challenges

Before I paraphrase Ella’s response, I want to share with you why I found this question to be so helpful.

In many ways, the question is a familiar one. Having served on multiple leadership committees, I’ve frequently longed for some sort of task force to review how we are working and implement ways to make our labor less burdensome. Some simple suggestions might include establishing norms around showing up on time and coming prepared to meetings. Broader suggestions might include learning how to structure meetings so that major decisions receive feedback from multiple stakeholders. I continue to believe that all these practical skill sets are extremely valuable for serving in the Church, and yes, I also think they make serving on a leadership committee much, much easier.

But at the end of the day, we also need to recognize that faithful leadership isn’t ever going to be easy (no matter what our taskforces come up with), and that if we’re going to have a focus group on making vestry service easier, we should also have one on making vestry service more meaningful.

In response to the above question, Ella challenged all of us to think about whether our vestries and leadership committees are tackling challenges that are worth all the effort. Rather than spending all our time figuring out ways to make things easier, she advised us to take for granted that commitment to Christ is going to be frustratingly difficult and pushed us to start moving in the opposite direction, toward being a bold voice on the larger challenges affecting our wider community – like hunger, illiteracy, racism – so that at the end of the day, when we’re exhausted from our efforts, we can confidently say that yes, the difficulties were worth it. 

How can you make your work on the vestry or another leadership committee more meaningful?