January 23, 2015

Me And My Engineers: A Rector’s Perspective On Selecting A Senior Warden.

I am so not an engineer. I’ve never been a huge devotee of personality typing, but even I can see that whatever personality types make good engineers must be extremely different from my own. We see things differently, approach problems differently, and even evaluate outcomes differently.

Greater Los Angeles is full of engineers, and my vestry reflects this abundance. My last two senior wardens, as well as the clerk of the vestry have been engineers. It’s been awesome. Their gifts of organization, project management skills, meticulous spreadsheets, and focus on problem solving have helped to pin me down to earth, and to turn creative speculation into real projects.

Earlier in my ministry, I might have felt threatened by the sorts of piercing questions engineers tend to ask. How and when exactly will this get done? What will it cost? What tools do we need? How will we know when it’s finished? I might have rolled my eyes after the meeting, sighing over the joy-killing realism, the lack of room for rushing wind and fiery spirit.

Fifteen years in, I recognize that I need someone to ask these questions. I don’t need someone else to bring the rushing wind -- although those kindred spirits are always fun to have on the vestry, too. I need someone to make a spreadsheet, and to track our progress. I can remind them that not all of ministry fits well into a project framework, that there isn’t always a clear end point, that not all goals are measurable. But without my engineers and their gifts, the parish loses opportunities to focus and to document and learn from our progress.

I have come to see the value of having a senior warden whose gifts and skills complement the rector’s. Most of us tend to gravitate toward people who share and approve of our particular passions and enthusiasms. But we need people who see the world differently than we do, who will remember to ask the questions we would never think to formulate.

Choosing a warden who complements me in some way has become the lead criterion in my selection process (in addition of course to the basics of demonstrated leadership, maturity of faith, and good standing in the congregation). In asking someone to serve, I articulate the complementarily that I have discerned. I ask the person to help me with some specific areas of ministry. Funny, but the engineers always seem to have already noticed that I need a little help keeping the spreadsheets updated.

I would encourage clergy and lay leaders alike to imagine what set of skills and gifts might complement the rector’s strengths and weaknesses. How might this essential team of rector and senior warden become more than just an amplification of one personality, one way of doing ministry?

Don't miss a blog post! Subscribe via email or RSS, using the grey box on the upper right.