November 22, 2022

Let’s do it together

I attended law school in the 70’s and, at least during that period, the entire culture was permeated with a sense of competition and individual success. Other than your moot court partner and maybe your study group, there were few opportunities for collaboration or teamwork. There were winners and losers, students who got the top law firm jobs from recruiters who came to campus and those who had to pound the payment with their hard-copy resumes. Once you became a lawyer, the competition continued even more fiercely for plum assignments, bonuses and, the ultimate goal in a private firm - becoming a partner. While I never made partner, thank God, and decided to work for a nonprofit organization before coming to ECF, it did take me quite a while to embrace a style of leadership that emphasized collaboration, collegiality, and working together for the common good.

Despite what we are taught and flooded with by popular culture, life is not a zero-sum game, especially for those of us who profess to be followers of Jesus. Jesus practiced “servant leadership”. Paul’s very image of the “body of Christ” presupposes a community where, while having unique gifts and responsibilities, each person is essential for the health and vitality of the entire community.

Collaborative leadership is not only a Gospel mandate, but a much more efficient way to get things done. In corporate America, employees are now judged not only on what they accomplish themselves, but how effectively they work on teams with colleagues who have different skills, talents and viewpoints. While some employers do this from a sense of altruism, most promote this model because it is more efficient, productive and profitable.

What about local faith communities? How effectively do we embrace and practice this model of collaborative leadership and teamwork? Is it still about father/mother knows best? Do we still rely on the work of leaders who operate as lone rangers and then hang them out to dry when things go wrong? How can we embrace and put into practice a parish leadership model that is truly based on the image of the “body of Christ”?

ECF has a long history of promoting partnerships and collaborations at every level of the church. One of our core values is “Inclusive Leadership” where we elevate laypersons as full partners with clergy and advocate for teams that model a community where everyone is both invited and heard. These are the congregations that inspire deep engagement and broad participation for ongoing sustainability and community impact.

As we approach the new year and begin to recruit new vestry members and other parish leaders, let’s identify those individuals with a proven track record of teamwork and who demonstrate a willingness to partner effectively with the clergy and staff. Let’s structure our meetings and other gatherings so that everyone has an opportunity to participate and share their point of view. Let’s support each other in creating new leadership models that enhance rather than inhibit our ability to effectively engage in God’s mission in the world. During these challenging times in the life of our church, collaborative leadership is essential to our vitality and our very future as local Episcopal faith communities.