Leadership Reflections 003
Over the last few years we have all heard and processed news of leaders who have fallen short of the high standards that are laid out in the Bible. For many of us these instances have been upsetting, painful and heartbreaking. We share those feelings of pain at the abuse, ill treatment and hurt that has been experienced around the Church.
It’s caused Debby and me to reflect again, with some of our team, on the leadership lessons we can learn in this moment; lessons for our own churches and those across the wider Vineyard family here in the UK and Ireland.
This series of Leadership Reflections contains some teaching and lessons which we have shared with Vineyard Senior Pastors over the last few years. As we continue to listen and learn from this season, we wanted to open these resources up to anyone who would find them helpful by publishing them publicly.
Our prayer is that you might find these helpful and by the grace of God, together we can create churches that are safe, Kingdom-centred communities for us all to call home.
John & Debby Wright
Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland
The pandemic and recent events have brought our attention back to what it means to be family in the Vineyard. We are not a collection of independent churches, loosely associated, without support, resourcing, and protective oversight, without a sense of belonging and participating in something bigger.
Instead, as imperfect as it may be, we are a family of interdependent churches within a caring support structure, with collegiate relationships, and resources like the Pathway, Coaching, Spiritual Direction, Dreaming the Impossible, The Cause To Live For and the Vineyard Leaders’ Gathering. We provide oversight and help with challenging situations, and advice is just a phone call away. We offer access to community and the opportunity to be part of something bigger. The Vineyard family is a space to belong and a place to become who we’re called to be.
We are a family of interdependent churches
In a family we are valued for who we are and not what we do. We laugh together and cry together, we dream together and we embark on adventures together. So what does it mean to invest in being family? It’s both the formal and informal stuff.
Every family has family occasions. Routines of engagement, such as Sunday lunch and Christmas dinner. For us, our parallel might be Area events, Regional days, National gatherings and other key points in the diary where we gather together.
And then there are the informal connections. Fostering relationships with other people in the movement near us and also around the nations, with phone calls, visits, invitations to speak, serve and worship at each other’s churches.
We love to hear about people in the movement going on holiday together, going out for a drink, or just friends simply having a meal together. We would encourage you to make the most of the times you are together; connect over food and drink, pray for each other and encourage one another.
For some of you this will come naturally, but for all of us, it requires us to be intentional.
For example, when other leaders come to serve at your church or area of ministry, we would encourage you to take the opportunity to debrief over a meal, and ask them things like: “What do you see? What could be a growth area for us?”
When you are facing a difficult situation and would value another perspective or advice from someone who has more experience than you, give them a call and ask: “How would you handle this situation? You’ve been through things like this before, what would you do?”
There is a vulnerability, of course, to opening yourself and your church or ministry up to the scrutiny of others, but it is so healthy, and it’s the way families are designed to function.
Seek out wisdom
Over the last 30+ years, it would be hard to count the number of times Debby and I have sought out these conversations again and again. With many wise friends in the movement and others around the world. We have invited scrutiny, and we’ve given them the freedom to make observations, some of which have been hugely encouraging, and some of which have made us pretty uncomfortable. We’ve had other people speak to us on everything from change management, family life and marriage, to understanding strengths, personality profiles and team dynamics. And it’s all been incredibly helpful. Encouragements are great to hear, but the most valuable feedback has probably been in others seeing things we just hadn’t seen, and challenging us on what we were doing.
There are obviously absolutely valid reasons why any of us may occasionally miss a gathering, but I have noticed that when Pastors and leaders disengaging from family connections becomes a bit of a pattern, there may be one of three things going on:
Firstly, it may be that things are tough. There could be disappointment or discouragement, which can tempt us to withdraw. In turn that can lead to isolation and burnout, as we don’t feel as though we have the emotional energy to show up and be real.
We can all fall into the trap of believing that our replenishment is based on our performance. So when things are going well in our area, we can go to a gathering and tell stories of what the Lord is doing, and be replenished by the encouragement and celebrating with others. But if things are not going well, and we don’t have those stories that will produce encouragement and celebration, that is not going to feel replenishing. The temptation in those moments is to give those gatherings a miss.
But this is the very time when we really do need to show up and open up because we need each other.
Secondly, it may be that things are going great. So much so that a sense of independence creeps in, and relationships in the wider movement are not really valued. The temptation is to think “this gathering is not really worth my time”. But gathering with the Vineyard family is not just about what we get out of it. Just as others have at times been present and invested in us, so the Lord may want you to be there to invest in someone else. Besides, none of us is above iron sharpening iron, and the Lord can use anyone at any time to help us grow.
Or thirdly, it may simply be, with all that we’ve got on, other things have taken higher priority. And of course, there will be certain times when that is the case. But as leaders we all need support from our peers, so I would encourage everyone to make family gatherings as much of a priority as possible.
Make family gatherings as much of a priority as possible
So I would encourage you to take every opportunity you can to connect with others across the Vineyard family, formally and informally, in the good times and the hard. Let’s do all we can to be family to another.