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Leadership reflections: Grow in gentleness and openness

Leadership Reflections 011

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

National Directors

Vineyard Churches UK & Ireland


In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he said ‘Let your gentleness be evident to all.’

That is of course applicable to all Christians, but I think it’s especially important for leaders. Harsh or brutal leadership, and bullying, is completely contrary to Christ-like leadership.

Grow in gentleness 

Even if we don’t experience gentleness from some people, it is an important quality for us to grow in. I heard about a Pastor recently having a phone conversation with someone he was frustrated with, in a manner which was harsh, and left the recipient in tears. Obviously if someone took a correction unreasonably hard that may not be the fault of the person addressing something which needed to be addressed, but we don’t ever want to find that in our frustration we failed to be gentle in our interaction. We would do well to ask ourselves, “How do I come across when I am frustrated with someone?”

Make it easy for people to disagree with you

It is somewhat inherent in leadership that some people may find it hard to disagree with you. It can take a lot of courage to express their view if they know you may not agree with them. We need to encourage people to express their concerns and disagreements, and to create a climate of emotional safety for people to bring constructive criticism. One Pastor I know had a policy of never reading critical or negative letters. His wife read them and discarded them. He told me “I don’t need that discouraging stuff, so I ignore it!” This is definitely not a good idea! 

We all have blind spots

Avoiding criticism can not only frustrate people with legitimate concerns, but being shielded from others’ concerns can leave us failing to grow through what they might want to express. We all have blind spots! Sometimes people disagreeing with us is a God-given opportunity for us to grow.

Sometimes people disagreeing with us is a God-given opportunity for us to grow.

Even if someone comes to us with a criticism which is not accurate and seems unfair, humility and good sense demands that we look for the kernel of truth in any criticism. 

Is anyone able to say to you, as Jethro said to Moses, “what you’re doing is not good” and you will listen humbly?

Part of being teachable is seeking the wisdom of others and taking counsel.  Proverbs talks about getting the wisdom of many advisers and suggests that it is foolish to make key decisions alone.

Proverbs 12.15 for instance says: ’The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.’

People who are not teachable are impossible to lead and they are dangerous to follow.

Constructive criticism is healthy

In both followership and leadership, it is important to remember that loyalty doesn’t mean never expressing concerns and disagreements. 

Loyalty doesn’t mean never expressing concerns and disagreements. 

Have people around you who are close enough to see your life, and know they are welcome to talk with you about how you are doing. Ask the questions: how are we handling ourselves and how are we being perceived?

You might find this appraisal template (which we use within VCUKI) useful to you.

360 reviews allow people to be open. Without honest feedback, none of us knows how we are being perceived or experienced. In a 360 review or appraisal it gives space to comment on behaviours as well as performance. We do them in the national movement such that those feeding back to the process are anonymised to assist in them being honest, and the recipient of the appraisal doesn’t see who said what about them. It is so helpful to be aware of what those we are following, those around us, and those we are leading, observe about us.

Constructive criticism is good. It is actually a sign of loyalty when someone is willing to offer constructive criticism, rather than suppressing it, and it is a whole lot better than them being afraid to raise it with you, and instead just talking to others about it. If you don’t want the unhealthy dynamic of people talking about you, make it safe for them to talk directly to you. Yes it might hurt, but a gracious response creates a safe place for the person, and often their feeling heard and taken seriously is very helpful in bringing a healthy resolution.

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