Traits of an Effective Overseer
Overseers of ministries are all striving for one thing: make the ministry a success. Without a doubt, everyone will define success differently (and God is the ultimate Judge.) However, an effective overseer will raise up a leader and hold them to a standard. Setting goals and holding your leadership staff accountable to those goals is vital to the growth of your ministry. Accountability simply means the ability to meet expectations and defend decisions or choices made. Being accountable is hard. Holding someone accountable is also hard. However, as overseers, we need to learn how to hold our leaders accountable for certain expectations.
Communication is key when it comes to accountability. We must clearly communicate expectations and requirements. If we do not inform someone what we expect from them, how can we expect them to reach our expectations? A saying I often hear is, “unsaid expectations always go unmet.” We must learn how to be effective communicators in Christ. In any relationship, communication is vital.
“Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” [Proverbs 9:9 esv]
This literally means to work jointly (or together) on an activity, especially to create or produce something. Usually we ‘collaborate on a project,’ or we ‘collaborate on a work presentation.’ Essentially, a team effort for completing a mutual task. How can I expect you to accomplish something without first showing you how to do it and working with you? Maybe we are on a path of discovery together or pioneering a new ministry together. Point being – we are working together to figure things out. I never want to put something in your hand and walk away. I want to make sure you know what you are doing before moving forward.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” [Proverbs 27:17 esv]
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” [Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 esv]
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” [Hebrews 10:24-25 esv]
As your overseer, I need to make sure you are capable; or have the power or ability to do something. When I think along these lines, it goes beyond your normal training and mentoring (or collaborating,) it travels to resources. Do you have the resources available to you to complete the task I have assigned? If I asked someone to take over writing a schedule for my staff at work, but did not give them access to everyone’s requested time off, would they be good at writing a schedule? No! I’d have to completely change it! My goal is to communicate, collaborate and then give the resources needed to complete the task given.
“…apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” [Ephesians 4:11-12 esv]
Our favorite word of the day – consequence! I think we all get this one. I also believe this may be the area we have the largest downfall. We are afraid to outline a consequence. Now, understand, that we are not talking about a good ol’ fashion whoopin’. We are referencing, “If Plan A doesn’t happen, then we will have to move to Plan B.” Nobody loves Plan B, hence why it is Plan B. Take my very personal example from a few years ago. My wife and I were schedule to clean the church. I am not sure what happened, but we forgot. We come in Sunday morning for prayer to find everyone scurrying around cleaning. Truth be told, there was a lot of personal guilt and frustration over this. Plan A was: Jesse cleans building on Saturday. Plan B was: If Jesse forgets, we all set aside ten minutes of prayer time to work together to ensure the building is clean for service. I have not forgotten to clean since. We need to understand that as a leader, when we fail, we need to be proactive and not reactive. We need to illustrate to our staff that if Plan A falls through, we have a Plan B – but, Plan B is not ideal for anyone involved. Often times we are reactive and when Plan A falls through, we have no idea what to do and are completely lost. Let’s focus on communicating the consequence of failure; or, as I like to say, the Plan B.
Using the story of the Israelites declining God’s open invitation (Plan A) to take the Promised Land, they then go through the consequence of having no faith in God.
“And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in the wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?’.” [Numbers 14:2-3 esv]
You have communicated. You have collaborated. You have given them the resources. You have even outlined the Plan B. Now, you find yourself needing to result to Plan B. What is next? Confrontation. Nobody likes confrontation or conflict. But the reality is, it happens – and, it needs to happen. However, how we confront someone is just as important, if not more important, than the confrontation itself. Here are a few points I would personally suggest when it comes to confrontation.
This is not a battle. It is a reminder that we are a team and we set certain goals and expectations together. Unfortunately, something fell through.
Position. Many times when spouses are in therapy they do not allow them to sit across from each other, because it leads to the added idea that this is, “me vs. you.” Sometimes, you cannot help but be across from one another, after all, you are talking things through. However, with that in mind, the perfect scenario is being side-by-side.
Location. Location. Location. I am a firm believe that confrontation should be handled in a neutral territory. “Come to my office,” is a bit more intense and worrisome than, “Will you meet me in the conference room?” Reserve your territory for positive experiences, not negative.
Practice the conversation in your head. Remember, this is not a time to attack or belittle – this is a time to remind and correct with grace. Thinking of different responses and scenarios helps a lot!
Pick the right time. Not too late, not too early. Sometimes both parties need time to cool-off and collect their emotions and thoughts.
One issue at a time! Do not allow excuses or other items of blame come into the discussion. My manager said something I loved once in a meeting, “Let’s focus on what we have control over.” Though maybe there are multiple parties to blame, I cannot talk about Jordan’s whiff right now. We are discussing what we missed.
Watch body language. This needs no explanation, I hope. Key in on the body language and try to also watch yours. It is important to not cross your arms and lean back. Be open and inviting with your body language.
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” [Matthew 18:15 esv]
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” [Proverbs 15:1 esv]
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” [Ephesians 4:31-32 esv]
This step should likely be intertwined with the conflict, but also lasts longer than the initial confrontation. The whole process from beginning to end should be about working together, mentorship and ultimately, coaching. Coach means to train or instruct, to give (someone) extra or private teaching, or to prompt or urge (someone) with instructions. Remember, the end goal is that they can replace you. I am obsessed with something I heard several months ago, “Success with no successor is a failure.” Only a heart full of pride wishes to be irreplaceable. I tell my staff at work constantly that I want to be replaceable. It seems odd in a work environment to portray this idea of, “My employer shouldn’t need me.” But, there is a mutual respect between me and my immediate supervisor due to this philosophy. Besides, it is not my career. God has my career in His hand. What if He calls me to move far away by the end of the year? Would it not be wise of me to continually mentor and train up a successor? Worst case scenario, I am replaced. Best case scenario, the company now has two people who are able to lead, train and equip other employees. In a discipleship community (or church,) I hope that we have this same mindset. “My church should be able to operate without me 100% of the time.” Our Pastor loved hearing, “The church doesn’t need you here, we function without you.” A humble leader loves to hear these amazing words. You should want your successor to supplant you (in the best, God-timing way possible.)
“The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” [Luke 6:40 esv]
“A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.” [Proverbs 11:25 esv]
My hope and prayer is that this will impact your life in some way for the good of the cross. We all need help and encouragement, we all need forgiveness for when we fall, and we all need a patient teacher with us through it all. (cheesy, right?) One of my biggest passions in life is mentoring and encouraging others to become the next version of them that God is calling them to become. I have not arrived myself, but as God’s grace grants me testimony, I am running the race set before me – with endurance, as to win. God wants you to win the race He has set before you.