This article features in the September – December 2015 issue of Get Messy!
Let’s keep asking ourselves, could we be so much more?
Do you think of yourself as a leader? Perhaps you chuckle sheepishly (do sheep chuckle?) and vehemently deny it: ‘No, no, I’m not a leader. I just help out at Messy Church. I just cook the meal… I just help at an activity table… I just tell the occasional story… I just clear up afterwards… I’m not a leader as such, oh no.’
There is incredible humility in the Messy Church network, it’s true. Jane, Martyn and I meet many team members who are so unassuming that they laugh incredulously at being thought of as leaders. ‘I just…’ is the humble way so many people see their valuable Messy ministry. We also detect a slightly less noble wariness about what it might mean if team members thought of themselves as leaders rather than ‘just helpers’ or ‘just on a rota’ or ‘just once a month’ – a ‘leader’ sounds much more committed, responsible, hardworking and essential than a helper.
Of course all team members need to start somewhere and just doing a task is a brilliant way to begin. But as teams let’s keep asking ourselves, ‘Could we be so much more?’ Perhaps thinking of ourselves as leaders, not just helpers, might make us see how much of ourselves we are committing to our Messy Church and, through this, to Christ. How much is our commitment just for one day a week or month, just when we feel like it, just on our terms?
Part of the problem is that many of us have grown up with an understanding that leadership equals being a minister, usually an ordained minister. ‘Vocation days’ and the finances of denominations have tended to focus on those (few) people whom God is calling to ordained ministry rather than on those (many) who are called to lead in other ways. Another part of the problem of ‘having a leader’ rather than all being leaders is disempowerment.
For instance, there is the danger, when a church employs someone to lead a ministry (say, a Messy Church), that instead of a willing team of volunteers leaping into action because it’s their church, people say that it’s Gloria’s JOB, she’s PAID to do it, and Gloria struggles on, essentially alone. Leadership is also often misunderstood as a way of getting authority, power and control rather than as a way of serving, encouraging and enabling.
A Church Army report from 2014 about ‘lay lay’^ leaders says succinctly: ‘Their efforts deserve recognition and their leadership merits support.’* In Messy Church we need to get to grips with what Christian leadership really means for us as lay people and lay lay people. And to help us do this, we’re delighted that CPAS is working with us to put on joint days in the north, the Midlands and the south of England on Leadership in Messy Churches.
CPAS brings years of experience in growing Christian leaders, and understands the messy and varied nature of Messy Church leadership teams with our peculiar levels of commitment and understanding, and our mixture of ages and experience. We’re piloting days for the whole team to see how you might grow as leaders – not to gain more power or even to get a certificate but to walk more closely to Christ and each other and to learn to serve Christ’s people more effectively and intentionally.
The training days are going to be cracking! Check out the Events page of our website to find out if there’s one you can take your team to. Perhaps you’ll never hear the word ‘just’ again!
^ ‘lay lay’ is a term invented by the authors of the report, defined as ‘people with no centralised formal training, or official authorisation for this specific task, although a number bring significant work and life experience, including skills with people’
* George Lings and John Vivian, ‘Investigating “lay lay”-led fresh expressions of church’, Church Army’s Research Unit, July 2014