NCLS: If you think of your church several years or so ago, how does it compare now to back then and what has changed?
CT: I think we have developed a lot more leaders and, by that, I think churches… It’s probably not just churches. We need to ask ourselves, as leaders, am I developing leaders or slaves? And by that, slaves will just do what you tell them. Leaders, you can tell them what the end result is you want to achieve, then you let them go and do what they want, to get the result we want to end up on. So slaves, you’re a lot more closely connected to. Leaders actually are given an element of trust to make their own decisions.
So probably a phrase, definitely in the early days, that I had to use a lot was, ‘I trust you’. Because people were coming to me like, how many cups do you reckon we should order? I trust you. They wanted to show me how the lawn mower works. I just said, I trust you, anything we need to get it fixed, you’re the one who uses it. So a lot of those empowering conversations, meeting people, believing that these people have the ability to make these decisions.
So we’ve worked on a lot more leadership development and actually raising up leaders. Honestly, you gain more skilled people, so I would say the calibre of what we put together, whether it be our website, our church services, our music presentation, our news programs, I actually think they’re sharper now. I think, as you gain more skilled people, there just seems to be improvement. And this is very inspiring. People leverage on each other and they are bringing their A-game as they develop. So that’s great.
NCLS: From when you began with people permission-seeking, to now spurring each other on, would you say it’s a shift in culture, or the way they’re practising leadership together?
CT: Absolutely, yes. I think most people now get what we do here, and so when we say, we want you to lead this, they’re not expecting Donna and I to be hands on. Everything you do, we’re going to hold your hand right through this. There’s a sense we’re going to train you and develop you.
NCLS: How would you describe the way leadership happens there?
CT: We would say that our leadership team create the culture, and then we have what we call leadership community, and this is everyone involved in leadership. So if you lead people, you’re invited into the leadership community, which is about 70 people. They’re almost like our next tier of leadership, so we would say that our leadership team creates the culture and our leadership community keep the culture. In the leadership team, we might come up with some direction or focus, and we will expect leadership community to make that happen.
I think there’s a leadership belief in churches that to lead their church, they’ve got to preach to everyone, and that’s how you lead. You lead the pulpit. But with our style, Donna or I would appear on the platform every Sunday or the Saturday when we’re there. We just do something small, but we don’t have to be the preacher to lead. So I think it works.
As you want to grow and lead a larger church, you have to say no to people and some don’t like it. The old lady that asks, why don’t you visit? And it might mean I come and visit. But, again, we might only come sometimes or with another leader to train them, but I will come and visit, but there are times when it’s like, no, you’ve got it.
And sometimes, a small church has the expectation that the minister does everything, they’re used to a different way of leading. And I think we might, especially within the Salvation Army, we have a strong culture of that, so we obviously changed that.
NCLS: You’ve described the style of leadership. How has that style contributed to the flourishing of your church? Have you seen any particular leadership strategies, plans, or approaches result in your church being healthy and vibrant?
CT: Probably, again, there’s the major strategies that are empowering other people to have a go. So I’m a huge fan of Patrick Lencioni. His book, Five Dysfunctions of a Team, is probably at the foundation of how we run our leaders in the team, so that helps. Five Dysfunctions really presses in accountability, holding people to account, calling out dysfunction. Also cheering people on and celebrating the wins. So we’re big at empowering and big at cheering.
So maybe on a Sunday night, I will sit down and send messages. Just, hey, thanks for the way you led us this morning’s worship. That kind of thing. So you can send a bucket load of those messages in ten minutes and it just makes people go, wow.
I think that’s where we lead. We lead by noticing and cheering on. I think it’s also a matter of actually giving people every opportunity to succeed. By that I mean sometimes I think in a church, we ask them, can you do this? We want you to put on a dinner for 100 people. Actually, all we’ve got is we can give you a budget for 20 bucks. You know what? Thanks heaps, but who wants to sign up for that?
So if we want you to do something here, it’s like, mate, tell us what you need to make this good. And sometimes they might say, we want this. You say, no, no. I might say to our AV guys, I know you want the Ferrari. What does the Commodore look like? We can’t afford the Ferrari, so what’s a compromise?
But it’s actually… I want to give them every opportunity to not only survive but thrive in this church. So if something’s broken, tell me. We’ll get it fixed. I don’t want you coming back the next week and it’s still broken. So I think that’s other ways of just cheering on your leaders, making them feel like, actually, they do something valuable. This is worthwhile. Because, actually, I think most of the time, people give up leadership because they probably find something better.