You don’t have to be a Christian in order to notice that there are practices which motivate and practices that hinder motivation in people. Daniel Pink suggests that autonomy, mastery and purpose are critical components for enduring motivation. It’s not about money. Bakke, in Joy at Work, makes similar conclusions. “When given the opportunity to use our ability to reason, make decisions, and take responsibility for our actions, we experience joy at work.” The emphasis is different. Yet both make the case that leadership requires attention to those aspects of our being that make us come alive. Leaders are not just concerned about rewards (present or eternal), but also concerned about valuing those things that respect our humanness.
While the concern of these authors is the workplace, I find similar concerns when I read about human community. Some words are different. Fairness, participation, human dignity and safe places (security) become more important. But here too, when speaking of political or community development, we are encouraged to develop practices that respect our humanness. Leaders need to pay attention to policies and practices that allow individuals to experience our common life as a gift and not a hazard.
Unfortunately many have found church to be a hazard. Instead of a place to mature, it is often experienced as a place of rules where the leadership out of fear or anxiety about the responses of others hinders the humanity of its members. While I do not share all the criticism, I do sense that some of the criticism is legitimate.
So here is a principle: “Leaders free people to serve in ways that respects their unique humanity. People are created unique. They share with us “being created in the image and likeness of God”. Our purpose is to encourage them.
The reason is simple: “In the beginning”, God created two people to live in a wonderful place. The Creator intended that when the animals and the earth “saw” them they would rejoice for in them they saw the One “in whom they lived, moved and had their being.” They were in the image and likeness of the Triune God.
Years later, Jesus came. His great gift of salvation meant that we could walk in the way of the Spirit, to act as images of God doing the good works prepared for us to do. This is our freedom. To be in Christ is to be in the one in whom we live, move and have our being. In Christ, the Spirit of God opens us up to the fullness of God’s good intention. It is a uniqueness that is a gift to the community of Christ.
Too many times, our new found freedom looks like a new found bondage - in part because in our enthusiasm to follow Jesus, we demand conformity to our vision and control of lives in church. Freedom is lost in the new order of our making. This is not a new problem. Consider what Paul says to the Galatians: 3 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! 2 The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh? 4 Did you experience so much for nothing?—if it really was for nothing. …5 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (NRSV). It seems that often times on the way of the obedience of faith, we have managed to impose a new set of rules. We demand conformity (either through peer pressure, verbal abuse, or legalistic practices) that makes our common life a burden rather than a joy.
Leaders need to be aware of our tendency to let fear and control undermine God’s intention to liberate and restore our humanity including such things as participation, taking responsibility, creativity, and the freedom to explore. How can we do this?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Help members see and stay focused on God’s mission in this world. If Daniel Pink is right that motivation is related to sharing purpose, it is important for leaders to articulate the mission of God that shapes our common life. While the vision is big (the redemption of all creation), connecting our activity to God’s purpose is enormously important.
- Welcome the gift each person is to the whole. Paul does this in Corinthians. So should we. It is not just that people have something ability to share. It includes the way we see and share life together. Each person sees the world and experiences life differently from every other. That makes them sensitive to certain information and helps them engage in unique ways. Some who has experienced trauma of neglect is especially sensitive to behavior of neglect so they can help a more trusting person to see more clearly the misbehaviour of another person. Equally, the ability to live in trusting relationship and not with suspicion can help the traumatized person life more graciously. Some – because of interest and work – have a more developed understanding of certain aspects of our community life (business, education, etc.). Their understanding is a gift to the community and individuals in it. We believe this. Practicing it is more difficult. Nonetheless, leaders have a particular responsibility to open the door to all, celebrate the gifts of each person, and welcome their participation in the life of the church. This includes making room for those easily excluded like each new person, each troubled person, and each youth.
- Give people responsibility in which they lead the leaders. Do not take over or bypass these responsibilities. One of the reasons people drop out of ministry is insufficient authority. They are given a task but need to ask permission at every turn. Or when they are leading, someone else (previous leader, council member) interfere. Or decision are made by council without conversation with those who are leading in this area of ministry. Councils cannot give responsibility and then take it back. This is discouraging.
- Provide appropriate structure and support for these responsibilities. Structure gives appropriate accountability, feedback and work environment. Support provides the necessary encouragement and resources for the task. Criticism is common in community life. And it can be very discouraging. It seems that many people feel that because they belong to the church, they can say whatever they feel whenever they feel. I wish it were not so. In the meantime volunteers who take on responsibilities need the kind of support that refuses to let others undermine them(maintains boundaries), that provides resources needed for the task, provides accountability and feedback.
- Mentor people into responsibilities. Often time we assume someone will know what to do because they may have an interest in that area of church life or a gift in that area. This is usually not true. Mentoring is not just about the responsibilities of the task, but also includes the way we exercise these tasks in relationship to others. A custodian is not just there to keep the building clean but to ensure that the building is prepared for the ministry of various people. The leaders of ministries need to work together to enhance the ministry of the other. This is not automatic. Leaders need to mentor people in respectful ways of relating to others.
Honouring the humanity of members is an important part of leadership. It is not just ideas. It is not just getting a vision and being accountable for programs. The way we lead people includes respecting their humanity. Jesus came to redeem humanity. It is a poor way of serving if in our zeal for the Kingdom we disrespect the people Jesus loves and came to redeem. Leaders, who follow Jesus, need to grow in the ways they honour people.