Church leaders sometimes wonder if they are really making a difference. Elders, ministers, and influencers in a variety of roles may wonder, “Am I really making a kingdom difference in my congregation?” Others may even feel discouraged wondering if their service, as a part of a congregation, really matters.
Remember that we serve by faith, understanding that we might not necessarily see, or be aware of the difference we are making. By faith, however, we believe that God uses our lives beyond our awareness and even beyond our time on the earth.
So how can you invest your time and life to make a difference?
Listen well. Listen to fellow leaders and to the members of the congregation. Listen for content and for the emotion behind the spoken words. Let people say what they need to say. Follow up with questions that reflect your genuine interest. “How did you reach this conclusion? Was there a defining moment for you when this became apparent?” Or you might just respond with “Tell me more.” Good listeners genuinely want to understand.
Pay attention. If you are in a conversation with someone in your congregation, pay attention to them. Use that person’s name. Don’t know their name? Ask–again. Write it down. Pay attention to the details. Frances Hesselbein (former president and CEO of the Leader to Leader Institute) in her book, My Life in Leadership, writes concerning her grandmother “Mama Wicks” (p.12):
When I would walk into the room, I was the only person there. When she talked to me, I still remember, she would look into my eyes intently. For that moment she made me feel like the most important person in the world.
Follow through. Did you agree to take care of a situation? Perhaps you agreed to set up a meeting with a particular person. Maybe there was a detail you promised to take care of. Follow through on what you have promised to do. Much time and energy are wasted as leaders find themselves dealing with fellow leaders who do not follow through on what they promised to do. If you promised to take care of a situation, do it in a timely way. We make a difference when others know that we will follow through with our commitments.
Multiply your influence. Church leaders have some influence. Some may have more influence than others. Nevertheless, we still have influence which can be invested in such a way so that your capacity for good is multiplied. One of the best ways to do this is through encouragement. When you encourage another, you help to bring fresh energy to that person. In far too many congregations, church leaders receive very little encouragement. Some of these people serve for many years and only rarely hear a “thank you” or a kind word regarding their service. You can multiply your influence by encouraging these people.
Likewise, look for opportunities to encourage a mom or dad in your congregation. Encouraging a struggling parent could make a huge difference in what their children experience in that home. Single parents, in particular, need such encouragement.
Wrestle in prayer for others. Are there people whom you specifically pray for regularly? Paul noted that Epaphras was “always wrestling in prayer for you” (Colossians 4:12). As a church leader, you can make a significant difference by wrestling in prayer for those in your church. Start with a list of five to ten people. Be sure to include some of your fellow leaders.