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Leading And Following—Even When You Don’t Agree On Everything

Orange Leaders
Orange Leaders Wednesday June 10, 2015
<? echo $type; ?> Leading And Following—Even When You Don’t Agree On Everything

by Anita Davis Sullivan

In the church, we rely on many people to make our ministries possible. From creating environments in behind-the-scenes roles, to opening up with small groups, to being on stage in large worship experiences, it requires committed people. But whether you’re a voted-in member of a formal leadership team, or a parking lot volunteer new to faith, you are leading. Each of us has the option to choose to be a leader in our own area of influence in the church. And in truth, to be an effective leader, we must be able to lead ourselves, while following the leadership of others. Not going off on our own tangent, while still taking ownership of our areas.

Because, newsflash! Even in a healthy, growing and loving church, you’re not always going to agree with everything said and done. But to continue serving in the church, we must be able to get past that and still lead in a way that aligns with the leadership. Otherwise, we waste energy and see our ministries spinning wheels instead of furthering the mission of the church.

Confession: I disagree a lot. I’m a critical thinker, more progressive that many most in our church, and bring a different viewpoint than is usually shared. So I’m an expert in {trying} to submit to leadership when I don’t agree, while still maintaining {mostly} healthy relationships and finding ways to serve that are meaningful. It’s not easy. I’ve had a few near breaking points where decisions almost made me believe that I couldn’t continue leading in a way that’s healthy for both our church and for me. But I’m still there, still leading, and still being asked to give my input often. Here’s how:

Focus on the bigger picture.

It is not usually the big theological discussions that separate us in churches. It often comes down to how or if we operate a program, how we share resources, or let’s be honest here, pride. If what you disagree with leadership on revolves around one of those things, then it’s time to refocus. Do you believe in the core mission, values, and direction of the leadership? If so, you can move on to the items below. If not, you’re probably not in the right place. For me, it’s not always so simple as a program or resources; some of it is due to beliefs that don’t line up with mine. But they aren’t things that direct the mission, values and direction of the church. If they were, it wouldn’t be the place for me.

Get to the table.

Get involved and show up when there are opportunities to serve, which leads to being asked for input and ideas more and more. Then, when leadership asks for your thoughts, be there. Share respectfully, after listening more than you speak. Be real. You’re in the conversation because your thoughts are valued, so do share them. Even the ones that may not be popular or used. If your differing ideas aren’t welcome, then maybe it isn’t the place for you. I’ve found in my situation, that I’m often listened to more than not, and always feel valued. That keeps me willing to follow, even when I don’t agree on the final decision.

Find what you do agree on.

We {I} get so caught up on what we disagree on, that it can overshadow the bigger and more important things that we do agree on. Make a list if you must. Look at the value of all those things. And again, if what you disagree on really outnumbers what you agree on, it may be time to move on. But if not, look for ways to be more involved and effective in those areas you do agree on, so that you can let go of the things that you don’t.

Connect.

Coffee has some magical powers. A steaming cup, a comfy chair and some conversation between two or a small group can work wonders. Don’t be so much about the business of what you’re doing, that you lose the relationship with those you’re doing it with. Personally, I find it much easier to follow leadership of people I genuinely know and like. Even when I disagree. The time that I most wholeheartedly disagreed with a decision being made is still a hard memory. But, despite the anger and hurt, I was able to get past it because of the connection with the leader I was following. I knew her heart and her intentions, and even when I disagreed, I knew I could follow her in that situation or any.

Pray.

Not that the situation resolves the way you want it to. But that your heart is changed to be able to continue to be a leader while following those you don’t agree with.

Leaving over a disagreement instead of learning to follow the leader God has placed over us happens often. But if we’re in the place and position that God has placed us in, we can truly lead, even if we disagree with those leading us sometimes. We can continue to be effective right where we are, and grow as leaders ourselves.

Anita is a mom of two boys, church drama director and creative team member, plus wife to the funniest KidStuf guy ever to set foot on a stage. By day, she is a Software Product Manager, and in her free five minutes a day, she also shares her heart at anitadavissullivan.com. She’d love to meet you there.

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