You may not have heard of my friend, Jenni Catron, but this is a gal you’re gonna be hearing more from. She’s the executive director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and oversees the ministry of the church’s five campuses. She is the founder of Cultivate Her, a community she’s building to connect, engage, and inspire women leaders. She teaches, leads, writes, and passionately shares the love of God.
Throughout this year, I want to introduce you to some of my friends. People whose voices I know, respect, and appreciate. Their words often challenge me in my thinking and faith. I hope they’ll challenge you, too. Enjoy!
“What you are doing is not good.”
Has anyone ever said that to you?
For a performance-based, people-pleaser like myself those words are painful, especially when they are told in love and they just happen to be true.
One of my favorite leadership lessons in the Bible is when Jethro evaluates Moses’ leadership:
Exodus 18:13-18 (NIV)
13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”
15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”
17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.
I wonder how Moses really felt when his father-in-law Jethro basically busted his chops for how he was leading? Moses wasn’t replicating himself. He was trying to lead and manage everything and he was wearing himself out and frustrating everyone else in the process.
I recently was in a similar place. Quick growth and multiplying campuses put me in a situation where I was directly managing 11 other staff members. Our lead Pastor, Pete Wilson had to gently say those words to me, “what you are doing is not good”. Not only was it not good, it wasn’t healthy for our team and for the health of the church. We had to make changes.
As ministry leaders, I think it’s very easy to find ourselves in the same position as Moses. Notice how Moses answers Jethro’s question about why he was leading this way… he says, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will”. Isn’t that why we all do what we do? We desperately want to lead others in God’s will.
In Moses case, he had the benefit of the wise counsel of his father-in-law to give him a wake-up call before it was too late. Unfortunately I don’t think we all have this wisdom spoken into our leadership soon enough.
As leaders we have to resist the temptation to be the hero and handle it all ourselves. It’s critical for leaders to reevaluate their leadership structure at least once a year. Are you trying to manage too much? How can you develop more leaders? Who can you entrust with more?
As you read further in this passage in Exodus, Jethro gives Moses some great counsel on how to train and develop leaders.
21 But select capable men from all the people-men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain-and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”
Did you notice that little caveat at the end “If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain.” Ministry leadership is tough. There is no guarantee that the stress and strain will go away, but this passage makes it pretty clear that there are some things that we should do to develop others and spread the leadership responsibility out to our team of “capable men/women.”
Let me encourage you to consider how this applies to your circumstance. What about what you are doing is not good? Don’t allow unhealthy structure to get so out of control that you’ve exhausted yourself and frustrated everyone around you. You’re a better leader than that!