As a leader sometimes there is a danger of underestimating your influence. Certainly we as parents at times underestimate our impact on our kids. Teachers can become discouraged and underestimate, in fact all of those working with the next generation often underestimate their influence. Young people have trouble articulating the impact you are having on them, or in fact only see it in retrospect, so we always underestimate our influence on the young.
But there are cases where we think we have influence when we don’t. That’s the bailiwick my Dad emphasized in his 1980 writings on the dangers of denominational leadership. Let’s see how his old letter applies today:
4. To over estimate the influence of the International Center*. When you send out a letter or a mid-week publication in the local church many of your people might read part of it. This will change. Denominational work is essentially different in this respect. The vast majority of the mail we send out from this building is considered “junk mail” by the recipients. Most of these people do not know you personally, consider most of us out of touch, and will simply stack it up in a pile or toss it out unopened. We must say things over and over and over again before even half of the audience gets them. Even then, they won’t get the entire message. If you are unable to live with “missed ducks” this work will be very frustrating to you. Never assume “because I said it they know it.” The work that you are now entering requires constant and repeated saying of the same thing. You have left local church work where you had a great influence on a fewer number. You are now entering denominational work where you will have a smaller emphasis on a greater number.
*The “International Center” was the name given to the Wesleyan Headquarters for a season when my Dad was working there. Some say that was a better name. I don’t much care. HQ is what most have always called it.
Wow.. this one is so very true. This is very problematic when it comes to branding, vision casting and promotion. You don’t want to sound like a broken record, but it does seem like you have to repeat yourself much. This was written back in the pre-internet era… and the distractions now are multiplied–and the irrelevance of the denomination seems more of a stated and accepted fact to many, not a hushed conversations. This one has me thinking deeply.[quote_right]Click here for the previous installments of this series on the Dangers of Denominational Work: Part 1 – Spiritual Coolness | Part 2 – Getting Out of Touch | Part 3 – Thinking Department Growth = Church Growth[/quote_right]
I will not become presumptive that people are hanging on my every printed (or tweeted) word. As a writer I already think this way a bit–but I have to apply this to my work here at HQ. I must become clearer in what I say–in what we as a team are communicating. And we not only need to say it more often; we also need to say it in new ways, and in new media. We need to join conversations already started, and answer the questions already being asked, not those never asked. We need to forget trying to justify our existence–and start remembering why we exist for real, and leading that way (or get out of the way.)
How about you? How do you see we denominational leaders overestimating our influence? Or how do you think you might overestimate your influence, in… say, your preaching, or your newsletter, or your blog, or your clever tweets? 🙂