The last church I served in Ohio (1993-99) realized an average growth rate above ten percent each year. It was not because of me, we, the staff, had instilled principles and practices that would out last me or the other staff members in the church. Indeed it did. The church continued its climb at a similar rate for several years after my and other staff departures. While serving at that church I would have people see me at conferences or other events and query, “So, you’re George Yates” (or something similar).
I never really knew how to respond to that. At least not until they explained what they meant. Usually, it was someone who had attended my former church and heard my name attached to some biblically based practice we had set up while I was on staff. Or it was someone who had heard my name from another person who had attended a conference. It was never about me, but about the health and spiritual growth of the church(es) involved. That is never from man, but always from God.
While in California, Associational Missionary, Mike Stewart and I were blessed to have a similar mindset for building a healthy organization to assist New Testament churches. When strategically developing any process or ideal these two thoughts guided our thinking and discussion. 1) How will this lead to better effectiveness in churches. And 2) We know we can live with this, but how can we implement something that will outlive both of us. It was never about the Mike & George show. It was always about the current and future health of the organization and helping churches.
God moved me from that work twelve years and 16 days ago. That association is, in my estimation, one of the strongest associations in the nation. Mike Stewart is still there, having celebrated twenty years in 2018. I can guarantee you Mike’s mindset is still to build something to grow beyond him and anyone working with him today.
Fruitful organizations that last, do not build an organization around a charismatic leader. On the contrary, effective leaders build healthy organizations that continue beyond him/herself. In each of the churches and organizations listed above I can still to this day name emergent leaders who rose from the ranks of membership. I began to list them, but realized I would leave some out and the list is long.
Leaders who try to manage every part of the organization as if he is the only one who can make a decision, that leader is setting himself and the organization up for failure. Building a church or any organization around a leader and his/her personality or past experience will set the course for a downhill spiral.
When a leader strives to build an organization that is above and beyond the leader, one that will outlive the leader, emerging leaders will begin to arise from all rank and file within the organization. What needs to change in your thinking to build such an organization?