Summer for us at UUCA is a time for planning and preparation. We try to catch up on reading and research and plan for the church year ahead, but we’re also organizing and recruiting. The success and effectiveness of what we as staff do depends strongly on finding people in the congregation who are willing to partner with us in advancing the ministries that help us achieve our mission. As with all great work, it takes a village to make it happen. And with us, it is an essential truth that all the ministry we do is shared.
All of this has me thinking about the challenges of leadership. There is hardly an organization I know of these days that is not struggling to find leaders, and we are among them. I understand why. People’s lives are busy, and the task of leadership often sounds like just one more thing. And even if we’re interested, some of us feel it’s a little immodest, even self-important, to offer ourselves as leaders. Who do we think we are?
Also, some of us inclined to volunteer may be initially wary, having found ourselves roped into leadership jobs in the past where we were lightning rods for criticism and rarely acknowledged for the good work we did. Or we were overburdened with responsibilities for which we were not prepared and for which we received little support.
That’s a way of saying that I get that you might be a little reluctant when “the ask” comes your way from one of us here. Still, I want to urge you to see if you can find a way to say, “Yes.” And here’s why.
The first reason is simple: accepting a role of leadership helps assure that those things that you are passionate about getting attention. In recruiting volunteers we try to make a point of matching people with their areas of interest. Of course, it’s also true that there are times you may be asked to help out with something that you’ve never done before, that’s outside your comfort zone. It can be a great opportunity to experience a beginner’s mind, and sometimes that’s the best formula for growth. We all have growing to do.
The second reason takes us to the covenant that gathers us as a congregation. The last sentence of that covenant sums it up nicely: “Our life together declares that the future of each depends on the good of all, and the future of all depends on the good of each.” Each of us has a role in the success of the whole. We bring our best selves, our best intentions into our work together, giving what we can, sharing in carrying the tasks that make this community go as we also share in the joys that result.
My third point comes from Parker Palmer’s book, Let Your Life Speak. “If it is true that we are made for community,” he wrote, “then leadership is everyone’s vocation.” No matter how unsuited any of us may feel for leadership, he added, “I lead by word and deed, simply because I am here doing what I do.” None of us is outside the circle; we each influence it profoundly by our very presence.
Then, why not claim that presence, why not own the gifts that you bring and put them to service for this community of memory and hope that carries our hopes and seeks to realize the values that give our lives meaning, a community that touches our hearts, our souls, that abets our awakening?
So, please say, “Yes,” when the call comes, and we, in turn, promise to respect your needs, your limits, and to support you and celebrate you for work that is joyously given and gratefully received.
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
In addition to what Mark has said, I found my faith through leadership. Really, truly. I knew what it meant to serve in other settings as a leader, but what did it mean … to me … to serve a church? I found out, and that–as Robert Frost said of the road less taken–made all the difference. Just do it.