Titles are important.

People work hard to earn their titles. Priests go through many years of education and formation to earn the title of Father. Same is true for someone who earned their doctorate or is a Deacon.

In other cases, titles are bestowed on us by our position. The title of Pastoral Associate, Pastor, Director of Faith Formation, Business Manager, or Youth Ministry Coordinator say a lot about who we are and what we do.

Titles are important… but they only get you so far.

Titles do deserve respect, but just because you have a title doesn’t mean people want to or even should follow you.

Unfortunately, we sometimes see this in ministry. There is the expectation by the person with the title that parishioners and fellow leaders should listen to them and follow. That’s not an unrealistic expectation, but a leader needs to do more than have a title to be an effective leader.

Author and leadership expert John C. Maxwell suggests that there are five levels of leadership. The first and least effective is that of positional leadership. This is where titles come in to play. In this lowest level of leadership, people follow because they have to, not because they want to. They follow because you have a title. At this level of leadership, people do the bare minimum in support of your leadership.

If you stay at this level of leadership, it guarantees that your ministry and church will not be a transformative community where people come to know Christ and serve Him.

As leaders, we should minimally strive to reach the second level of leadership: permission. At this level, people follow your lead because they want to. You have built relationships with the community. They know you, like you, and want to work with you.

To strive for this level of leadership, here are a few strategies for us to embrace:

  • Be present to the community: to the extent that is possible, be outside of church after every Mass. I know this is not always realistic depending on how many Masses you have at your parish, but your showing your face is so important in building relationships. And don’t just stand idly by. Engage and say hi to everyone that enters and exits the church. Discover their names, learn their stories, and connect with their family.
  • Break bread with the community: Because of the title that has been given to me, there is a small circle of people in the church that I know well and work with on a regular basis. To truly break beyond positional leadership into permission leadership, you and I must extend our circle by reaching out to others who we don’t interact with regularly. And the best way to do this is to eat! Reach out to at least one person a month who is not part of your circle and take them to coffee or a meal. Nothing connects people more than breaking bread together.
  • Attend community events on church grounds AND in the community: Every parish as their big community events that take place on church grounds. Make sure you are there. And, every community has events that take place off church grounds, like festivals, wine strolls, and high school sporting events. Attend those as much as you can and engage with people. So many in our community are not likely to come to your church campus. So go where they are. This is a key aspect of evangelization and missionary discipleship.

Engaging in these strategies will increase your leadership influence in your parish which will allow you to be more effective and helping people know Christ.

What strategies would you add to this list to raise your level of leadership?

In future blog posts, I will delve deeper into the other 3 levels of leadership to and give strategies to raise our leadership lid to become more effective and impactful ministry leaders.