The January 2017 edition of Country Way magazine explores the opportunities and challenges of developing lay leaders and is now available! Editor and Germinate projects and communications officer Louise Davis writes:
‘Leadership has been under the microscope in 2016. Despite many high-profile examples of principled and effective leadership there have been as many examples of poor or unqualified leadership.
‘There is a growing desire for leaders to be larger-than-life individuals who lead by sheer force of personality, while those who lead through personal humility, skill and a collaborative approach are considered much less attractive. This has meant that experience, expertise and integrity are no longer perceived by many to be key prerequisites for leadership: charisma triumphs over character.
‘One of my earliest experiences of leadership came in my early teens when a few of us from church decided we would set up a young people’s drama group. I don’t think Andy and I set out to be leaders; it just happened naturally as we responded to the circumstances we found ourselves in.
‘One of the most challenging aspects of that early experience of leadership came when it was made clear to us by the leadership of the church and the established youth work team that what we were doing wasn’t welcome. Our choice to invest time and energy in an existing friendship group was considered exclusive, our decision to opt out of the church’s wider youth work provision perceived as arrogant and our age meant Andy and I weren’t considered qualified to be leaders. The resulting fall out was painful but character-building; our group was subsumed back into the church’s provision but with ‘proper’ adult leadership; both Andy and I later ended up working for the church’s youth work team as young adults.
‘Leadership isn’t always as clear cut as we might like it to be. Many churches have historically had clear distinctions between those who lead and those who are led but the times – in the words of Bob Dylan – they are a-changin’. The development of lay leadership is widely acknowledged as vital to the health and well-being of the Church, particularly in rural areas.
‘I’m grateful that my early painful foray into leadership didn’t put me off! As a leader I’m still very much a work in progress and I’m grateful to those who have enabled, encouraged and challenged me to grow in both character and competence. It’s my hope that the current abundance of resources mean that some of my more challenging personal experiences – particularly around being a young leader – won’t be shared by those growing into leadership in the future.’