If you didn’t read yesterday’s blog, you may not be aware that I’m interviewing Dwayne McCrary, the editor of Explore the Bible at LifeWay Christian resources, the most utilized Bible study series in the world with a user-ship of over 1.2 million people.
While Dwayne is the key voice in the Bible study world he is also a leadership guru. Check out what he had to say when I interviewed him on this topic.
Rick: Dwayne, if I remember right, you hold degrees in multiple areas of study. What are those degrees and where did you study?
Dwayne: I have a BA in Biblical Studies from Dallas Baptist University, a MARE from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a DEdMin from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I also have 20 plus years of church staff experience and 11 years of denominational service .
Rick: Am I correct, do you teach seminary classes? If so, where do you teach and what classes have you taught and what are you presently teaching?
Dwayne: I am an adjunct professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. I teach two core seminars for the DEdMin program. In the Educational Leadership seminar, we examine leadership from the supporting role. In the Educational Theory and Ministry Practice seminar, we seek to develop and refine educational philosophy statements and evaluate church practice in light of those statements.
I have also taught a Curriculum Design seminar in the past and we are looking at offering it again in the Spring of 2017.
Rick: That’s what I thought. This is one of the reasons I wanted to ask you some leadership questions. First off… If you were asked by a first time groups pastor what three leadership qualities are essential to lead an effective groups ministry, what would those necessities be and why do you say so?
Dwayne: I am going to assume that the spiritual dimensions are a given. Having said that, let me focus on three inter-related qualities.
- Trust: If the group trusts you, they will follow you. Leaders earn trust by doing what they say they would do, demonstrating godly character, and doing more than they do without telling anyone about it.
- Relationships: Trust is built on strong relationships. Take the time to get to know them and let them get to know you. When we build relationships with the people we lead, we will better understand how to lead them and they will know you have their best interests in mind as you lead.
- Serve them: Another way of saying this is help them succeed. To many times, we communicate what “they” need to do to succeed and we are really telling them how they help us succeed. If they succeed, we succeed.
Rick: Dwayne, you’ve been training and coaching church leaders for a long time. You’ve probably seen many who had a very real calling to ministry have bailed and are no longer in full-time ministry. What wise counsel would you give groups pastors so that they complete a lifetime of effective ministry?
Dwayne: I was asked a similar question recently about what disqualifies a leader and I think those speak to your question. This is a big deal. There are so many ways to be disqualified as a leader but here are the eight that seem to be the most prevalent.
- Ignore your family. How many people have sacrificed their family in the name of being the leader? How many of them were proud of it? Not many. Your family comes first. If you have children, no one else can be mom or dad. No one else can be son or daughter to your parents. If you are married, you made a promise in front of God and everybody. Being a leader is about keeping promises and the first promise to be kept is to your family.
- Ignore your spiritual life. Jesus reminded us that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5), and that includes lead. Let me back up here…you can still lead with our spiritual life in shambles, you just can’t do it well. We need God’s wisdom and strength to lead well. We need to know His direction and heart. Those things are only found though a vibrant relationship with our Creator.
- Ignore your physical health. Leading takes energy and effort. It is loaded with stress waiting to be unleashed. Leaders need physical activity to keep a high energy level and to burn off stress. You only have one body so treat it well. An unhealthy body can get in our way as a leader.
- Ignore your emotional health. As a leader you will make hard decisions that impact other people. You need to find others who can listen and let you vent. You also need people who can let you laugh. These are more than friends, these are peers who help you keep your emotions balanced and offer perspective.
- Quit learning. The day you quit trying to learn or believe yourself to be THE expert is the day you no longer are the leader. Someone else will become THE expert, leaving you behind with the rest of the followers.
- Stop thinking on purpose. We need time to think about what we are thinking. Processing our thoughts and trying to understand what we think we think gives us clarity so we can lead. The best way to do this is by keeping a journal. Journaling is just another way of having a conversation with ourselves so we can figure out what we really think.
- Stop investing in other leaders. Real leaders are concerned about the next generation of leaders. They want to make sure the next generation has a better start by passing on what they learned and are learning.
- Check out in a crisis or stressful moment. It’s easy to be the leader when things are going well, but leaders are mostly needed when things are going bad. We have all seen people who checked out when things got rough and then tried to reemerge when things leveled out. They were replaced by the real leader, the person who was there for the hard stuff. And for some reasons, the hard stuff usually happens at 2 A.M.
Some of these actions listed above lead to moral failures or power abuses. We may blame a moral failure for the disqualification but in reality, ignoring their family was the real issue.
Rick: Wow, Dwayne. That’s great stuff. And I can tell it comes from a lifetime of experience. I noticed that the second thing listed was about spiritual health. As I meet with church leaders, I’m finding that many of them are inconsistent when it comes to spiritual disciplines. As you and I both know, without consistency in this area of life, a church leader’s effectiveness will be greatly hindered. What guidance would you give to a church leader struggling to journey with Christ on a daily basis?
Schedule it. Schedules dominate our lives. There is always another meeting to attend, visit to make, and person to recruit. Let a schedule work for you! Set an appointment with God and treat it like you do the other appointments on your calendar.
Separate personal study from preaching and teaching preparation. The purpose of these two activities is very different. Intentionally plan time for studying the Bible for yourself without a view to teaching what you discover with anyone else.
Accountability. Secure a couple of trusted friends and hold each other accountable for maintaining spiritual disciplines. Do spot checks with each other as opposed to contacting each other every Friday.