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A Better Way





A friend recently expressed frustration that empowering people to take ownership and leadership takes a lot more time than doing something one's self. This is true... in the short term. In the long term, empowerment is the more efficient means of reaching a given destination because empowerment involves honest recognition of one's own limitations, the skills of others, the need for community and relationship, and the reality of having a few more eyes on an issue. 

As a person who often makes an idol of efficiency, I confess that I have sometimes let empowerment fall by the wayside. This is not because I lack the skills to empower others, but because I haven't taken the time to offer the opportunity or been willing to let something flounder when others didn't step forward. I have come to realize, through time and experience, that enabling is not actually an efficient path to any destination other than the Land of Resentment, Burnout Island, or Frustration Station. 

In the church, as with many other organizations, good leadership does not mean that one or two or even a small committee handle the majority of the work. Instead, good stewardship of the resources of people, locations, time, and money means sharing duties between those who have the necessary skills, those who could learn them, and those who would like to assist, but not be in charge. 

Lay leaders, as well as clergy, can be guilty of taking the enabling path by way of control (doing it alone resentfully or instructing how it should be done). They may also grow tired of doing a thing, but not let go of it- lest it be changed or "done wrong". Some may make a choice, certain that their way is correct and that change is good, and lead off- only to find that no one has followed. Others may distribute activities, chores, or roles without considering the skills, abilities, and desires of the ones whom they are pressuring as recruits. 

Empowering involves a certain level of vulnerability- a willingness to be honest with one's yes and one's no, the effort to ask for help or explanation, the patience to listen reflectively and with self-control, and a level of discernment via the Holy Spirit. None of these things are outside of the grasp of anyone in the church. Often we tolerate bad behavior because that's just "the way someone is" or because we don't like confrontation. Both of those options seem efficient, but are the way of enabling. 

The fruits of the spirit- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control- all contain an element of honesty within them. When we embrace and are embraced by this honesty, then we can become communities of empowerment, not enabling. And empowerment seems like the most efficient way to help one another live the baptized life of imitating Christ to which we have been called. 

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