Is your church considering the quality of its followership?
In this age of Twitter, the idea of investing in followership has come to refer to getting as many people as possible to click a tiny button on your profile so that your total count of connections becomes as large as possible.
Certainly, when we look at Christ and hear His invitation to “Follow Me,” we know that He had something completely different in mind. Christian followership is not simply about responding to someone’s charisma or popularity, but it’s living a lifestyle that leads to relationship and co-laboring together for the sake of a larger purpose which unites us all.
Having spent the last 4 years researching and writing for my recently published book, Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Culture (Kirkdale Press: February 2016), it’s clear that the business world is missing much when it comes to encouraging people to follow with excellence. Biblical notions of stewardship and Body life are usually overlooked in favor of how to endure the purgatory of following while you await a leadership role, or perhaps advice is offered about how to make others follow you with excellence without addressing the quality of your own life journey.
In the workplace, in the church, in nearly every community or group endeavor, there are leaders and there are those without formal leadership titles: followers. Although our culture may have convinced us that being a follower is synonymous with lacking vision, responsibility, influence, or ownership, the reality is that all of these qualities (and many others often identified as leadership traits) are at the very core of what it means to participate fully as an engaged follower that is committed to using his or her gifts faithfully and obediently in service to the Kingdom.
As your church considers the quality of its followership, here are a few questions to be asking:
What does it mean for someone to associate with your church? In what ways is their uniqueness welcomed, and in what areas are they expected to adopt the congregation’s perspective, habits, and methods of operating? Excellent followership only has meaning in the context of being part of a group, so defining what it means to be a part of your group is crucial for opening the door to each person’s best contribution.
What does it mean to be involved in your church? What is expected? What is required? What is needed? What does honoring one another and submitting to one another look like? What are the expectations for influencing one another, and being open to being influenced by others? Excellent followership means that everyone is engaged in a meaningful relationship of cooperation and contribution. Determining the sort of environment that your church creates to facilitate that involvement is critical for seeing church members stewarding their gifts effectively.
What does the network of mutual support and care look like within your church? What resources are offered for personal development, increasing self-awareness, and clarifying one’s vision, role, and calling? What opportunities exist for growing together in unity and humility, for encouraging one another in a journey of Holy Spirit-directed development? Excellent followership is a lifelong journey, and God has established His family to be a place for us all to grow, individually and communally, as we become conformed to the image of His Son and represent Him in this world.
The next time that your church considers challenging its members with the mantra that “all Christians are leaders,” pause a moment and consider first the quality of your followership. What are the characteristics of association, participation, and growth that are exhibited in your Body of Christ culture?
Embracing Followership: How to Thrive in a Leader-Centric Cultureis a guidebook for helping individuals to be validated and empowered in their life of stewardship and participation, at work, at church, and in their local communities. Published by Kirkdale Press (part of the Faithlife/Logos ministry family) and now available in print and eBook formats. See https://embracingfollowership.wordpress.com/the-book/ for more information.
Allen Hamlin has served overseas since 2006, and provides team building consultation around the world. He currently lives in Wales, and oversees ministries in the southern UK. He is the author of Embracing Followership (Kirkdale Press; Feb 2016).
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