Our competitive culture has produced a number of false views of leadership. Leaders are usually portrayed as "tall-in-the-saddle" loners who get the job done through strong self-reliance and rugged individualism. John Wayne quickly comes to mind when we conjure up the popular American vision of leaders.

And indeed "the Duke" did portray the classic old-West leader. But that era is history--gone forever. Today's leaders operate in complex human organizations through teams and workgroups. People are dependent on one another and must put the goals of the organization ahead of their own goals. This is especially true of churches, whose leaders subordinate themselves to the lordship of Christ.

Deacons and other Christian leaders should strive to work through a united team effort, not by rugged individualism that opposes all compromise and defines "being in charge" as giving orders to others. Like the cowboy of yesteryear, deacon leaders are definitely strong and assertive; but they are team facilitators rather than loners, democratic rather than autocratic, and dependent on others rather than independent.

Deacons should not be content merely to get things done in the church; they must equip team members in the process and build corporate unity. Deacons are teambuilders, shepherds, disciples, and teachers. They build up others by building themselves into others. First and foremost, deacons are the church's servant leaders.


Just are the larger-than-life exploits of heroes of the old West were largely mythical, so too are our stereotypes about leadership. No leader really ever succeeds for long by barking out orders rather than by listening to others or by doing all the thinking for others rather than by tapping others' creativity. Nor do leaders get far by trying to do all the work themselves rather than independent.

Deacons should not be content merely to get things done in the church; they must equip team members in the process and build corporate unity. Deacons are teambuilders, shepherds, disciples, and teachers. They build up others by building themselves into others. First and foremost, deacons are the church's servant leaders.

Effective leaders consult others before acting, help others help themselves, and seek the group's consensus rather than arbitrarily deciding what is "best" for the church. All of these capacities have one thing in common: sharing. Christian leaders excel in sharing. They share in their time, talents, and ideas with other members of the ministry team and encourage them to do likewise.


We can identify ten special "sharing targets" for Christian leaders:

Vision and ideals. Christian leaders must work to develop a shared sense of values. These values would be reflected in the goals and programs of the church. Developing this common frame of reference through formal meetings and informal discussions creates a sense of ownership and commitment on the part of all the people involved.

Power. Power is the ability to determine how to use limited resources of time, money, facilities, and the like. The aim of the Christian leader is to "empower" others. That is, through working with and encouraging them, they become the source of ideas and decisions. Real power is not wielded over someone--rather, it is channeled through someone.

Feelings and emotions. Christian leaders should be open both to share their feelings and to listen sensitively to the feelings of others. Leadership is more than making right decisions. It is also helping people to discover who they and others really are. Christian leaders, by openly acknowledging their own humanity, invite others to be similarly transparent and real.

Time. Deacons are busy people. Often their recognition as servant leaders in the church is related to their capacity for leadership exhibited at work and in the community. Time is a precious commodity, and the deacon must make a conscious decision to invest that time in people rather than in administrative functions. Building yourself into others takes time--large amounts of it.

Personal needs. We can be so busy serving others that we neglect our own needs for support and encouragement. Christian leaders should share with others, in a sensitive way, their own goals, frustrations, pressures, and needs. This will allow others to pray for the leader specifically and to feel a true "kinship" with one's Christian brother and sister.

Trust. Christian leaders recognize that trust is an important resource at church. Trust allows two or more people to disagree and still respect the motives or intentions of each other. Trust allows people to follow a leader even when there is some uncertainty about the course the leader is taking. In an important way, trust is the "lubricant for relationships," because it allows us to work through the small frictions of differences in perspectives and approaches.

Talents and gifts. Obviously, Christian leaders must share their own giftedness with the church. Less obviously, it is important for leaders to encourage others to share their gifts and talents with the church. Deacons often find their role is to help people understand and then to apply their special talents, creating opportunity for growth through service.

Information. Christian leaders must constantly "wage war" against the tendency for churches to be places where too little information is shared too late with too few people. Christian leaders know that information is the only resource that never can be used up! In fact, sharing it increases its value and potency. Of course, Christian leaders must be receivers of information as well as senders. The aim is to create in the church a desire for and freedom to talk and listen openly and continuously.

Success and failures. Christian leaders need to talk about both their successes and failures. Success stories encourage others to continue to work hard and to persevere. Failure stories help others see the leader as a real human being with "problems just like mine."

Prayer. The foundation of effective Christian leadership is an active prayer life which includes personal time in prayer but also seeking opportunity to share prayer time with others. Through group prayer we find encouragement, empathy, and commitment to seeing all of our life through the eyes of faith.


Many people mistakenly believe being a leader is a matter of asserting "I am this" or "I am that." Actually, the real worth of a leader is what he helps others to feel about themselves as members of the ministry team. As the result of using a sharing-caring style of leadership, the deacon should help each member of the ministry team to feel four crucially important things:

Unless the deacon uses a sharing style of leadership, these "I ams" will not be present to a healthy extent. Team members won't feel particularly needed or productive be a leader who is hesitant to share ministry work through delegation. They won't feel unique if the leader asks everyone on the team to do the same work or to make similar contributions. Team members certainly won't feel appreciated unless the deacon leader shares his feelings openly when a job is well done. Sharing is perhaps the deacon's best way to build team unity and morale.


What does it really mean to be a sharing, caring church leader? The following checklist identifies many of the most important characteristics of the sharing deacon. Place a check by each item that characterizes your leadership style as a deacon:

____ 1. Knowing the personal side of team members.

____ 2. Encouraging team members.

____ 3. Sharing your time with members of the team on a one-to-one basis.

____ 4. Doing some of the unenjoyable teamwork yourself and delegating the more enjoyable work

 to team members.

____ 5. Expressing your inner feelings and thoughts with team members.

____ 6. Praying with the team.

____ 7. Accepting your share of the blame for team problems or failures.

____ 8. Listening to others.

____ 9. Creating unique serving opportunities for individual team members.

____ 10. Praying for individual team members.

Share your responses to the checklist with the members of your ministry team. Do they agree with how you filled it out? What items do you want to work on more? How can the members of your team assist you?

May the Lord continue to richly bless churches who have sharing deacon leaders!