I grew up on a one hundred acre farm but for most of my childhood. As a child I loved having a hundred-acre play ground with a bush lot, creek, sand pit and lots of hills of every shape and size. Actually, all that it was was a play ground because we didn’t ever farm it. We didn’t plant any crops or raise animals.
Having said that though I did grow up around farmers. My father was an auctioneer who sold a weekly cattle sale so I knew the difference between a Holstein and a Hereford. For those who may have been raised in the city, those are types of cows.
There is a lot that I don’t know about farming but there are a few things that I do know. One of the things is that one can’t harvest crops in the autumn unless one plants seeds in the spring. Planting seeds is absolutely essential to a rich harvest.
Planting seeds in the church
One of the mistakes that I made in my early days as a pastor was to expect the people on my leadership board to be excited about something just because I was. I would bring an idea to the leadership meetings and wonder why people weren’t jumping out of their seats with joy as they listened to me explain my idea.
I would leave those meetings some times feeling utterly defeated as another great idea landed in the garbage can in the corner of my office. I often felt like the other leaders in the church weren’t open to new idea or weren’t visionary enough or weren’t interested in seeing the church move forward.
Over time I came to realize my mistake. I was trying to reap a harvest without having taken the time to plant a seed.
I came to understand that just as seedless harvests don’t happen in the physical world, they don’t happen in the church world either. If I were ever going to bring people on side and receive their support for my ideas, I needed to plant seeds long before I made my presentation to the board.
I realized that the board meeting wasn’t the time or the place to build support. It was the time and place to harvest the support that I had already obtained.
Planting the seed
People often want two things when it comes to new ideas. First they want to be consulted.
The thing that changed my approach to presenting new ideas to my leadership team was when I realized that while I had spent months analyzing the idea, processing the pros and cons, and looking at it from every angle possible, the other members of the board were hearing about it for the first time. I couldn’t expect them to make a decision in a few minutes on something that it had taken me weeks or months to think through.
I began planting seeds long before the business meeting when I intended to raise the issue. I raised the problems that the new idea was designed to solve. I met with leaders and ran the idea by them. I made sure that when it came up at a meeting, everyone already knew what the idea was and was ready to act on it.
Too often leaders by their very nature are impatient people. They see a problem and want to do something to solve it right away. For many leaders the most difficult thing that they are asked to do is take the time to work through the process involved in getting ideas accepted.
Often a leader looks at a problem that has been part of the church culture for years and wants to solve it in a few months. Most ideas take time to implement and the more urgent they seem often the longer they take to achieve.
People want to be consulted. The second thing that people want is to know that they have been heard. Often people don’t necessarily want their own way but they want their way considered.
People who ask questions and express concerns about the idea that you have are not the enemy. They are the greatest asset that you have.
Only God is right all of the time. Only God is able to consider all of the variables and achieve perfection without input from anyone.
As humans we need the input of others. We aren’t capable of achieving perfection all by ourselves.
People want to know that when they give input it will be listened to. That doesn’t mean that we accept all of the input that we receive but it does mean that we consider it.
Being able to really listen in an important skill for leaders to develop.
The priority of patience
Apart from a deep personal walk with God, there may be no characteristic more important for a leader to develop than patience.
I would love to see every training program for pastors offer at least a lesson or two on the importance of patience.
I would love to see every church provide training for new leaders on the value of patience.
Most ideas presented by pastors and other leaders aren’t rejected because they are bad ideas or because the church isn’t open to new ideas.
They are rejected because the person presenting them didn’t plant the seeds that were required for the harvest to take place.
I would sooner take a year to implement an idea and have it work then rush it through in a few weeks and have it fail. The difference between those two results usually revolves around the amount of patience shown.
What are the goals that you have for your church? What would you really like to see happen?
Begin to plant seeds in key people’s minds now so that a month from now or six months from now or a year from now you will be able to reap the harvest moving your church in a new direction with a united sense of purpose and vision.