Sunday, May 26, 2013



For a short time earlier this year my wife and I were involved with a very important ministry to para and quadriplegics. The dedicated person leading this ministry was an effective traditional leader. She sincerely took responsibility for the needs and direction of the group and I could see that this ministry team had very real possibilities for growth. But I could also see that change was needed to facilitate the development and growth of the team. So I wrote to the leader (see my letter below) and this is the gracious (edited) reply I received.

 "Thank you Jack for your email. I had never given consideration to that, i.e., a leader moving toward a facilitator. I read it & re read your email and I realised this is exactly what I desire to be doing. It made so much sense & my prayer is that I get better at facilitating conversation and involvement. It's interesting cos often we want to fill the gap, the silence, with noise or the sound of our own voice.. I have a new appreciation for " silence" after reading your email. I read out your email to the team & they all gleaned from it & said it's like a new concept or new way of thinking - leader to facilitator. I don't know if I have heard this before but it's so true. Loved your email Jack & Gods word in you is helping myself & the team to personally flourish."
So, what did I write to elicit such a positive response? Here's an edited version of my advice to Marge.

Hi Marge

I've been thinking about the Team, and the time when you will divide and have two groups - maybe even more! Will you then need leaders or facilitators? We hear a lot about having strong, consistent, decisive and in-control leaders. But we don't hear much about facilitators.

When people are young in the faith, or they are coming into a new responsibility, they need leaders to show the way forward, the way things are done etc. But if the leader doesn't 'morph' into a facilitator, the followers won't grow and mature in their responsibilities.

A facilitator will learn to back off from doing everything themselves. He/she will encourage others to participate, asking them to pray, to talk, to ask questions, suggest a song or whatever. In fact a good facilitator will often just leave things open and allow the Holy Spirit to guide the 'right' person who has a prayer, a word, a Scripture, a song, a testimony, an idea or some other contribution they are wanting and waiting to share. We do this in our church gatherings and are often amazed at what folk bring. It's just a matter of letting the team know they have a responsibility to contribute. Yes, there's often silence, and traditional leaders don't like that. They want things to happen and if nothing does, they will make things happen! But if we want to be led by the Holy Spirit, and see people grow, take responsibility, and be discipled, this is the way it has to be done. And we should never be afraid of silence. We don't value it enough and need to learn to 'Be still and know that I am God, (that he is in control, not you!). '"

So, here's some differences between a traditional leader and a Spirit-led facilitator.

 The traditional leader

  • Has the programme planned
  • Directs the proceedings
  • Decides who participates and when
  • Answers all the questions
  • Is the recognised Master of Ceremonies
The facilitator

  • Has no 'concrete' plans
  • Allows the Holy Spirit to direct the proceedings
  • Doesn't worry if there are times of silence
  • Doesn't answer all the questions - even when she/he knows the answers.
  • Deflects questions to other members of the group/team to answer
  • Is passionate about making disciples
What I've said here applies to anyone in leadership, whether the team/group/church is large or small. It is a lesson I and others I know are learning and are finding that the results speak for themselves.

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