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Maximization: The church and its ministers and ministries operate at optimal levels of effectiveness and efficiency

My Greatest Leadership Lesson: I Am The Problem!

I know of no other profession where it is more tempting to play victim than in ministry. It’s so easy. After all, why be responsible when I can blame so many other people and circumstances for my troubles? The congregation, the staff, the church leaders, the culture…..they are the problem.

It’s especially easy for the senior leadership of the church to play victim. I know, as an Executive Pastor I used to be a world-class victim. When the church leadership didn’t agree with my decisions I’d blame the “narrowness” of leadership. When the membership didn’t respond to our ministry efforts, I’d blame the “degenerate” congregation. And, when staff wouldn’t follow my directives, I’d blame the “dumb” staff. I wondered why my church was populated by such underperforming people.

So, most of my efforts centered on getting “them” to change. “They” needed to be different. I was OK. One day it struck me. I discovered how, by playing the victim and projecting blame on others, I was the creator of the narrowness, unfaithfulness, and dumbness in my church. I was the problem!

The Magic Question

I learned to change from being a victim to being responsible by asking myself one simple question, “What have I done, or not done, that contributed to the situation I am complaining about? Restating the problem as I am the source or at least complicit in the problem, and therefore have control, was catalytic. It was only as I recognized that “I am the problem” that I was able to become part of solving the problem.

Through asking this question I learned that being the lead victim is hazardous to the effectiveness of my church, my personal success, and that there’s always something I can do to improve virtually any situation. Accepting that “I am the problem” enabled me to be the solution by changing my leadership behavior.

I Am The Problem Because…….

The Magic Question helps to redefine the circumstances by not focusing on the things we can’t control to occupying ourselves with things we did to negatively impact the situation and the things we can do to positively influence the situation in the future.

Below are some “I am the problem” examples from my own ministry experience that you may relate to.

• An employee is a bad fit because I failed to follow proper hiring protocol.
• An employee is not reaching their potential because I failed to train or resource them appropriately.
• An employee fails to follow through in a timely manner because I failed to provide clear instructions and accountability.
• An employee is a poor performer because I failed to put into place a system of expectations, goals and periodic reviews.
• A Small Group Bible Teacher is teaching inconsistent with our doctrine because I failed to put into place a proper teacher vetting system.
• This person is aggravating me because I failed to put into place proper boundaries.
• Church members don’t meet my expectations because I failed to preach, teach, and promote our expectations.
• We don’t have enough volunteers because I haven’t taught or developed a process for people to discover how God has uniquely gifted, experienced, and called them to a place of service.
• There is confusion over a decision because I failed to clearly communicate the process that was followed and the benefits of the decision.
• There is no buy-in to my decision because I failed to ask for the input of others.
• A change I proposed is rejected because I failed to practice good change leadership principles.
• Space is an issue because I failed to suggest appropriate schedule, room, or location changes.
• Attendance is an issue because I failed to ask the constituency when they prefer we meet.
• Giving is down because I failed to teach biblical stewardship or be a good steward of the resources given.
• An initiative failed because I/We failed to surround it in prayer.
• There were no big gifts to the capital campaign because the only time I visit with high capacity donors is when I need their money.
• I am experiencing conflict because I have failed to take the initiative in resolving the conflict.
• (Fill in the blank) is non-existent in our church because I am not modeling it myself.

My leadership journey has been indelibly shaped by the “I am the problem” insight. I learned that if I wanted the situation to change, or wanted others to be different, then I had the power to change “that” or “them” by first changing myself. Try it and I have no doubt you too will experience increased empowerment.


Posted on November 21, 2017
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Jim Baker

Jim is a Church Organizational Leadership and Management Coach, Consultant and Trainer. Throughout his career Jim has demonstrated a passion for showing Pastors and Ministers how to use organizational tools for church and personal growth and health.

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“For I may be absent in body, but I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see how well ordered you are and the strength of your faith in Christ.” Colossians 2:5