Good Things Happen When Leaders Gather

Scott Dudley

Good things happen when leaders gather. That was my experience as a new coach with Ascent while facilitating the first get together of my cohort. One of the most important jobs of a leader is to stay encouraged. Discouragement drains energy, blocks vision, and gets passed on to those we lead, and because of that it is our responsibility to be in situations and with people who encourage us.  After three days with this group of Christ-centered leaders I came away not just encouraged, but eager to continue to lead my church.  I got so much from the people in our group.

The pastors in my cohort reminded me of the importance of passion. Each one brought a passion for Jesus, their church, and God’s kingdom that was infectious. The challenges we face as leaders can sometimes drain us of passion, but people follow leaders who are all in when it comes to pursuing Jesus and the mission of their church.  Passion is one of the most important resources we have, and it is easily lost, but when leaders come together, they stoke the fires of passion in each other, remind each other of the importance and adventure of the call.

I was also reminded how vital mutual support and encouragement is. When I first arrived as the new Lead Pastor of my church, my predecessor said “you don’t know what it’s like to sit in that chair until you sit in that chair, and nothing you have done previously really prepares you for it. The dynamics of leading a church are so unique, nobody really gets it except people who sit in that chair.”  I have found that to be true, which is why getting together with other people who “sit in the chair” is so important to being a healthy leader. There were so many times during our three days together where someone would say, “you too…or I have the same question… or I have the same challenge.”  Just to know we aren’t alone in the things we face as leaders renews our energy.  And when we swap stories of how we’ve worked through issues, solved problems, seen God at work, we get equipped to lead more energetically.

One of the best things about our time together was how quickly each person got honest and shared both the highs and the lows, the victories and the places of hurt.  As a pastor it can be hard to find people with whom we can be honest, but we need it.  Ministry is a hard job, but a wonderful calling, and to keep going we need a few people in our lives where we can talk about what’s really going on and receive understanding, encouragement, and prayer.

But we need more than just prayer and support. We also need fun. And this gathering was fun.  There was a lot of laughing.  A lot of good stories.  A lot of good food.  Fun matters.  If all we do is solve problems, share the difficult things in our lives, pray for each other – all of which are indispensable to being a healthy leader – but if that’s all we do, we lose our joy.  The mark of a Christian isn’t piety or seriousness.  It’s joy, and fun restores our joy.

Jesus aims at nothing less than changing the world through his church, and for that to happen he needs healthy leaders.  And leaders do not become healthy alone.  It’s a team sport and we need each other. These retreats are vital to creating healthy leaders who lead healthy churches.  And I’m grateful for the time I had with these leaders and look forward to more because good things happen when leaders gather.

Scott Dudley, Senior Pastor of Bellevue Presbyterian Church in Washington, holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Stanford University and a Master’s in Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary. He’s lectured at Stanford and Seattle Pacific University, also speaking at Christian conferences.

Previously, he served as College Pastor and Teaching Pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church. Actively engaged in community service, he sits on the boards of Whitworth University, Seattle Pacific Seminary, and Jubilee Reach. Married to Christina, they have three adult children. Scott envisions heaven as a place for running, swimming, basking in the sun, and growing tomatoes.

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