Have you ever heard the expression, “trying to fit a square peg in a round hole”? In leadership, it is vital to know the shape of those you manage. Often the church is guilty of filling holes based upon emotionally driven preferences or panicked urgency. According to one prominent church leader, “A growing church is always in transition.” Therefore, the dynamic, God-empowered church is frequently a place where personnel shifts are occurring. As the undershepherd, a local church pastor’s assignment of servant-leaders can make flock management much easier or much more difficult. How do we make such weighty decisions wisely?
I have been asked several times recently how pastors effectively identify and develop a local church leadership team. In the book Discover the Way of the Shepherd, Dr. Kevin Lehman provides 5 placement principles in leadership that sparked the following thoughts:
It may sound simple, but it is essential that responsibilities be assigned to a person whose strengths align with those responsibilities. We must make sure that the each person has the skill set needed to do the job. As a pastor, I truly want to aid our people in discovering not only their sanctified shape but where they fit in God’s plan. I encourage you to deploy what you can in the area of spiritual gift tests, ministry fairs, connection cards, etc. to find out the Spirit-empowered strengths in your midst. Ephesians 4:11-13 is clear that the pastor is responsible to train, assign, and mobilize the saints to do the work of the ministry. The global mission of the local is much too epic to trade in spiritual strength for fleshly weakness in any area of responsibility or leadership.
Lehman explains, “While your strengths reflect your abilities, your heart reflects your passion.” The goal should be to place each person where he will think of it as a cause more than drawing a paycheck or volunteering for mundane tasks. As one leader put it, “If I put people in an area that reflects their passions, they’ll arrive at work like they’ve been shot out of a cannon.” My prayer is that I can help our people to be able to obey the command of Colossians 3:23: “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” Often spiritual fathers provoke their spiritual children by placing them over followers or under leaders with “unshapely” apathy.
In any area of responsibility, you want positive, can-do kind of people. Personally if I am given the choice between talent and attitude, I will take the right attitude every time. Unfortunately I have had to learn from experience that the “star performers” with an attitude are a consistent discouragement to everyone else on the team. Proverbs 23: 7 reminds us that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” It is not the practice of the hands but the posture of the heart that determines the trajectory of a person’s influence in any given organization!
While there are multiple ways of labeling personality types, it is universally recognized that each person is hardwired with a distinct personality. Some are introverts. Some are extroverts. While some love repetition, others crave variety. Some thrive on structure. Others flourish with change. The key is to place person in the shaped position that reflects his or her personality. While our church is blessed with tremendous administrative assistants, I have noticed that too often local churches are represented on the phone by less than pleasant receptionists. I am not picking on the receptionist; I am pointing out to those who assigned the task that often we don’t consider the personality “shape.” Ministry is done by people; therefore, personality evaluation is crucial is assigning responsibilities.
Notice that the word is experiences, not experience. Each person you will meet is a product of their life experiences. Often the key to “getting” an individual and discerning where to place him or her on your team is to learn about the person’s various experiences. This would include both positive and negative experiences that give a demonstrative track record. Even the Lord, when evaluating His stewards, uses this approach in Matthew 25:21, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” While we must look for dependability; we should also look for specific parallels between their experiences and our opportunities. Pastors, don’t assign with blinders on just because it meets your urgent need or aligns with your predetermined agenda. While a person is not limited or validated by only their past, it does factor into the sum total of whom they are moving forward.
By way of personal application, this acrostic is not just for others. It is for you. You ought to be most familiar with the profile of your Spirit-refined shape. Are you where you fit? Are you doing what is your divinely-enabling calling? There is many a church leader who misrepresents as “many years of faithfulness” what is, in reality, a lack of introspection and sensitivity to the Lord’s leading into a tailored place shaped by His hand. The way to empower others as a leader is for you to be fully shaped in the unique image of Christ and fully engaged in your family, vocational, and ministry placement.
As the pastor of a fledgling church, I recognize how tempting it is practice impulsive delegation and how difficult it is to reverse foolish personnel decisions that have resulted in the “square peg into round hole” dilemma. While it still right to make the necessary changes with patience and wisdom, would it not be better to delegate responsibilities correctly the first time? I am pleading with church leadership, for the health of the flock and reputation of the Chief Shepherd, to take the time to examine the shape of every sheep in the fold to make sure they fit well where they are assigned. Peter admonishes the elders of the church in I Peter 4:2-4, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” In church administration, refuse to be lazy, political, or careless. May the Lord help us to have a “ready mind” to develop a sketch of the “shape” of each dear person and wisely match it with the “hole” of every need in the local New Testament church.
What other aspects of evaluation can aid church leaders in determining SHAPE?
 Dr. Kevin Leman, The Way of the Shepherd (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 33-36.