Comments from a Christ-follower on things that matter to him
Friday, November 29, 2013
Sharpen the Axe
Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said: "Give me six hours to chop
down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” This approach to preparation was popularized
by Stephen Covey in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Even so, the practice of continuing personal
and professional development is not a high priority for many leaders—especially
clergy. They are too busy chopping down
the tree to take time to sharpen the axe.
Since I became a certified professional life
coach, I have entered into a world of required professional development that I
have only observed from the outside in the past. My friends who are public school educators,
counselors, marriage therapists, and medical professional are required to take
a certain number of hours of continuing education each year in order to
maintain their license or certification.
Some denominational judicatories require such education for their
clergy, but this is the exception in most denominations including Baptists.
I have been fortunate in my ministry to work
with supervisors who both practiced and provided professional development
opportunities. Glenn Yarborough,
director of student ministries for the Tennessee Baptist Convention, regularly
brought interesting and gifted people to share with campus ministers at staff
meetings and retreats. Clark Bryan, my
supervisor at Carson-Newman College, both encouraged and made it possible for
me to complete an unfinished Doctor of Ministry degree while I was on staff there.
Given this background, I am always amazed and
disappointed that professional development is not a high priority in our churches. Staff meetings and retreats are most often
devoted to program coordination and calendar planning rather than discovering
and sharing new insights and understandings with one another.
Although the pastor cannot tackle this problem
alone, the initiative must begin there.
The pastor must model professional development and life long learning and
lobby church officers and committees to provide development opportunities for
all staff members—both ordained and non-ordained.
Such options include but are not limited to
finances for book purchases, time and money to attend conferences, resources
for staff development events, and sabbaticals for professional staff. The advent of the Internet provides many
valuable learning opportunities free or at minimal cost. Judicatories, theological institutions,
professional organizations, and consultants offer innovative options for lifelong
learners. Ministry leaders can also
benefit from being part of a peer group or being coached by a trained life
I have a tendency when I walk each morning to
look down at the road rather than lifting my head and seeing the world around
me. I have to remind myself to look up
and see what is going on.Too many of us go from day to
day only looking at what is right before us and not engaging in new ideas,
learning, and development. Lift up your
eyes and see what’s ahead!