My wife and I are far from perfect parents, but I am pleased to report that we do get complimented quite often on the behavior of our children. As “Pastor’s Kids” my four boys (yes, you read that correctly) have a stereotype that everyone expects them to live into. Yet, they don’t. To be sure, they are not “Stepford Children” – they engage in age appropriate behavior (the teenager acts like a teenager; the 2 year old like a 2 year old). It rarely seems like we have unreasonable behavior issues. For the most part, they are kind and respectful when called upon to be so. They really have set a new standard for what PKs can be.
My wife and I are taking full credit.
Parenting with Love and Logic
When our oldest son was a toddler, we signed up for a parenting class to learn an approach called “Love and Logic.”
The approach rests on the belief in natural consequences and the ability of people to learn from those consequences to make good decisions. The logic goes that our job is to raise them in such a way that they will be able to live on their own when it comes time. Since the world is based on us receiving consequences to our behavior, all discipline is put into this framework. Punishment to “teach a kid a lesson” becomes a thing of the past since parents are going to help children learn lessons as a result of most things they do.
When our children were younger and had trouble wasting food at dinner then asking for a snack before bedtime, this meant that they went to bed hungry a few nights until they learned to “eat enough to be full until the morning.” The price tag to learn about wastefulness was pretty low, compared to spending hundreds – or thousands – of dollars to learn it as an adult.
When a couple of our boys decided to dig their heels in and not go to school on a few mornings, they missed their ride and I had to take them. Rather than become full of rage and “punish them,” their consequence was to “pay back” my time for transporting them. Raking leaves in the yard or cleaning bathrooms was enough to teach them about respecting other people’s schedules.
What we have discovered (which we were told would be the case) is that we have effectively “front loaded” our time. We spend a lot of time with our boys when they are younger, and, the older they get, the less discipline we find that they need. When parameters are set, they know that transgressing them is done to their detriment. Although parenting a teenager is difficult, I spend less time on his behavior than I do on with his 4 or 2.5 year old brothers. Most of our conversations about behavior are actually conversations in which we act like sounding boards as they try to work out what choice they will make.
In a small way, our boys have learned the beginnings of the art of discernment. While it is certainly our job to guide them as they discover, it is not our job to discover for them.
Leading a Congregation with Love and Logic
Although there is much more to Love and Logic than I have laid out here, I hope that you can see that there are some points of the approach that can be easily applied to the act of congregational leadership.
The most obvious to me is that is challenges the ways we have typically viewed congregational leaders. Just as the old approach to parenting establishes the parent as forcing a child to learn a lesson, the old (or current?) approach to church leadership eastablishes the congregational leader as the one responsible for doing ministry. The goal of Love and Logic parenting is to help a child become a fully functioning human being. Likewise, the goal of Love and Logic congregational leadership is to help church members become fully capable ministers of the Gospel in their own right.
Another difference is one of strategy and tactics. Love and Logic parents are very comfortable with their children making mistakes. At their best, these parents actually look forward to the moments where their children make bad choices because that means they have a “low cost” opportunity to teach them a valuable lesson. Love and Logic leaders are the same. Unlike their overfunctioning counterparts, these leaders do not subscribe to the idea that “If I don’t do it, it won’t ever get done.” Much to the chagrin of their membership, Love and Logic leaders are very clear that they are not serving the church to swoop in and clean up a mess when those responsible drop the ball. If there is a chronic problem with a program or ministry, these leaders are quite comfortable letting something fail and/or fanning the flames of discontent until it does.
Just as with parenting, Love and Logic leaders discover that they “front load” a lot of their time with a congregation. They spend a lot of time in their first few years establishing parameters and expectations, watching as the congregation begins to discover their own abilities to engage in ministry. And rather than be the typical leaders who spends all of her time running around putting out fires, the Love and Logic leaders gets to spend her time lighting generative fires of excitement in members’ hearts.
Are you an overfunctioning leader? Do you enable you congregation to continue believing that you are present to do ministry on their behalf? If you are/do, ask yourself what is going to happen to that congregation when you leave? Will they be equipped to survive without you?