Leading Well Behind the Scenes

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A Well-Oiled Machine?

You may have heard the saying sometimes used to describe successful businesses and churches as a 'well oiled machine'. The question I want to ask is: What would happen if there is no oil?

The machine may look great from the outside. It may appear to have everything it needs to perform its function well, but if the mechanics on the inside are not working properly (or don’t exist at all) the machine is not going to be able to achieve its purpose.

Hotel Nightmares

Over the past weekend, I was away in another part of the country attending a relative’s wedding. We booked in to a local hotel run by a family. The room was spacious, lovely furnishings; the room was clean and provided everything we needed as a family to make our stay comfortable.  At first I thought this was going to be a great weekend. However, when we went down to the restaurant for our evening meal on the first night the cracks began to show. These cracks were not physical, but more in the way things were run and organised behind the scenes. We were the only people in the restaurant at first, then a large group came in for a birthday celebration in the function room. We sat and waited for ages to place our order and only got the food much later. Things didn’t improve with fire alarms going off in the middle of the night, loud parties that made the room where we were sleeping vibrate and shake, and the inability to find staff who actually knew what was happening. In some cases there was no one to be found at all.

Without actually going behind the scenes to start to see where things were going wrong, it soon became apparent where one of the big problems was (and this was just from my observations as a guest). One person in particular was everywhere, all the time, doing every job imaginable. Juggling so much – far beyond what one person is capable of – things are going to fall and mistakes are going to be made. The machinery is going to stop functioning as it should. It was inevitable that with one person trying to do everything, nothing was going to be done right.


Engineering the Internal Structure

When we look at the way our churches and ministries are structured behind the scenes do we make sure that the necessary mechanics and systems are in place? It is often a good idea to follow the journey of any given type of person that you serve (eg. A visitor to your church, or someone who has a child, or someone who has been with you for a while – how else can they be involved or benefit from your input). Think about each stage of their journey.
  • ·         Do you adequately serve them at each point?
  • ·         Is each point clearly signposted from one to the other?
  • ·         Do they know which direction to go in and how things work?
  • ·         Do they know who to ask if they are confused about things or need some guidance or counsel?
  • ·         Do you keep any sort of record as to where someone is along their journey with you and/or their relationship with Jesus?
  • ·         Do you try to do every ministry function and job yourself, or do you delegate to others?
  • ·         If things start to go wrong, have you got a plan in place to bring order back from chaos?
  • ·         What systems do you have that train and build up your current leaders as well as potential new leaders?
  • ·         How effective is your communication between your leaders and the teams they lead as well as between your church leadership and the congregation you serve?

Being seen on the platform or at the front does help to identify who the leaders are, however you do not have to have a platform position in order to be a good leader. In fact most of the best leadership is done off the platform. It is done behind the scenes where faithful servants make sure that the correct systems are in place, that the machine has been topped up with oil and all the parts are in good working order. There is care and communication. There is peace and joy in all who are involved. Leaders are not afraid to get their hands dirty and serve their teams as well as show them where to go they show them how to get there. They lead through example and servanthood rather than by dictating rules, regulations and punishing people for not reaching certain targets.


Take that first step – assess how your church ministry is doing behind the scenes. Celebrate your strengths and find ways of supporting and turning around areas of weakness. Start to put the mechanics in place and then add a little oil. Then stand back a little and see how your well-oiled machine runs.



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