If you want to cause someone to lose their religion in church, take the seat of a little old lady who has been sitting in the same pew since Noah beached the ark.  If you didn’t need salvation before you sat down, you will afterwards.  Hell hath no fury like that of a little old lady who finds someone else sitting in her pew.

In my early days as a minister, I assumed that real leadership in the church came from those who had been appointed by the selection committee; one ordained by God himself and the Church Constitution.  Most folks knew the church constitution better than the Bible and, in fact, when a scrum broke out, the only chapter and verses quoted as proof texts were from Article 3; Section 4; Paragraph 1; Sentence 2.

Each year the constitution required the appointment of a selection committee. The selection committee would pour over potential victims, er, nominees for the various positions and the church would vote in a congregational meeting more highly attended than Easter or Christmas.

We were masters at putting square pegs into round holes.

I’m a pretty slow learner so it’s not surprising I have to retake the same test numerous times.  I used to assume that influence in the church came from the folks who got elected in leadership positions with cool titles like Chairman, Vice Chairman, Deacon, Elder, and Bouncer. Okay, maybe we didn’t have a Bouncer, but if you’ve ever served on a church board, you know you need one occasionally.

Karl Beck wasn’t joking in Pastor Karl’s Rookie Year (Never Trust a Spiritual Revolution You Can’t Dance To), when he said, “It’s easier in most churches to introduce a fourth person into the trinity than it is to change the color of the carpet in the foyer.”

The real power in the church was in those little old ladies that sat on the back row. However, they wouldn’t serve in an official position because, “they had done their time and it was time for the young people to run the church.”

Ha! Those little old ladies stopped fooling me by my third year.  They might not have had official constitutionally-ordained positions, but they could change the tide of opinion with just a few comments of support or criticism. John Maxwell came up with this axiom after hanging around little old ladies: leadership is influence.

The Kansas Leadership Center believes that our world will be a much better place if we can reframe the antiquated idea that position equals leadership.  I wrote about their first principle in my last blog, Leadership is an Activity, Not a Position.   When I think of the second KLC principle –Anyone can lead, anytime, anywhere – I am reminded of those little old ladies on the back row of the church:  

KLC Leadership Principles

      1. Leadership is an activity, not a position.
      2. Anyone can lead, anytime, anywhere.
      3. It starts with you and must engage others.
      4. Your purpose must be clear.
      5. It’s risky.

If you have any leadership tendencies at all, you might be like me and want to be Charles in Charge.  I’d encourage you to spend some time leading from the back pew of the church.  Here’s some pointers I observed from the little old ladies:

      • Keep quiet and observe
      • Wait for the right time then speak your mind
      • Don’t editorialize your remarks
      • Be as direct as possible so there is no room for misunderstanding
      • Don’t apologize for what you think
      • Smile

Have you seen others who have been effective leading from anytime and anywhere? I’d love to hear about it.

Check out KLC:  www.kansasleadershipcenter.org

Buy CEO Ed O’Malley’s book (co-written with David Crislip):  For the Common Good: Redefining Civic Leadership

Do whatever you can to go through their training!

Photo purchased from iStock.