Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Communicating Across to Peers

Here is more from the Zonegathering Communication Series. This article focuses on the importance of communication between leaders in a ministry context, but the principles can apply in marketplace settings, as well. Many of the suggestions apply within the NCC context, but they are easily transferable.

Last week, we focused on the importance of communicating up to those in authority. Today, we will talk about the leadership skill of communicating across to other leaders.

Calling the Ball
When I played softball, communication happened in 3 ways. The first and most obvious channel of communication was from coach to player. During practices, the coaches would challenge, stretch, correct, and encourage us as players. The coach would help us be stronger hitters, more accurate throwers, and quicker analysts of fielding choices. Before the game, the coach would fire up our internal passion to win. After the game, depending on the outcome, the coach would cheer us, buy us pizza, console us, or make us run laps.

The second channel of communication was from player to coach. During practice, we would ask our coach for pointers or for more opportunities to increase our skills. We would communicate to him the areas that we wanted to strengthen and share with him our desires for the team's success.

But the most important communication typically occurred player-to-player. During the heat of the game, communication still happened from coach to player and vice-versa, but that happened from the sidelines. The place where communication really counted was on the field in the midst of the game, and that communication had to flow from player-to-player as we called balls, communicated fielding choices, and engineered scenarios for the double play. Slugger Babe Ruth said, "You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime."

Peer Discipleship
In discipleship, your zone leader is your coach. Their job is to train you, stretch you, challenge you, and cheer you on as you play your role. But the most important communication you can have to make you a successful small group leader might be the form of communication that is most often overlooked-- the communication between leaders.

We often think of discipleship as being top-down, but when you look at the Bible, you see numerous examples of "peer discipleship." Daniel and his 3 friends (better known to us as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) encouraged one another to obey God's commands. They weren't being led by a small group leader; they were leading one another. We typically think of "Paul and Barnabas" or "Paul and Silas," listing Paul first because he was the dominant leader discipling the other person. In reality, Paul was involved in a peer discipleship relationship with Barnabas and Silas (actually, Barnabas was discipling Paul in the beginning). It wasn't top-down; it was across.

Paul told the church at Thessalonica to "encourage one another and build one another up" (I Thessalonians 5:11). That's not a top-down arrangement; it's encouraging and building up from peer to peer.

Communication Environments
In order to facilitate communication amongst our leaders we have created a number of different environments. Leadership Retreats and Summits are great opportunities to meet, connect, and re-connect with other leaders, but we recognize thats not enough. There are two other primary environments for you to connect with other leaders.
  • Zone Meetings. As we mentioned last week, Zone Meetings are opportunities for you to connect with and communicate with your Zone Leader or Team Leader. But they are also opportunities for you to communicate with and learn from your fellow leaders.
  • The primary purpose of this online community for small group leaders is to facilitate communication from small group leader to small group leader. The primary purpose is not for the zone leaders to just yap all the time about what's on their mind. We want to hear what you are thinking, what you are concerned about, what you are praying about, what God is doing in your group, what works, what doesn't work, etc. Zonegathering is a place for you to connect with other leaders and communicate across to them in order to encourage one another and build each other up.
Communication Topics
So what do you talk with other leaders about? Here are some ideas:

Share Wins
Sharing wins creates momentum and encourages the entire leadership team. The best place to share wins with other leaders is on the Friday Scorecard right here at Zongegathering. Share what God is doing in your group with other leaders, and encourage other leaders when they experience a win. We need to learn to communicate across and celebrate with one another.

Share Ideas
If you have led for any amount of time, then you have ideas that are worth sharing with other people. Maybe it's an idea for an outreach or a great icebreaker. Don't make other leaders re-invent the wheel. Share what you have learned during your time leading groups. What are some keys to facilitating good discussion? How do you handle difficult people in groups? How do you do prayer in groups? Every person we meet has the potential to teach us something, and we have the potential to teach something to every person we encounter. Seek to make other leaders successful by sharing what you have learned.

Share Failures
Communicating across to other leaders is particularly helpful when its focused on failure and how to deal with that. Satisfactory leaders probably don't fail, good leaders may not fail, but great leaders have failed at some point and will probably continue to fail because they are on the cutting edge of leadership. The psychiatrist M. Scott Peck said, “If we are to use the word community meaningfully, we must restrict it to a group of individuals who have learned how to communicate honestly with each other, whose relationships go deeper than their masks of composure." By sharing our failures and our response to failure, we can encourage and help other leaders.

Share Prayer
I love to see leaders praying together at summits and retreats. Too often, small group leaders are the ones driving the prayer train in group settings, and it's possible to go for weeks without getting prayed for yourself. Pray for other leaders and pray with other leaders. Your zone is a great place to facilitate those types of relationships. I believe pretty strongly in the idea that God will bless your group if you invest prayer into other leaders and their groups.

Making the Effort
To effectively communicate across to other leaders, you have to connect with other leaders and that may require you to take some initiative. In the 360-Degree Leader, John Maxwell points out that we tend to get closest to three different types of people-- 1) people we have known for a long time, 2) people with whom we have common experiences, and 3) people that we know like us. This vastly limits our exposure to new ideas and resources. At the next summit, make an effort to connect with a leader that you don't know. Schedule time for coffee or lunch and seek to learn from that leader's gifts, passions, and experiences.

A team will only succeed if they are communicating effectively across to one another in the midst of the game. To make the play, someone must call the ball. Commit today to communicating well with your teammates.


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