Tuesday, September 18, 2012

you vs. we

Ownership is something that definitely applies to us as leaders as well as to the people we're leading. One indicator I've heard before to gauge the level of ownership is in listening to whether others use "you" or" we" -- that is, your team is committed when they take first person ownership of their responsibility as opposed to dishing it off and using the second person. I hope this doesn't come across too negatively, but I do sense my face turning red sometimes when I hear people talk about Nativity or Missions as "that great stuff you guys are doing." I cringe when church members, ministers, and missionaries use the second person when referring to the work that we're all called to embrace.

I cringe for two reasons. The first is, It's my fault. I cannot abdicate my leadership responsibility when people are not taking ownership of this work. It could be because I haven't done a good enough job at casting compelling vision, communicating clear goals, or authentically asking for their contribution. It could be for a variety of reasons that someone doesn't feel engaged, and the poorest assumption to make is that it's because of them. We as leaders need to take responsibility (read ownership) for those we're leading and those we're not, ever searching for ways to enroll more people.

Secondly, I cringe because the work cannot be accomplished without them. It's a reminder that we have so much more work to do recruiting new participants and forming them into leaders. The work of Missions is too great to be accomplished by any one person or even a small group of people. Our entire church needs to be awakened and mobilized to become missionaries, bringing the Kingdom of God to our world. We must be constantly moving our community members from consumers to contributors to Christ followers and helping people take ownership of this work.

So I offer a simple action step: make a decision to eliminate "you" from your church vocabulary. And I really encourage you to chime in... Do you feel ownership of the work of NativityMissions and Church of the Nativity? Are you facing challenges with getting your team to take ownership? What has worked for you?


  1. I can totally relate to your struggles. In youth ministry we sometimes face the same dilemma of the you and we. I think while we need to continuously cast vision, that we also need to literally say, "You have ownership." over and over again.
    Great post, great questions to ponder.

  2. I have certainly seen this happen at points in ministry. It is important to provide clear, measurable goals and to acknowledge meeting (or not meeting) those goals. Ownership is an important component of an active, healthy ministry. When ministers are accountable for, and praised accordingly, their ministries they become passionate advocates instead of task oriented volunteers. As Chris notes, tell your ministers very clearly "you have ownership" over certain things and then confirm and reconfirm.