Leading Up: How to Move Your Church Leadership Forward

Leading Up: How to Move Your Church Leadership Forward

May 11, 2015 by

Climbing up a mountain is hard work. The higher you climb the thinner the air gets and the more labored breathing becomes. I remember a hike my wife and I took up Tom, Dick and Harry Mountain in Oregon. As we entered the trail we were met by a tiny elderly lady—she must have been in her late 70s. We exchanged greetings and then she asked us a question that should have grabbed our attention, “Are you going all the way to the top?”

We had never hiked the six-mile trail and we had no idea how long it would take to reach the summit. More than a dozen times we looked at one another and asked if it was really worth it. Four hours into the hike we wondered if we would ever reach the summit. But we kept going, knowing that if our friend at the beginning of the trail could make it, so could we.

Leading up is like climbing a mountain for the first time.

We have no idea how much effort it will require or when we will arrive. But we have an idea of where we would like to go and we are willing to give our best effort to get to the top. Yes, people will raise questions and wonder if we have what it takes to go all the way. We will have to reassure them we have every intention of giving our best to finish well. But leading up is more than just having good intentions to finish what we start.

Church communicators who lead up well are those who approach the future with hands wide open.

Leading up requires anticipating a destination.

If we have no idea where we are going, few people will be willing to follow or see the value in what we are doing. When we lead up, we must be able to provide a compelling picture of where we are going. Leaders above us, and those expected to follow us, need to know the benefits we expect. People won’t go with us if we aren’t able to explain how the effort will bring improvement.

Leading up often requires creating a new path.

Unlike a well-worn trail that defines a path, there are times when we must figure out the path. We lead up when we put effort into figuring out the best way to get to the destination without disrupting or needlessly hurting those we lead. Careful consideration and taking time to develop a well-thought-out plan, demonstrates to leaders and followers that they are in capable hands.

Leading up requires being faithful with the present responsibilities before proposing future possibilities.

Going in a new direction requires credibility and that comes by being faithful with what has been entrusted to our care. Before we can lead up, we must handle our responsibilities well. When people come to know us as someone who gets the job done and we do what we say we will do, they come to trust our judgment. And when we hope to do something new, they will be more likely to try it with us when there is trust.

Leading up requires anticipating a need and proposing a solution.

As my wife and I hiked up the mountain, we came to several places along the path where handrails were provided. A slip of the foot with no handrail could have quickly brought a life-threatening fall. Someone had anticipated the need and proposed a solution. This is what people do who lead up. They see a need. They assess the threat. And then they find a solution to limit the threat and meet the need.

Leading Up as a Church Communicator

Let’s apply this more specifically to the role of a church communicator.

If you want to lead up at your church, be faithful with what has already been entrusted to your care. This will yield significant credibility when you propose ideas to improve communication.

Next, identify a problem that needs to be fixed and write a proposal for your immediate supervisor to consider. It is important that you provide more than one solution to the problem. We all know there is more than one way to fix a problem, so take the opportunity to share the options, but be brief.

Once you provide the proposal, your next step is to give it to God and pray for his wisdom to handle the questions that come. Leading up is more about becoming known for providing solutions than it is about getting to implement what you propose. Sure the hope is to fix the problem, but remember that what we see as a problem others may not see.

Church communicators who lead up well are those who approach the future with hands wide open. A fist isn’t convincing. But God can use a well-thought-out plan to change the hearts of leaders. We lead up well when we trust God’s timing, and give to him what only he can do—move the hearts of our leaders.


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Photo by Evelyn Flint/Texture Time.
Post By:

Gerry True

Gerry True serves as the communication arts pastor at Oak Hills Church where he currently leads four teams of artists who use their creativity in communication, production, worship and technical arts. He lives in San Antonio, Texas, with his beautiful wife Karen and two delightful leaders-in-the-making kids, and you can follow him on Twitter at @GerryTrue.
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One Response to “Leading Up: How to Move Your Church Leadership Forward”

  • Eric Dye
    May 13, 2015

    I think this is something that many church communicators face. Thank you for addressing it!

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