Healthy churches are led by healthy leaders, Slaughter says

June 01, 2012

By: Amanda Yanchury

Healthy churches are reliant on their leaders’ being healthy, said conference speaker Mike Slaughter of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church (Tipp City, Ohio) at two sessions on Thursday.

Slaughter urged “self-leadership,” which to him means you cannot lead someone farther than you are yourself. In order to be a strong leader, he said, you must continually aspire to grow.

Slaughter focused on five daily practices to become a healthy, sustained leader, which together created the acronym DRIVE.

The first letter, D, stands for “daily devotional to God.” Slaughter said our nation’s “culture of hurry” causes us to lose sight of our mission as a church.

Second, the letter “R” signifies the “readiness for lifelong learning.” Slaughter noted that what you study becomes what you act upon. He encouraged annual conference members to “cross-populate in what you read,” gaining knowledge from many sources.  Slaughter says to gain wisdom by personal experience, other peoples’ experience, and from the wisdom of the ages.

Next, the letter “I” is for “investing in key relationships.” He spoke of his marriage and how he and his wife woke up one day and said to each other, “who are you?”

“Respect those closest to your heart first, and then respect those closest to the mission,” Slaughter said. “Because of my limited time, I make sure that in my church, I’m investing time in strategic people—isn’t that what Jesus did? He ministered to the multitude but invested in the twelve disciples.”

“I don’t give as much time to the moaners and complainers,” he said. “And I don’t want a board that is representative; I want a board that is missional.”

The “V” is for “visioning for the future.” Slaughter references the book of Jeremiah—in the first verse, God says to him, “you become your life picture. As a person thinks within them self, so they become.”

What’s holding churches back from becoming vital? It’s the lack of picture. “You need a picture, plan, and persistent practice” to become effective, Slaughter said.

Last, the “E” stood for eating and exercise for life. Slaughter spoke of a turning point in his life where his life was endangered because of the choices he was making. He encouraged annual conference members to eat healthy and get enough exercise.

“You are a temple of the Holy Spirit,” Slaughter said. “If God has plans for me at 80 or 90, who am I to take myself out of that game?”

Given that the United Methodist Church is in decline, how can leaders bring health to the church?

He recommends being “missional rather than attractional.”

“I don’t want to bring thousands of people in, only to have them not be transformed,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter said to instead focus on the “mission statement of Jesus,” out of Isaiah 61.

“Jesus said, ‘I have come to proclaim good news to the poor,’” Slaughter said. “If it’s not good news for the poor, it’s not the gospel.”

Slaughter challenged us to look at our own congregations and ask, “What are we doing to be involved with the poor?”

After all, Slaughter said, “we are the only hands and feet that Jesus has!”

Slaughter mentioned governance structure—that a missional church works when you let go of “numbers neurosis” and go out into the world, without a lot of oversight.

“Young people aren’t looking for meetings, they’re looking for meaning,” Slaughter said.

Slaughter showed many videos that highlighted some of the many ministries of which Ginghamsburg community is involved.

In one of these videos, a young woman speaks about why Ginghamsburg is attractive to new people—“because it’s a church that actually does something!”

Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church

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