You can learn how to be a church leader at a number of places: Conferences, networks, blogs, and more books than you could ever read. In fact many are forgoing traditional seminary education for a “learn by doing” plan using the aforementioned resources. Which makes me wonder, is that a good development?
I believe that seminary can offer some unique experiences that are worth the time and the money. For this installment I will be exploring the beauty of being told you are wrong.
Community of Critique
People who are able to lead churches without the benefit of seminary are usually naturally gifted with leadership. These high-capacity leaders have great success, but eventually everyone finds their limits. When done correctly the academy provides that safe place to discover your weakness and gives the self-awareness to build the support of a team or system.
Being told that you are wrong or experiencing failure can be destabilizing for those not prepared to receive it. Going through such failure outside of the academy removes the safety net. Receiving negative feedback on a project or discussion in a classroom has no real permanent repercussions, however within the church this could mean scaring experience, financial loss, or broken relationships.
The toolbox of a leader who trying to “learn by doing” alone will rarely be told they are wrong. Rightly so this person will be pushed and encouraged to live out the call of leadership on their life. At a conference or in a blog post the leader may be challenged or called out, but even this is different from being told you are wrong. Following this challenge there is usually some sort of action to take. Some of my best teachers, in the undergraduate and graduate level, gave me the freedom to arrive at a better solution on my own therefore internalizing the leadership principle.
The academy provides the safe place to be wrong and how to learn from it. The reality that all leaders will learn one way or another is not whether or not they will fail but when. Failing in a class of peers with the experienced mentor of a professor gives the future leader the much-needed skills that you can rarely learn easily.
Being told you are wrong by the right person can be the best thing to ever happen to a leader.