A Seat at the Table

by Cath Tallack

[5 minute read]

As we approach Christmas, we’re all thinking about who is going to sit around our lunch, dinner, breakfast or brunch table on Christmas day as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour. I’m sure there are some people that you can’t wait to see sitting at their place setting, there might be others that you’re not as enthusiastic about and still others that you wish were going to be there but won’t be.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the metaphorical table of leadership and, in discussion with  leaders, have been asking the question, “Who do you want to sit at the table?’

As Christian leaders who are entrusted to lead churches, ministries, schools, organisations and people. We are responsible for developing more leaders and in doing so ensuring the right people have a place setting at the table of leadership both now and in the future – perhaps a future where they take our own place at the table. So, who do you want to sit at the table?

Developing leaders is not a human idea, it’s a Godly one. We see the pattern of God gifting great human leaders the capacity to see potential in others and inviting them into the development space over and over again in the Scriptures. Jethro and Moses, Deborah and Barak, Saul and David, Mordecai and Esther, Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Silas, Paul and Timothy and of course Jesus and his Disciples. The development of others is, by God’s design, to see more leaders at the table who partner with God in the ongoing work of the Kingdom.

So how do we figure out who we want to sit at the table? I think there are a few things to consider…

See Potential not Achievement

One of the craziest and best things we do in Christian leadership is take a chance on people. Consider who Jesus invited to be his disciples, inexperienced, young, simple, outsiders. They certainly didn’t have the resume we would expect for God’s master plan to build His church. And, mirroring Jesus, we are challenged do the same thing in our leadership. We can choose young and inexperienced women and men and put them in charge of really important things to see the right people at the leadership table.

Achievement shouldn’t be overlooked, Scripture tells us we are known by our fruit and research says that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour however Jesus shows us that recruiting people with a hint of capability, a heap of passion and bucket loads of character with the potential to lead extraordinarily well into the future is how we ultimately ensure the right people are sitting at the table.

When you come to the point of inviting people into the development space, can I challenge you to ensure you see potential and not only achievement. Lead to what could be and not only what has already been proven. If you do, you will see so much more dependence on God, growth in gifts and ability and the excitement of discovery that comes with a leader who has been invited to test their potential.

This is the model that Jesus gives us as he chose his disciples. He didn’t choose people who can already do the job, he chose those of character and simply said ‘Follow me.’ How are you in your development of others, inviting people - lacking experience but packing potential, passion and character - to have a seat at the table?

Choose Different

As a woman in Christian leadership, it can sometimes feel lonely at the table. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for men who decided to invite someone different to themselves to the table. If we want to see a diverse, well represented leadership of the church and organisations in this country then we need to consider choosing different.

It’s much easier to choose someone who is more like you. The same gender, the same age, the same culture, the same background, the same upbringing. But that doesn’t make for a very interesting table or one that represents the community of God. Choose someone who is different to you, someone packed with potential who brings to the table a different voice, a different perspective and a different story. Ultimately, together, you will be building a different future.

The Big Question

There’s always a question rumbling around in my mind as I seek to understand leadership development more and better.

That question is, ‘Am I talking about leadership development or discipleship?

You too might be thinking that, as I write about Jesus and his disciples as a model of leadership development. As I write about choosing people to take on a path of discovery and making sure we choose a diverse range of people to invite into the fold. It’s a good question and one that should be addressed so here goes.

I think leadership development and discipleship are contiguous. That is, they are adjacent, neighbouring, adjoining, bordering, in sequence, they happen together often at the same time with the same people.

You can’t do quality leadership development without quality discipleship. But they are different and one of the big differences that I have found in my own experiencing of intentionally inviting people to the development space is that I will disciple anyone but I will only intentionally develop a few.

Realistically, my passion to see people come to know Jesus, to grow and flourish in their faith and to tell others about that same Jesus pushes me to do that with everyone, anyone, all people.

However, when it comes to leadership development, I’m a little more discerning. You have already read two aspects of a present future leader I seek – someone with potential and someone different to me. There are some other aspects that will fill my next blog. (For example, I’m looking for someone who carries a posture of learning.) But for now, hear this – everyone is invited to the discipleship table but as a developer of leaders you hold the invites, and you don’t have to invite everyone.

Who is going to sit at your leadership table in the future? Do you have the right mix, the right heart, and the right place settings? Or do you need to do some re-adjusting as you enter a new year and begin a journey of inviting some different and perhaps more inexperienced leaders to ‘come follow’ you?

And through your invitation, they might find their place at the table that God has prepared for them.