Be Yourself in Leadership
Do you want to know how to last in ministry? Find out who you are and live that out in your ministry.
Barbara Cook, the original Marian the Librarian on Broadway, came to Portland for a Master class years ago: She said this: “Very early in my career I was standing in the wings, waiting to go on and audition, and I was and am a very nervous kind of person. I’m nervous every time I go on. And everybody who sang before me had a better voice, looked prettier, had a better figure. I was always a mess. And for some reason it occurred to me that day that if I could find a way to really learn who I am and put that into my work, then there could be no real competition, because I could only compete with myself, because there’s only one of me.” I still have this yellowed clipping from The Oregonian, August 22, 2002. I’ve never forgotten those words.
There’s a million people out there (including your own congregation) who will tell you who you should be in ministry. But none of them can tell you who you are — or only if you let them. It’s so easy to compare ourselves to others who are better preachers, more successful at growing their church or ministry, more organized, better on social media. But really, God only calls you to be you. There’s only one of you.
Sure, we minister in challenging times. We need to be adaptable. We can all grow and learn from others about how to develop ourselves and our ministry. But there’s a difference between learning and imitating. Take what you learn that fits you, and leave the rest. It’s more energizing to minister in a way that fits you.
Not only that, an authentic voice is much more attractive. People sense it in an instant if you are not real. I’m a singer, too and my own voice teacher tells me to stop it when she thinks I’m imitating someone else’s voice. In our instant, image-driven culture, the real deal stands out.
Barbara Cook has been through ups and downs in her career — but she is still performing in her 80s. You may not want to stay at it that long! But you won’t wear out or burn out when you put your true self into your work.
Barbara Cook tells her students, “It’s so hard to believe that what the world wants is us. It’s hard to believe, whatever you’re doing, that you’re enough. We are all, always enough.”
Have you figured out how to be yourself in ministry? Ever benefited from being yourself in ministry? Please share in the comments below.
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