Going to conferences is fun – you get to travel, stay in nice hotels (with comfy beds, hopefully), eat out, and meet old and new friends. I like going to conferences – I plan to continue to go to conferences. However, conferences lack something – that personal touch.
Many times a year I’m asked, “Can you tell me in the next few minutes what a church administrator does?” I appreciate their interest so I figure that if they are really interested, they will want to learn. I make them an offer – come spend a day (in whole or part) with me: follow me around, sit in on my meetings, watch me answer email and handle personnel matters, read my financial statements, etc. In short, be my shadow and learn from the inside out what it is like to be an administrator. A few people respond positively, others say, “No thanks.” Those who shadow me leave at the end of the day with eyes wide open and a new appreciation. I’ve even had my finance committee chair shadow me – and come back for a repeat!
Church staff/leaders have a lot to offer and I wish we’d share more of this knowledge with each other. Sharing material in conferences is great but there is nothing like visiting a colleague’s church and shadowing someone for a day and seeing “what it’s really like.”
I’d like to propose that church leaders be intentional about being both a shadow and a shadow-caster:
· Shadow-casters: these would be leaders who are willing to give a day or two a year to being shadowed. There is no agenda – they just meet the shadow at the agreed upon date and time and then let the person sit in on all that happens. If there is a confidential situation, the shadow can be excused.
· Shadows: these are leaders, both staff and lay members, who want to shadow other church leaders. These church staff leaders may want to learn the “best practices” at another church. It could be someone interested in this field as a career opportunity and wants to learn about this career from the inside before embarking on it. It may be a lay member who wants (and needs) to learn more about what the professional minister does each day. We can all learn from each other - more than we think we can!
This year I’m taking some conference time and shadowing some counterparts in different cities. As long as I’ve been doing this, I know that I can learn from others especially if I am sitting as close to their shoes as possible. I'm looking forward to being a shadow; I've been a shadow-caster almost a dozen times so it's time for me to be a shadow.