In a recent conversation on the podcast, we talked about leadership through the lens of virtues. It was a great conversation and if you haven’t listened yet or watched yet, you should check it out. At one point, Father James discusses the idea of driving down a country road, unsure if you’re on the high ground or the low ground. When it comes to parish renewal, are you in those worn paths, low down, possibly scraping your undercarriage or are you driving on the risen ground where you’re higher up but must stay on a very specific path in order to avoid falling into those ruts.

The difference between these two things is real. When low, you will basically stay there unless you do something major. Small adjustments of the wheel will result in hitting the edges of the rut and continuing on that path. Getting out of those ruts is hard. It requires a very specific and purposeful movement and it’s not easy. There will be a very big bump. It will feel very uncomfortable to get out of.

When you’re on the high ground, you don’t feel as confined by the edges. Small adjustment are met with a certain degree of freedom. It is however possible to adjust too far and fall into those ruts which can be uncomfortable, or worse.

Inside a parish we see this all the time. Leaders are doing their best to what’s right for their parish. Things are moving ahead. Programs seem to be working. Everything seems like it’s going ok. We’re moving forward and there don’t seem to be any real bumps in the road. We’re running children’s ministries, people are singing, and we’re baptizing. Since we’re moving forward, we feel like everything is going ok. Parish renewal is working, right?

Here’s the important question.

How can you tell if you are on high ground or low?

The answer is that you can’t…from inside the car.

Understanding where we are requires that we get outside of ourselves and look but how do we do that? For starters, we need to be really honest. We need to be reflective in a way that some of us have never been. Most of us assume, or at least act as if, we’re right…and we might be…but we might not.

Another way that we can get a sense of where we are is by trusting our teams to tell us when we’re in a good place…and when we’re not. When we build a team around us that we trust to do the right thing, even when that right thing is telling us that we’re wrong, we’re going to be successful.

When you’re in the rut, it’s pretty easy to stay in the rut. When you’re on top, you’re just a few bad adjustments from falling into those ruts. If we are careless with our course corrections that results can be disastrous. When we’re operating out of successful teams, our ability to maintain that high ground is greatly improved. This is why we speak into the importance of teams. We’ve seen what happens when leaders go it alone and what happens when people work within teams and one of those is a car wreck.

 

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