As a leader, what is within your sphere of control?

That is a critical question to ask, because if you don’t know what you can control, you can’t be sure where you can fully lead.

The question matters, because true leadership does require an element of control. I would argue that without any internal locus of control, we are at best managers for the leaders who are in control. This explains why we (and me) desire control within what we are responsible to lead.

I serve as a Campus Pastor within North Point Ministries. That means that I have full control over some things, partial control over others, and no control in certain spaces. No matter what your title, like me, your locus of control varies from space to space, decision to decision.

Maybe it’s just me, but I have a tendency to hyper-focus on what I can’t control, forgetting all that I can control. I want fully control, but full control is never fully available, no matter what your title. Unfortunately, the areas where my control is limited tends to mentally override the places where I do have majority control. That’s a leadership dilemma, and I’m convinced it exists for all leaders. One solution is to stop worrying about control, but that’s a terrible goal — and if you’re a leader, it’s not possible. Leaders want to lead, and leadership requires some control.

There is a better solution. Rather than remain focused on what is outside of our control, what if we chose to focus on what is within our control. Center ourselves on where we can fully engage our mind and abilities. Direct and lead as well as possible in the spaces where we have leadership latitude.

I know that’s not a new thought for most. But for me, it’s been a healthy exercise to deliberately dedicate my mental energy toward what I can control (and therefore lead) rather than what I can’t. As a Campus Pastor in my current context, here’s a short list I control:

  • Staff development
  • Staff organization
  • Local preaching series
  • Campus focus
  • Budget management
  • Capital allocation priorities
  • Recruiting volunteers
  • Developing volunteers
  • Community group formation strategy
  • New ministry environments
  • Making it better ideas and experiments

You get the point. Most of us have way more we can control than is out of our control. Yet, as a leader, the stuff out of our control seems to control us. To combat this tendency, I recently decided to fully engage my leadership efforts in the areas where I have been given most control to lead. This kind of thinking has created a healthy for me to engage:

1. Financial engagement at our campus.

As I write, fewer than 30% of the people who call Woodstock City Church their home give anything to the church. That may be typical of a local church such as ours, but it’s not acceptable. Generosity unlocks our hearts spiritually. It also unlocks our ability to conduct better ministry. It’s too important of a spiritual discipline to be overlooked. I have control to change that locally, so that’s what I’m working to do.

2. Volunteer development and appreciation.

Our volunteer teams are the best I’ve ever seen, mostly because our ministry department and division leaders are the best I’ve ever seen. They do an amazing job recruiting, assimilating, and leading our volunteers. But this is an area where I can contribute. While they are working on the week-to-week stuff, I can come along side and help with other areas of development and appreciation. So I am. I have control in this space.

3. Next steps for our attendees.

Our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus. What’s “growing” is our faith, and a growing faith needs next steps (or challenges) to initiate growth. I love leading our attendees to take their next, logical step. And, I have control over how we do that locally. So I’m leading in this space to the best of my ability. We are constantly evaluating our means of moving people forward, and I have the ability to adjust and create as needed. It’s within my control.

4. Staff development.

Our staff team is amazing, and they all seem to have a desire to grow. A good deal of personal development must be personally owned, but as the organizational leader, this is an area where I can contribute. It’s also an area where I have a lot of latitude and control.

5. Local preaching series.

Several times a year we have the opportunity to create, from beginning to end, a local preaching series. There are times when all of our campus pastors collaborate together, but more often than not, we all create locally. Why? Because it sharpens our skills, it challenges our teams in new ways, and it is a place where we have control.

6. Increasing attendance at non-optimal times and non-peak months.

Our church attendance follows the same trends as most churches — packed in January, insane at Easter, crowded again when school begins, and then packed at Christmas. But March, May – July, and September – November aren’t nearly as busy. In June, we all wonder why we built such a large auditorium! How can we improve attendance during these non-peak months? I haven’t cracked that code yet, but it’s within my control to find out.

Same with the non-11:00 a.m. services. We have a 9:00 a.m. that is pretty crowded and a 5:00 p.m. that has plenty of room. We really can’t grow at 11:00 a.m., but we can in our other two hours. How can we drive attendance to these non-optimal service times? Again, I don’t have all the answers yet, but I have completely control to find out. To experiment. To try. And to learn.

I could add more and more to my list, but as a leader, these six areas are sure to keep me busy. It’s probably more I can even lead effectively in a year. And, I have relative full control to drive changes in every one of them. If I were to consider the places where I can engage with some collaboration with our multi-campus teams or other non-campus staff, the list would grow dramatically.

The point is simple:

As leaders, we should stop allowing areas outside of our control to control us (and demotivate us), and instead, lead what we can control and make a difference where we’ve been giving latitude to fully engage.

So…where can you fully engage your leadership heart, passion, and efforts. What areas under your leadership do you have control? I challenge you to make a list and build a strategy to attack what you can change. And if you ever sense your motivation waning, check to see if you’ve allowed your focus to drift from what you can control to what’s outside of your control.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Gavin,

    The simplicity of this post is BRILLIANT! Way to bring us all back to a place where God wants us to be. I become a control freak when communication is poor or lacking. When I don’t know whats going on around me in my church ( ), business ( ), or missions organization ( ) I tend to want to control even more. This puts me in a position to lead poorly, or unintentionally micromanage my team, or feel the need to take control. That’s not me… and thats not what I want to do…So… here is my take away.
    Take a step back, make a list of what I can control, enhance communication, control what I can, and engage with others of influence.
    Solid Post- Thank YOU.

    Zach Schroeder

    • Gavin Adams says:

      Zach, How cool to see your name pop up here! I hope you are doing great. And I agree completely! You are 100% right. Again, hope things are great for you. Don’t be a stranger.

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