How to Create an Attitude of Proactivity Vs. Reactivity by Richard Jolliff


At my church, we work hard with our leaders to develop them in ways we believe will lead to the future success of the church and their individual lives. A critical skill we build into them is an attitude of proactivity versus reactivity. We learned a long time ago that in ministry, it’s really easy to become reactive – especially if you’re catching the buzz from other people. You’ve got to be careful what you’re listening to, what other people are saying. If not, you’ll start thinking, “That’s what I need to do.”

It’s easy to become reactive as a leader, so one of the things I try to focus on in mentoring and multiplying our leaders is how we can make them more proactive. Do we have a plan? Are we thinking about where we’re going?

If something is limiting the people you’re growing into leaders, they will respect you more for talking straightforwardly to them about it. I’ve had people get angry at me, but the majority never have. They just are like, “Thank you for telling me that. I guess I didn’t realize that that’s the way I was coming across.” I had one guy that I sat down and said, “Look, I’m really struggling here. It doesn’t seem like you’re teachable. I don’t know that you’re a good fit for this.” He changed his whole attitude. I had another guy that was always frustrated, always angry. I said, “Listen, I think we might need to help you find a different church. You’re unhappy here, and it’s making me unhappy.” You know what? He became a stellar member after that conversation.

If people have relationship with you, they appreciate your integrity and your honesty with them. This is part of being proactive – that we’re thinking ahead, we’re thinking about where we’re going, we’re thinking about what we’re doing instead of knee-jerk reactions to the difficulties of ministry.

I learned so many powerful things from Pastor John Osteen. One of the things that he taught, which I thought was extremely proactive, is that it’s easier to live from the top of the barrel than it is to live from the bottom of the barrel. We have applied that. It’s a great way to remain proactive and not reactive in ministry.

We’re developing in our leadership the same concept. Pastor Osteen had a plan and he preached out of the overflow. He was always about preach out of the overflow, live out of the overflow. He didn’t dip all the way down to nothing. He was proactive in his own development and growth.

That’s a big one – teaching leaders to be proactive in their development. I definitely push spiritual growth and development with those I am raising up to be leaders.  I wnt to know how they are growing. Guys will say, “Oh yeah, I’ve got a growth plan.” I’ll say, “What is it? I want you to tell me what it is.” And they’ll respond, “Well, I’m reading the Bible every day.” I’m like, “That’s great, but that’s not really a growth plan. I want to know what are you reading. What are you listening to? What are you developing in yourself that’s helping you in your craft or the area that you serve in?” 

Remember John Maxwell? He still does this. He sits down with other leaders and asks questions. “What are you doing? How’s that working? How are you being successful? What’s not working?”  His quote is, “I’m a lifetime learner.” That’s what I want to be. If you can get that mindset into your leaders, to be lifetime learners, you will have some real keepers that will make for a lasting legacy of ministry. I am fully confident with the people that we’re developing around us, that when we’re long gone, they will continue moving forward as long as we continue to develop them with these leadership keys.

One last thought with developing leadership is that you want to make sure that you create an atmosphere in which people know that if they screw up, they’re not going to be tossed aside. Understand that part of the process of developing a leader is dealing with mistakes and failures. I think that is critical to remember because you can end up, if you don’t watch out, writing people off.  “Well, they screwed up, so I’m not going to let them do it again.” Or “He messed that up. I let him preach, and he didn’t do a great job.” You’ve got to look at the long-term repercussions of making snap judgments.  Remember, Jesus is long-term with you, so you need to be long-term with people.  He sure has overlooked a lot of your shortcomings because He had a greater plan for your life! He wants you to look at others the exact same way.  Pastor, I know you have a lot on your plate from day to day. You’re doing the best you can to build a healthy church and empower your staff to succeed in ministry. Make time to teach your leaders and those you’re bringing up as leaders how to create an attitude of proactivity versus reactivity. I pray that God gives you a special strength and energy for this!

Maybe today you feel like your ministry is discombobulated. You don’t know what you’re doing or where you are going. Out of chaos, God always brings clarity. I believe God will guide you and lead you by His Holy Spirit, that the things you’ve read here today will speak to your heart and help you move your ministry to the next level in leadership and development. God bless you. You’re not alone. Significant Church is here for you. I am here for you. Together, we win!