Sue Easton, Emergent Leader Trainer, has been an Organizational Development consultant since 1988 specializing in innovative workforce structures including virtual environments and self-directed work teams. Sue has served a client base including Fortune 500 Companies, non-profits, government, colleges and universities around the country. Sue is a professor at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL where she is Department Chair and teaches courses in Organizational Communication. She has received several awards for excellence and innovation in teaching.


Much of my work life has been spent in the business world so I frequently use examples from my experiences. In seminars, I often hear comments that reflect a concern that working within churches (and specifically working with volunteers) is very different from business and employees. However, I believe that people in all walks of life respond in similar ways and a new experience brought this back for me.

I recently moved and became involved in a new church. In this transition I was acutely reminded of several real-world applications of the lessons we focus on in the Emergent Leadership program.

Here’s my story…

I knew that I wanted to be a part of the church community for spiritual support, but as a single person I also wanted to make social connections. I wanted to give back and offer my gifts to help support the church itself. I know that as a “new” person it’s hard for others to know what those gifts are. Sitting in church each week and exchanging friendly small talk did not afford an opportunity for the type of interaction that would give anyone insight to my background or talents.

I decided to go to the Friday Night Pot Luck dinner to become further acquainted. Although I am an extravert it still takes a lot of emotional energy to go alone and I had tons of unanswered questions… What to wear? What should I bring? Where will I sit?

After approaching several tables where I was told the seats were already reserved, I finally found a group to join. I used my listening skills to learn about others and share a bit about myself. I felt I was on the way to meeting some interesting people. Then the minister stood to address the group and the tone of the evening changed.

“Did you all enjoy the potluck this evening?” the minister asked. “Good, because I want to tell you this is the last one unless I immediately get ten people to raise their hands and sign up as volunteers to work at the one next month.” Only a few hands went up, so it was repeated, “I’m not kidding…I want ten people or I’m cancelling these going forward!” Even though this was my first event, I raised my hand and said I would help. They finally got to the magic number of ten, and I was told someone would be in touch.

The month passed, and I saw a notice in the bulletin for the next potluck the following week. No one had contacted me, so I showed up early to again offer my help. When I arrived, everything was done, and I was not needed so I had nothing to do except stand around. I felt foolish and out of place. It is the same in the workplace where enthusiastic new employees quickly become demotivated.

I use this example to illustrate the importance we place on the skills of good leadership and how to build an effective team. How many good volunteers are lost because they are not effectively assimilated? What is the bottom-line cost of continuously leaning on a few key people while lacking the knowledge of how to develop others? How to you measure the attrition cause by ineffective listening and lack of team building skills? I believe these business measures are just as critical outside the corporate world and should be considered in building effective churches.

Emergent leaders know the importance of listening, providing clarity, delegating effectively, and recognizing the impact on the whole system from unintended consequences from careless words or actions. As one of our key goals: “The Emergent Leader possess significant insight into organizational challenges and opportunities”.

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