Several years ago, a good friend asked me out to lunch. She said she had something important she needed to tell me. I was curious. After we sat down and ordered our meal, she said, “I have good news.” “Okay,” I said, smiling. “The Messiah has come!” she said. I was a little puzzled. “Okay,” I said again. “I already knew that.” “I have even better news,” she said. “What?” I asked. “You are not him!” she said. She followed up by sharing her concern that I was taking on too much. I am certain I got a little defensive. This is often what I do when someone who cares about me holds up a mirror so I can see myself more clearly.
There are many variations of the bucket theory, but this is the basic understanding: There are some things you can control. Those things go in your bucket. And there are other things you cannot control. Those things go in the other bucket. You do the best you can with the items in your bucket. And you entrust the things in the other bucket to the Holy Spirit.
Good leaders lean in on the things that are in their bucket. Good leaders lean out from the things that are in the other bucket—the things they cannot control. Here is the important idea: not everything goes in your bucket.
I was invited to guest preach in a church, and during the announcements the pastor reminded the congregation that their “ministry fair” was happening immediately after worship in the fellowship hall. He explained there were tables set up around the perimeter of the hall representing the many ministries of the congregation. He encouraged everybody to sign up for at least one opportunity to serve. Then he turned to Jim, who was sitting toward the front of the sanctuary, pointed to him, and said, “And I want everyone to know that Jim has promised to sign up for no more than three things, so do not let him sign up for more!” Jim and the congregation smiled and applauded. Later, when I asked the pastor about singling out Jim, he told me that he loved Jim, but Jim tended to volunteer for everything. He was not only doing too much but he was also preventing others from participating.
Good leaders lean out. Good leaders remember the good news: The Messiah has come and you are not him!
- When was a time you put something in your bucket that really did not belong there?
- What are some of the ways you have seen others lean out?
- How can you more faithfully trust the Holy Spirit with the things in the other bucket?
Rev. Dr. Rodger Nishioka serves as the senior associate pastor and director of adult faith formation at Village Presbyterian Church in Prairie Village, Kansas. Prior to joining the staff at Village Church, he served as a professor of Christian education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
This article is the fifth in a 12-part series focusing on PC(USA) leader formation as a part of the “Year of Leader Formation: Investing in Ruling Elders and Deacons.” Additional resources are available at www.pcusa.org/leader-formation/. Past issues of the articles are available in Equip, the church’s online training site.