Building a legacy – be the first in a long line

How do you want to be remembered?

Recently I finished up in a ministry position where I had served in for about six years.  Since leaving the position I wondered how I will be remembering.  Will I be quickly forgotten?  Will people miss me?  Then it struck me that my biggest fear was that people would say “it hasn’t been as good since you left.”  Whilst sometime that feels nice, the reality is that I hope that ministry will continue to grow stronger into the future.

It seems that when someone is leaving a position is a bit late to start building a legacy.  If someone wants to leave a good legacy then they have to start thinking about it when they are in the position.  How do you want to be remembered when you leave your current ministry position?  Perhaps finishing 2011 and moving into a new year is a chance to refocus on the type of legacy you are building.  Here are a few suggestions for building a good legacy for when you are ready to leave:

  1. You don’t want to be forgotten – whilst it is important to be humble and replace yourself well, people who make an impact in a ministry are never forgotten.  If your time as ministry coordinator is quickly forgotten then you were not making the impact that you should.
  2. You don’t want to leave a void – it is important that you have some role in succession planning for your departure.  It is important that the work that you began continues after you leave.  Perhaps the ministry may not replace you, but if there are leaders to step and lead after you leave then you have built a legacy well.
  3. You don’t want to handicap future growth – after you leave, the ministry should be allowed to grow where it needs to.  Some leaders like to put in structures that predict the future grow, rail road it where they think it should go, but all it does is restrict growth.  As a leader you want to empower future leaders to change or cut programs and events that you may have started to fit the needs of the future community.
  4. You do want to leave your corporate knowledge – you have an obligation as ministry coordinator to leave any work that you have done within the ministry.  Unless you had it written into your contract you must leave a copy of all work produced whilst working for the ministry.  Usually a ministry will allow you to take a copy with you, but don’t walk out of the office with all copies of the files, both hard copy and on computer.
  5. You do want to build flexibility – as a ministry leader you appreciate the freedom to adapt the ministry to the current circumstances.  When you leave respect the future ministry leaders by allowing them to create new visions, programs and events.
  6. You do want to build a dynasty – do you want to be remembered as the last good ministry coordinator or the first in a long line of great ministry coordinators?  You want to build something that will get bigger and better after you leave not smaller,  you don’t want the community wishing that you would come back to save them.  Be the first in a long line of great ministry coordinators not the last.

Now have I done all of these?  No.  In the various ministry positions that I have held both voluntary and paid I have learnt the hard way all of these points.  But as a ministry leader my biggest fear is that ministry will collapse after I leave.  The best bit of advice I ever heard was “a great ministry leader is always doing themselves out of job”.  As ministry leaders lets build great dynasties not ministries that collapse after we leave.

Check out a practical example of Building a Legacy in my post about how the Wiggles replaced Greg with Sam, then brought back Greg to replace Sam in What I learnt from the Yellow Wiggle

Please leave a comment to pass on your advice about building a legacy.

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3 thoughts on “Building a legacy – be the first in a long line

  1. Roney says:

    In his book ‘Leadership 101’ John Maxwell says that you will never be able to tell whether you were an effective leader until after you handover the leadership to someone else. He is suggesting that the type of legacy you leave and the health of the ministry after you leave is in fact the measure of whether the leader was effective. Whilst I’m sure he is not saying that this is a black and white guage of leadership effectiveness, I definately think it’s challenging to think about!

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