About That Extra Mile…
In Matthew 5:41, Jesus pointed to a common practice of the day: Roman soldiers were allowed to conscript Jewish civilians into service and force them to carry their packs for one mile. In Jesus’ economy, he said that the humble heart of a servant always goes beyond what is asked.
We’re 2,000 years removed from that scenario, but the principle remains. And “go the extra mile” has become a touchy-feely phrase we love to toss around in the hospitality world.
But the extra mile demands a hierarchy. Someone is going to be inconvenienced. Someone is going to make the greater sacrifice. Someone is going to give up their comfort so that someone else will be comfortable.
When I think about extra mile service in the context of a church, I think about a progression from least inconvenienced to most inconvenienced:
Guests > Volunteers > Staff > Leader
Our guests should suffer the smallest possible impact when it comes to their experience. After all, they are already walking way outside of their comfort zone just by showing up. We should do everything we can to absorb the awkwardness on their behalf. That means creating a culture where our volunteers go the extra mile to serve our guests.
Our volunteers shouldn’t be easily tripped up by archaic policies, unreasonable expectations, or a lack of support. After all, they are already making a sacrifice by putting their yes on the table. We should do everything we can to ensure they’re serving and not simply surviving. That means creating a culture where our staff goes the extra mile to serve our volunteers.
Our staff shouldn’t live in a constant state of frustration over lack of communication, an anemic vision, or an unclear path forward. After all, they are often wearing several hats and juggling more things than we hired them to do. We should do everything we can to foster conversation about what limits them vs. what gives them freedom to soar. That means creating a culture where the leader asks good questions and actually listens for the answer.
The leader of the ministry or the organization can’t live in a “me first” mentality. That’s the death knell for everyone beneath them…staff, volunteers, and guests. The best and obvious example is the one we pointed to at the beginning of this post. Jesus…who coined the phrase go the extra mile. Jesus…who took on the form of a servant. Jesus…who humbled himself to wash the disciples feet. Jesus…who willingly went to the cross. Jesus…who reminded us that the one who wishes to be greatest must become the servant of all.
Jesus pointed us to an irrational, nonsensical, countercultural, upside-down value system. If we hope to serve like he served, we have to embrace the discomfort, absorb the awkwardness, and go the extra mile for those that we lead.
Thanks to my friend Scott Ballard, who sparked the idea for this post.