NOT! It can’t be done. You shouldn’t try.Have you read the children’s book, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie? The story begins with…
If you give a mouse a cookie, he’s going to ask for a glass of milk.
When you give him the milk, he’ll probably ask you for a straw.
When he’s finished, he’ll ask for a napkin.
Then he’ll want to look in a mirror to make sure that he doesn’t have a milk mustache.
When he looks into the mirror, he might notice his hair needs a trim.
So he’ll probably ask for a pair of scissors…
The story goes on until the last page when… you’ll have to read it yourself to see how it ends.
Leaders need to be careful that they do not spend too much time feeding cookies to mice.
One pastor compares the challenge of working with people to the task of flying an airplane. He says that there are four main principles in flying an airplane: lift, thrust, weight, and drag. You have to take into account all four of these to make sure a plane will fly. Most people fall into one of these four categories, which he goes on to elaborate.
Lift: There are people who lift you. They brighten your day and make you feel better about yourself. When you leave them, you have a spring in your step.
Thrust: There are people who thrust you. They motivate you. They inspire you. They challenge you to move forward and accomplish your dreams.
Weight: There are people who are a weight. They pull you down. When you leave them, you feel heavier, discouraged, negative, worse than you were before.
Drag: There are people who are a drag. They always have a sad story. They are always in the doldrums and they expect you to cheer them up, to solve their problems, to carry their heavy load.
This airplane illustration came from Joel Osteen. To hear the entire message, click here.
The Give a Mouse a Cookie story and the flying an airplane illustration are examples of issues that relate to leadership. These issues may also be associated with terms such as co-dependency, self-differentiation, and servitude. Ministry leaders can slide into these tendencies.
Codependency is when one person is controlled or manipulated by the needs of another person, placing lower priority on one’s own needs and being preoccupied by the needs of another. (See the Celebrate Recovery series by Rick Warren and John Baker.)
Differentiation (or self-differentiation) is the capacity to take maximum responsibility for one’s self, being a non-anxious presence exuding clarity about one’s own goals and values even when dealing with the anxiety of others. (See Generation to Generation by Edwin H. Friedman.)
Servitude is sometimes used in contrast to servanthood:
-servitude – over-identification, superficial sweetness, being manipulated, and begrudging care;
-servanthood – empathy, genuineness, meeting needs, intentionality. (See Christian Caregiving: A Way Of Life by Kenneth Haugk.)
Whether described by simple stories or technical terms, the point is that leaders need to spend a significant amount of their time with those who help to lift their spirits and inspire them to accomplish their dreams. It does not mean that the leader should not be of support to a certain number of “mice.” But, rather, leaders need to pay attention to all of their relationships and especially seek out those that build them up. Changes may be necessary for the leader’s emotional health and ministry effectiveness. One kind of change involves continuing education.