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September 2021

Living Lessons


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The column "Leadership Whiteboard" provides a short visual leadership coaching moment. It introduces and explains a new sketch in each issue, provides leadership coaching for further development, and shares a leadership quote and recommended book.



Chess or Checkers?

Around first grade, my grandfather pulled out his checkerboard and taught me to play. As a great player, he even taught me to run his king out of the double corners. At age 12, a friend introduced me to chess. Totally different games, each takes a different mindset and approach. Pawn to e4. These two games represent two leadership styles. Which one are you, chess or checkers?

Checkers is fun, but you play with a series of actions and reactions. Every move reacts to a recent move. Inevitably, you will swap plays and pieces, and a couple of power moves will determine your game. Checkers leadership demonstrates a tactical style of being great at the immediate, quick thinking, winning the moments, but hoping each independent move leads to an overall win in the end. Let’s apply this to your church world. Youth ministry wants to do its own thing, and while the kids may love it, they never want to rejoin big church. Seniors distance themselves from all other ages for various reasons. Each move is strong on its own but lacks big-picture thinking.


Chess, on the other hand, requires attention to the long game. Rook to a7. The mindset shifts from the immediate to several moves ahead. While checkers play is practical and tactical, chess is strategic and philosophical. Unlike checkers, chess pieces move in distinct and diverse ways, creating endless possibilities, much like the various ministries of your church. Chess leadership wants every ministry to work toward the same objective. Knight to c5, “check.” Chess leadership understands reaching and teaching work in tandem. You can create chess-like thinking in discipleship when all ministries create heart connections with all generations and help it work both at church and home. Children’s ministry compliments and connects to teen ministry. Teens work to produce amazing adults who also work to connect with all younger ages. Chess always applies the principles to your strategy.

In the words of that great chess player (no, not Bobby Fischer or Beth Harmon) Jeb Bartlett (of West Wing fame), “See the board—the whole board.” You can’t be effective with one big play or even multiple isolated plays around the board. You strategize each move to complement the others, knowing one move leads to the next. Remember, tactics can generate short-term wins, but only strategy leads to effective leadership in ministry. Queen to h5, “Checkmate!”

Which leadership style do you lead with, chess or checkers?

About the Columnist: Ron Hunter Jr., Ph.D., is CEO of Randall House Publications.





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