No, this is not the opening line of a joke, but a comparison of two different ways of helping someone.
A travel agent loads up people with information, but after downloading it on them, they send others on their way. There is not a strong personal connection between the agent and the potential customer. Often times, these agents won’t have any first hand experience of what “this destination is really like” because they’ve never been there.
The tour guide is also filled with information, however, the tour guide is there on-site with people. He does the tour with them. He walks with them, step by step through the tour, passing along information, as well as pausing to answer any questions that the tour participants might have. He not only educates the tour participants, but depending on the tour, he can inspire them.
Leaders, think of the practical applications of this illustration:
At work, if you are in a leadership position, how well to your reports understand what they are responsible for? Have they been given an assignment from you and left to do it alone? Do your direct reports know they can approach you with their questions and challenges in completing their responsibilities? Is your relationship with your reports a two-way street, so that not only they feel comfortable talking with you, but you also, are visiting with them “on their turf” and demonstrating your concern for them (in completing their job responsibilities, but also as a person)? Are you more like a travel agent or a tour guide?
As a Christian in trying to keep obedient to the Great Commission of making disciples, do you tend to teach others from your ivory tower, and then let them figure out for themselves how to live out the faith? When you have a conversation about matters of the faith, do you take the time to follow-up with them later to see how they are doing and to encourage them by your concern for them?
We live in a historic time when there has never been so much information (travel guide info) available. Gaining more knowledge is not our problem- relationships are.
Both in the work place, as well as in the church, we need more “tour guides”. We need more people to be talking with one another about not only our work (ministry) responsibilities, but also caring for each other regarding our personal responsibilities. As we do, we will all enjoy our “travels” more.