How is leadership handled in your ministry? Is there a committee or team which does the planning and decision making? Is there one person in charge who may consult others, but still makes the final decision? Are there some who feel their contributions are being ignored and they just fade away from participation? Are you looking for something better?
Many look for answers regarding leadership in the morass of business leadership models. I believe there is a better way. I believe the Church can teach the world about leadership and not the other way around.
But first, there are three very important concepts to remember when thinking about leadership whether it is within youth ministry or any other setting:
- Leadership is not about control.
- Leadership is not the organizational chart.
- Christianity offers a much better understanding of leadership than business models.
The Bible has a lot to say about leadership, a few of which I want to draw your attention to. First of all, humankind has been created to be leaders from the very beginning. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God – you can’t find a better leader than him. Second, Adam was given authority, authority to name all the creatures and authority to have dominion over all the earth. Eve was included in this role because she was created as Adam’s equal partner (not his servant). Third, when the Israelites were in the wilderness, Moses tried to extend his leadership too far, personally deciding all the disputes between the peoples. His father-in-law, Jethro, told him “Get a grip, you cannot do it all. Let others step up and serve.” Finally, a similar situation is found in Acts, where the Apostles decide to do what they do best (praying and serving the word) and let others lead in the distribution of bread to the widows.
Then there are the well-known words of Paul, “The body has many different parts, not just one.” For a body to function well, whether it is our human body or a body of people, all parts are needed and all parts are important. Leadership is shared and moves from part-to-part as needed. It would do no good for the eye or ear or hand to insist on leading if you were trying to walk. Likewise, the person who says, “Tell me exactly what you want done and I’ll do it,” is not the person needed to figure out what to do when the van breaks down.
Just like the parts of the body, any project or organization has different leadership needs at different times and the same person cannot do them all well. We will get the best results when we allow individuals to use their unique talents at the proper time, for the proper task. These needs can be known by 6 D’s:
Dreamer ● Discerner ● Developer ● Detailer ● Disseminator ● Doer
Dreamers are the “big idea” people. They see possibilities that others could never imagine. They stretch our sense of the possible and see a futures that are yet to be. Dreamers usually are not effective in bringing these dreams into present reality, they are already moving on to the next big idea.
Discerners are a key component in a church setting. These are the ones who help guide the group in seeking and listening for God’s will in the particular place and time. They focus on the question, “Yes, this sounds great, but is it what God would have us do?” Discerners are not to be Debbie downers.
Developers take a look at the dream and compare it to current reality. Developers answer the question, “What do we need that we don’t have to make this dream a reality?” It might be technology, it might be resources, it might be training, it might be people. Developers are creative people but in ways different from Dreamers.
Detailers are list makers. They tend to be highly organized. They love to make lists and check them off. Detailers take information from the group and put it into an understandable form. What needs to be bought? Who needs to be trained? How many people are needed in this area? What forms are needed? Detailers are the makers of lists, not the doing of all things on the list.
Disseminators are communicators. An event is only great if people show up! Disseminators get the word out and in this day and age, that can take many forms. Print advertising, internal and external to the church, web pages, social media, the expanse of communication means is so varied, you may even have specialists within this group.
Doers are those who say “Tell me what you want done and I’ll do it!” Oftentimes Doers are happy to work in the background. They are not looking for personal recognition, they shy away from being front-and-center. Doers are dedicated workers and while they may not seek recognition a word of appreciation goes a long way towards motivating them.
Organizationally, there does need to be a person or group of persons to keep everyone on track, set budgets, and maintain schedules. This function needs to be carried out by someone confident in their own self to the point in which others can be allowed to provide leadership at the proper times. Control freaks do not do well in this role.
After considering all these ideas, remember as youth ministers we are to be training the next generation of disciples who need to be prepared to be leaders themselves. This will only happen if we move leadership from staff and volunteers to the youth.
(I would like to thank Dr. West and his “Developing Young Leaders” class at Asbury Theological Seminary for some of the ideas included above.)