Lead Yourself – Nobody Else Will.

I have been working since 1986.  That is 29 years so far.  The best boss I have ever worked for was a Lt Col. in the army back in the early 90s.  I was an idiot.  This guy, John Powell was his name, picked me up and worked with me until I was able to believe in myself and start contributing in the work environment.  I was impressed by his discipline, his commitment, the values he had and the way he took me, as a young man, under his wing.

He wasn’t a Christian.

I have also worked with and for (both as a volunteer youth leader and in salaried roles) for churches and Christian organisations . . . I realised early on, a key truth that will spare you years of disappointment and frustration, and it is this,

Nobody is as interested in your growth and leadership development as you are.

Well, I say nobody – obviously, God is interested.  But, I have sought out mentors (people make warm noises and sometimes they engage for a while . . . then kind of stop); line managers (sometimes they have actually existed, other times they haven’t – sometimes they will be happy to meet up and discuss the work you are doing, but often this has to be pressed into their busy days rather than be seen as a priority); other leaders (yes, in the past I have even gone to visit the leaders of other churches . . . for a time in the mid 90s I was in a church going through an interregnum where I was the “main” leader involved in preaching and teaching and leading children’s and youth ministry, my church was pleased I was there – they just didn’t know how to support me, or didn’t see that I needed it – I met up with a guy from a neighbouring church). So,

Three things to help you lead yourself.

Read.  I have done a shed load of summer Christian conferences, camps, weekends way etc.  All great, and at times I have learnt and discovered loads, but – they aren’t consistent.  For starters, some of these things are once a year or so spread out that it is not sustainable to rely on them.  I am talking here about input and support that relates to who you are what you are doing in ministry – not general worship and being part of Christian community.  What can you do that stimulates your thinking and imaginination about youth ministry?

Read.

I started a blog series ages ago that I am yet to complete about 20 books that were “essential” for youth ministry . . . well, the list has changed (and I haven’t completed it yet . . . ) but, here are three books you can read that will in some way lead you.  They have led me, I wouldn’t be recommending them otherwise,

1. Your First Two Years in Ministry (Doug Fields).

2. Working The Angles (Eugene Peterson).

3. In the Name of Jesus (Henri Nouwen).

I mention them because I have not just sat down and read them, these books teach me and encourage me and mentor me – I return to them again and again for wisdom and insight about youth ministry, pastoral care, and leadership.  Part of making the effort with reading is you have to find what connects with, inspires and challenges you.  You could read what I read, some of it might be helpful – but, do the work!  Make your own list, lead yourself!!

Be Proactive.  Make stuff happen.  Don’t just sit there.  Regardless of the context you work in, if something matters to you and it isn’t being done then do what you can to make it happen.  Get your diary out, make that person who should be line managing you put a date and time in the diary.  Drop them a reminder with, “Are we still on for tomorrow?” It makes it less likely (though doesn’t eliminate the possibility) of them cancelling on you.  When you have arranged a meeting set the agenda yourself, “Here is what I would like to talk about.” If, for your work, you need answers to some questions – get them in on an agenda don’t wait or assume it will just come up.  Offer solutions to situations and obstacles – those we work for are often busy and have more than us and our needs to consider, even when the focus of their time during our 1 hour meeting should be our work and what we are doing . . . come prepared to make the difference, ask permission, push something forward.  Do something!  Also, be proactive about what you avoid as well as what you do.  Not every church meeting, committee, group needs your presence – how could you better use your time, do you need to be here? You may not be “required” to do time sheets or have an action plan or a strategy – in fact, it might stress you out that the only person who considers these things might be worth doing is you.  Do them anyway.  Someone needs to see where you are going, how you are doing as you go, whether you are going to get there or not – it might as well be you!

Know you are more that this.  There is stress associated with not being led.  Even just in your head it can become a thing that nags away at you.  You can feel demoralised and undervalued, that what you deliver is pointless – that, even the people that have employed you don’t seem to know why or what to do with you once you are working for them!  In ministry it can be harder to separate ourselves from our calling, especially if – like me – you are thinking, “but, this is what I was MADE for!”

Yes, it may well be that you were made for this.

But the “this” is not the ministry job with the salary, the “this” is not hanging out with young people every Friday night, the “this” is not getting a text message from you vicar saying they can’t meet you today “something has come up”.  The bottom line “this” is being made for Jesus.  For God’s delight and pleasure.

In the sense that we understand ourselves and our role we also need to know this about ourselves and our gifts and talents :: God anoints with His Spirit, He pours in to our lives all that we need to live for Him, to serve Him, to delight in Him and to bring Him glory.  Humans on the other hand, appoint.  We get appointed to positions, to jobs, to roles . . . but how this is worked out and put in to practice by our employers, church leaders does not compare to bringing all of this – all of who we are – and submitting it to Christ.

Don’t forget whose you are.  Jesus will never miss an appointment with you, mess up your expenses, forget you should have been told about something, expect you to work for 60 hours a week while only being paid for 40, or consider the building the people are meeting in as more precious than the people that are meeting in it.

Finally, I love this simple and straightforward verse, we live and do and be all for the audience of one,

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Colossians 3:23

Above all, know that the Spirit of God leads us be the best you can be with what God has given you.  Trust Him with the things you have no control over, no human leadership can compare with putting our trust in Jesus and following faithfully in His footsteps.