Being an effective leader means we must continue to grow and learn so we can better minister to those under our care. Leading isn’t just about being the face of a ministry or the main teacher, it is also about caring for those under your leadership.
Looking back at my ministry career I have seen areas that I have grown in and I want to share some of them with you. Now please hear me on this: I didn’t learn all of these things right away. Most of them were through difficult moments, some of which were my fault. But in all of these moments I hope that you can hear some advice and avoid the missteps I had.
None of these in and of themselves will make you a better leader, but put them together with a desire to be used by God and for God, and you will see Him use you in mighty ways.
A big part of growing in leadership is growing in listening. Listen to your leaders, your team, your students, your superiors, and families. I am not saying that everything everyone says is going to be beneficial or helpful, but if people truly care about you and the ministry, they will seek to help you. So listen and be willing to let go of pride in order to grow and become who God is shaping you into.
As a leader you should never stop learning. Our mission and foundation never changes: make disciples by communicating the Gospel. However, new ways of ministering, cultural shifts, advancements in technology, and many other areas are always adapting and evolving. We must be willing to learn and become better. If we ever stop learning as a leader, or believe we know it all, we will become ineffective and arrogant.
If I am honest with you, this is a place where I have fallen short. At times I have allowed myself to focus on growth, establishing the program, and running everything, but I have forgotten to actually care for and guide my leaders. If we are not caring for our people, if we are not intentionally sharing life with them, we have missed the mark. Our ministry is to shepherd others as Christ shepherds. We need to love and care for our people in the valleys and the mountains. This has to be a priority in order to establish longevity in ministries and churches.
This is similar to continual learning, but it takes it a step further. Be willing to challenge and push yourself. Try new things. Experiment. Step out in faith. Take risks. Part of growing is seeking to discern where God is calling you and the ministry you lead. How are you growing as a leader? Who is challenging you? How are you challenging yourself? Model growth and watch it replicate itself in your ministry.
Be the leader God has called you to be. Sometimes it is easy to get in our own heads, to hear the attacks of the enemy, or to allow a critique to break us down. Do not stop leading. God didn’t empower you with His Spirit so you could sit on the sidelines. He established you as His child, called you into His service, and has put you where you are for such a time as this. Lead and lead well. Never out of pride or arrogance, but lead as Christ led. Lovingly disciple and guide the flock and empower others to lead with you. Remember that being a leader doesn’t mean doing everything. So be willing to grow and enable others to lead and shepherd them in those roles.
I have written about this before, but make sure that you are retreating and taking time away. Taking a break is healthy and necessary. Jesus retreated often to pray and reflect. God rested after creation. If God models this, shouldn’t we follow His example? Take advantage of your vacation time. Retreat and refresh. Shut off your laptop and phone. Spend time with Jesus. Be present with your family. Doing this not only will refresh you, but will also model an example to others of a healthy lifestyle, ministry, and relationship with Jesus.
Assessing your ministry and your role is not a bad thing. In fact it is extremely healthy to do an assessment periodically. See what is working and what isn’t. Think creatively. Bring in new voices. Listen to people who are invested. Doing this allows you to have a fuller view of your ministry and to make the necessary changes.