The 7 basic elements of leadership in God’s Kingdom are in every Jesus-follower, and God’s idea of successful leadership may be different from our own.
As a church, we’ve been examining what it means to be a leader – how God calls us each to influence and make a difference. In Higher Ground, we have the unique privilege of seeing how students lead in their own settings on a regular basis. Higher Ground exists to equip students with the skills they need to be life-long followers of Jesus, and included in that is the ability to lead well. It is so exciting to see students use their God-given talents to influence others and serve the Lord in their unique ways. Often we think that, in order to lead, we need to have a wealth of knowledge, a level of maturity, self-discipline, and a fully developed sense of confidence. As I work with students, I have found that to be untrue. In fact, it is when students are placed into leadership and mentored well that they develop the aforementioned skills. The act of leading others is a powerful, hands-on way for students to learn to trust God and understand how God uniquely made them.
This school year, students will have a multitude of ways to live out the idea of 1more Leader. We believe each student is able to lead well, as long as we don’t put leadership in a box. We give them space to serve and be creative and influence others according to their own gifts and talents. Here are some simple examples:
One student has a passion for reaching out to other students and encouraging them to engage in our community. She asked if she could send out postcards and notes to students when they aren’t able to come to Higher Ground or if they need encouragement. Absolutely!
On retreats and large group nights, we often do 2:2:2 partners (2 Timothy 2:2). Older students are matched with younger students for discussion, prayer, debrief, and mentoring.
Last year, our high school students organized and led the middle school girls’ Christmas Party and Spring Tea Party.
This fall, one of our students will be helping to facilitate FaithBuilders on Sunday mornings.
One of the most exciting things that we have going on is a Student Leadership Team that was started last fall. This group is open to any interested junior or senior in high school. Students meet once a month to talk about leadership skills and then to discuss and plan different aspects of Higher Ground. They lead Bible studies and worship times, plan service projects, have lead roles in their lifeGroups, and work to set an example for the younger students in Higher Ground. We have given them full freedom to use their creativity and influence to make Higher Ground a place where teens can fully experience the love of Jesus.
Lately I’ve been reflecting on what I have learned about leadership as I equip students to lead well. Below are some lessons that God and our teens have been teaching me over the years.
Leadership is about being willing to experiment. The outcome isn’t always known, but if you don’t try, you won’t know the impact. I love this about kids! With a little encouragement, they love to take a risk and try something new.
My idea of success often isn’t God’s idea of success. I have seen plenty of ideas “flop” – or not measure up to what we hoped would happen. However, the real success in those times is in how students work together, trust God, and grow in character. When we learn to notice the God moments in each thing we try, we begin to notice the things that God considers successful.
There is no one personality type that is better at leading than others. Each of us is part of a body and each part is useful. There is a spot, and a need, in God’s Kingdom for each person and their unique talents and gifts.
My expectations are often too low. I don’t expect enough from students, from myself, and from God. Great leadership happens when we are able to believe in what God can do in ourselves and in others.
God made us to work together, not in isolation.
I am sure there are plenty of other lessons, and I am certain God will continue to teach those to me this year as watch our young people follow Jesus. What is your passion? What is your dream? What risk is God asking you to take? My prayer is that you adopt the attitude of a teenager as you explore those things this month – dream, be willing to take a risk, find a friend to help, and trust God for the outcome.