When was the last time someone served you?
Were you being waited on at dinner? Did someone help you out at work? Perhaps a family member or neighbor unexpectedly met a need? Or, maybe a volunteer in the children’s ministry you lead went out of her or his way to assist you?
You may not realize it, but leaders typically have a hard time being served by or following others. Recognizing personal needs doesn’t come easy. They know what needs to be done and can often assign tasks to people. Too often, leaders in the church focus on setting the pace by being out front and up front. There’s a time for this, to be sure, yet that’s not the only way to influence others.
Remember [from Part 1 in this series]:
Kidmin (children’s ministry)
x Influence (affect lives)
= Kidminfluence (discipleship impact)
To multiply disciple making in your church and children’s ministry among kids, families, and leaders, you can’t be the one with all the ideas, all the responsibility, or all the answers. And, you certainly can’t be the one who takes all the credit!
If you want to increase your kidminfluence this year, you need to learn to follow first.
So…where do leaders who are used to serving learn to follow? Here’s a scriptural background followed by five practical ways you can learn to follow as a leader starting today.
John 13 provides one of the most powerful scenes in the New Testament. Jesus stoops down, washes His disciples’ feet, and redefines true leadership. His love was evident throughout His life – in every interaction. The Lord modeled servanthood perfectly. If it’s been awhile since you read John 13 spend some time reading and reflecting on this chapter from God’s Word. Jesus’ words in verses 14-16 are particularly significant when it comes to cultivating servanthood as leaders.
If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. John 13:14-16 ESV
Christ-centered community is committed to being like Jesus in every way, in every relationship, every day. The Lord’s definitive example as a servant is truly revolutionary. The church is to be marked by love. The body of believers is to be devoted to equality, unity, and ministry. When it comes to church and children’s ministry leadership, learning to follow will help you serve and equip everyone around you toward lifelong discipleship. And, it will set an example worth following and multiplying!
Five Ways You Can Learn to Follow
1. Be quiet.
Have you ever found yourself talking and talking and talking only to realize no one’s listening? I use more words than the average male, but I’m discovering that sometimes the smartest thing I can say is nothing. Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” James 1:19 tells us to “be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Maybe there’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth, eh?!
Being the one with all the words doesn’t mean you have the best solution. In fact, it’s difficult to really get to know other people when you don’t allow them to share their own thoughts and stories. You can serve people and increase your kidminfluence by being quiet. It may be hard at first, but you can grow as a follower by learning to listen to children, parents, and leaders in your children’s ministry, church, and community.
2. Be curious.
Being quiet doesn’t mean you don’t get to ask questions. Leaders love to learn and then share what they’ve discovered. They read books, try new experiences, attend conferences, and meet with people because they want to gain additional perspective in whatever fascinates them. But don’t forget, you’re not the only one who is curious and has something great to share. Are you known for asking the most questions or are you content with your current level of knowledge and perspective? If it’s been awhile since you’ve taken a posture of exploration, now’s the time to start up again. Open your eyes and ears to all that’s around you. It’s a great way to learn to follow – to discover other people’s ideas, concerns, questions, answers, and more!
3. Be encouraging.
It’s difficult to raise the impact of discipleship in a discouraging environment. As a leader, you have the opportunity to take notice of and affirm kids and adults in your ministry. You can learn to follow by paying attention to other people and then equipping and empowering them to serve. You can also learn to follow by noticing people’s needs and loving them in simple and practical ways. Is there a packing project at the church that the 2nd and 3rd graders could participate in? How could you involve the college or high school students in mentoring the younger kids in your children’s ministry? Who has spiritual gifts, passion, and experiences that could influence a child’s life for eternity? What can you say or do to lift the spirits of the kids, families, and leaders in your ministry starting today?
4. Be humble.
Humility is much easier to talk about than grow as part of your character. As a leader, I am thrilled when things I have responsibility for go well. I get frustrated when additional issues and challenges outside of my control suddenly surface. To complicate matters, I’ve discovered that working with and serving people makes outcomes even more unpredictable. (Petty things like this probably don’t bother you or happen in your church, but maybe I’m mistaken.)
So what’s the solution? Just do things I can handle on my own. Wrong! Pride says, “I know how to do it best. I must stay in control.” Humility says, “Whoever does it can do it however they’d like. God is ultimately in control.” When it comes to serving in the church, you can learn to follow by letting go of control. It’s not always easy for leaders to let other people try things out, stumble along the way, and figure out their own good solutions. It may take longer, but in the end everyone is better off. So, what are you keeping in your control these days that you need to release to someone else? Is there an area of ministry that you can entrust to another gifted and capable person who will need time to grow into the role? How can you more humbly lead kids, families, and leaders toward lifelong discipleship?
5. Be affirmed.
When you learn to follow, you can know for sure that you are walking in the leadership steps of Jesus. You can experience God’s favor in your inner spirit as you realize you’re doing exactly what the Holy Spirit calls leaders to do. Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Christ’s example of servanthood is the model for ministry that every kid-influencer ought to aspire to. Ephesians 4:11-13 names several leadership roles in the church and the distinct purpose of these being to equip the body toward ministry and maturity in the name of Christ. You might find it challenging to learn to follow, especially if you’re accustomed to being in front all the time. However, you can be affirmed that this is exactly what the Lord called you to do when God invited you to serve kids, families, and leaders as a kid-influencer.
You can learn to follow starting today by being quiet, curious, encouraging, humble,and affirmed!
It’s important to have followers, but not without recognizing the value of being a follower. To increase your kidminfluence this year, learn to follow first. It will change the way you lead. And, it will multiply your impact in the lives of kids and kid-influencers that God places in your path.