Day 91 of 100: Leadership Deconstructed

Lots of things happened at church this week. We had our week-long Vacation Bible School (VBS), started a middle school girls’ small group, and our youth group took over our Sunday morning services.

Gosh, amazing things happened. VBS is consistently an incredible collaboration of highly motivated storytellers, artists, actors, small group leaders, administrators, cooks, and coordinators of all ages in our church, to put together a week-long gospel production that really connects the over 100 children that participated in VBS to God. The middle school girls’ small group was a wonderful time of openness and authenticity over some difficult topics and fun in baking brownies. Youth Sunday was a beautiful day where the youth exercised and brought out gifts and talents many of them had no idea they had or had no opportunity to develop.

I played various leadership roles throughout this last week, and all these events were opportunities for me to apply some concepts of leadership that I’ve been researching recently (mostly from Andy Stanley’s Leadership Podcast and a leadership devotional my mom gave me a while ago), so here are some of the things I learned/applied, somewhat through trial and error, about leadership in this last week.

Leadership takes many styles, depending on your arena. This week, I was a skit/dance team coordinator, small group leader, and worship team leader. It took some time to figure out what leadership looks like in each of these arenas. More on this in the following points.

Leverage your teams’ strengths. I got better at this through leading skits/dances during VBS. The thing about being a jack-of-all-trades type like me tends to mean that you’re not particularly good at anything, but I think it helps me appreciate when other people are really good at something I’m decent at. Each member of my VBS skit team was particularly strong in a skill whether it be making sure we were effectively conveying the message we wanted in the skit, bringing humor into the skit, improvising during the skit, being able to convey emotion well in the skit, writing the script well, etc… It was a humbling experience of me constantly moving myself out of the way for another member with something really great to add to our performances.

Delegate. Be clear about what your goal is and why you’re striving for it. Be clear about what you expect of the people you delegate to. I did not do this well during VBS, and I learned how important it is. Delegation is a great leadership goal, partially to alleviate some of your burden but also to empower those under your leadership. During VBS, I asked my team to plan out most of the skits, but I didn’t communicate well what I expected of them, including what their message should be, what Bible stories they should base their skits on, how much time the skit should take, etc. One of my team members made a point of starting and ending our time in prayer.

You have the power to set the tone.  I started the small group session with how the book/sermon series (“Battlefield of the Mind for Teens” by Joyce Meyer) has affected and helped me in my life, sharing with the girls my personal struggles and how God has been working with me in my life through them, then opened the discussion to the girls and asked them what they wanted to get out of this small group. I don’t usually do these things, but I heard they’re a good idea and I’m really glad I did. In sharing my story, I gave the girls a green light of “safe space”, which I believe encourages discussion and tells them that they have control over how much and what they get out of our small group time. The role of small group leader is one of guiding discussion, asking questions to encourage the group to go deeper and apply principles to their lives beyond the scope of the small group itself. This differs from a worship team leader or skit team leader, whose goal is to put together a good worship set/skit for the primary benefit of the audience. Character development of the team members seems to be more of a by-product of working toward that goal.

Your team will go where you go. The role of a worship team leader is a bit like producer/performer. Worship leaders ideally have a good ear for what works and doesn’t work in a song, coordinating each instrument and voice to help the team understand who starts a song, the tempo, when to build or get softer, what key the song’s in, etc. As a worship leader, your mood tends to set the tone for the song and people depend on you to start singing, whether to sing a verse/chorus/bridge, watching me to see if I’m jumping around or if I’m going for a more contemplative vibe. It’s about organizing the music and performing in a way that allows people to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit. This is a little bit less true in my skit/dance coordinator role, because every member of my team was more gifted than I in some arena, so they’re able to and should go beyond where I go.

Listen and seek unity. Always. James 1:19 says “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” This can be SO HARD when you just know what your team should do. Listening is empowering to others. Listening allows you to consider ideas that your team has that you would never have thought of yourself. This happened many times through VBS, and I learned how to ask my team what they want to do before giving my input, and often their ideas were better. Asking what my girls wanted from our small group instead of telling them what I want them to get out of it allows them to take ownership of their spiritual growth. Even if you’re right and you know what’s best, people will often not do what you want them to unless they feel heard and understood. I can name numerous times that I’ve completely shut down in front of people that I felt didn’t understand me, even though I knew that what they’re saying is right.

Leadership is a learning process. I’m always learning things about myself and about others. I’m learning how to extend myself grace as a leader, as well as extending grace and love to those I’m leading. Leadership is scary, but it makes life exciting, and I believe that anyone can lead by finding their leadership style and loving others.

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