Greater Leadership in Children’s Ministry by Dale Hudson
We live in a challenging day, don’t we? We’ve been called to reach Generation Z. They are the largest generation on the planet. 74 million in the U.S. 2 billion in the world. 9,000 babies are born and join Generation Z each day.
They have an attention span of 8 seconds. They are digital natives and interact with up to 5 screens a day. The average age they are exposed to pornography online is 11-years-old. Terrorism is a way of life, they are growing up walking through metal detectors at their schools, large event venues, airports and more.
Gen Z’s parents are struggling as well. Over 2 million of Millennial parents are addicted to drugs (either prescription or illegal). Much of this is driven by an opioid epidemic. Babies born to a parent taking opioids has increased by 300% in the last 10 years.
If we are going to reach today’s kids and families, then it can’t be business as usual! It will take greater impact and influence. How can we have greater influence? How can we make a greater difference in people’s lives? It will take greater leadership. The saying is true, isn’t’ it – everything rises and falls on leadership.
Greater impact is made possible by greater leadership.
This is certainly not the first time a group of disciples like us have been called upon to have greater leadership. Think back with me to the early disciples. They had the challenge of taking the Gospel to the world. And it was a world that was hostile and totally unfamiliar with the Gospel since it would just be unfolding.
Jesus knew it would take greater leadership for the disciples to effectively impact the world with the Gospel and so He began preparing them. You see many incidents in Scripture where He taught them what greater leadership looked like.
One of those times is found in John 15. Throughout this chapter, He explains greater leadership to the disciples. And the entire chapter can be encapsulated in verse 13. Here’s what it says.
There is no GREATER love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
In this verse, we see the 4 elements of greater leadership. Ultimate leadership. The best kind of leadership. Leadership that is a game changer. Let’s examine it.
1. Greater leadership loves people.
Notice again what He says.
There is no greater LOVE than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
The foundation for greater leadership is love. It reflects the heart of God for people. If you want to have greatest leadership, then…
Ask God to renew your love for the kids and families in your community.
Ask God to give you a fresh love for the volunteers and people you serve with.
Ask God to fill your heart with love for those who are far from God in your neighborhood.
Ask God to break your heart for the broken families in your city.
Ask God to give you unconditional love for the child who seems unlovable, uncontrollable and uncooperative.
When people know you truly love them, it opens their heart to your leadership and influence in their life.
2. Greater leadership serves others.
Look at the verse again.
There is no greater love than to LAY DOWNone’s life for one’s friends.
We have been told that leadership is about taking charge…climbing the ladder…having power…exercising authority…advancing no matter who you have to go over to get there…getting the office with a window view…being known as powerful…taking….getting.
The disciples had seen the same thing modeled. The Roman government ruled by fear, power, punishment, strength of the army and force. The religious leaders of the day lived in a class above the ordinary person and lead by rules, regulations, pomp and circumstance.
But then Jesus came and taught them about a greater kind of leadership. Look what He says in the verse above. He tells them greater leadership is not about getting, but about giving. It’s not about taking, it’s about laying down.
He not only taught this greater kind of leadership, He modeled it. In Matthew 20, the disciples were arguing about who would have the greatest authority…the greatest title in the kingdom that Jesus would establish. Again, they were reflecting the leadership they had grown up with. Leadership that is established by power and force and position.
Jesus tells them this.
You know how the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different.
Here it is. He’s about to tell them about a different kind of leadership. A greater leadership.
But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.
Whereas the world says leadership is about how many people serve you, Jesus says greater leadership is flipped. Greater leadership is about how many people you serve.
He then models this by washing the disciples feet. While they were busy arguing about who would have the best title, Jesus took a towel and water, got down and washed their feet. In that culture, only the lowest servants washed people’s feet. It was the lowest job, the lowest position in the kingdom. When there were no servants present to do this “demeaning” task, the disciples weren’t about to wash anyone’s feet. So Jesus used the opportunity to show them what great leadership looks like as He washed their feet.
Greater leadership is servant leadership. It’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? Servant and leadership. But that’s the beauty of greater leadership. Before you can become a great leader, you must first become a great servant.
Greater leadership is about replacing your “ego” with “we go” as you invest in others. It’s not about being powerful, it’s about empowering others.
Good leaders are starts. Great leaders create stars.
Average leadership ponders its rights. Greater leadership ponders its responsibilities.
3. Greater leadership depends on God.
The third component of greater leadership is found in the next part of the verse. Look what it says.
There is no greater love than to lay down ONE’S LIFE for one’s friends.
In this chapter, Jesus shows them that the life is found in the vine. As life flows from the vine into the branches, fruit comes forth. He reminds them that without the vine, the branches can do nothing. Nada. Zilch. Nothing is going to happen without the vine.
Greater leadership acknowledges that without God nothing of eternal value will happen.
That’s good news for leaders. You see, greater leadership is not based on how talented you are, how charismatic you are, how big your budget is or how nice your facilities are. It’s about the power of God working through you.
Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 2:
When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.
Greater leadership is not about walking in your own confidence. It’s about walking in Godfidence.
4. Greater leadership builds friendships.
Notice what Jesus calls the disciples in the last part of the verse.
There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s FRIENDS.
Jesus shared with them that greater leadership leads through relationship. The word He used for this is “friends.” The word “friends” carried a special connotation. It was a reference to kings who would have a group of special friends that he brought close to him. This group of friends would be the king’s trusted inner circle. He would ask their advice before anyone asking anyone else. They had access to the king 24/7.
You’ve heard the statement “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” That’s what greater leadership is all about. It’s earning people’s trust and respect over time through relationship.
Jesus also tells them that He is not going to call them “servants.” Rather they will be His friends. When someone leads servants, the people serve because they have to. They don’t have a choice. They are made to serve.
But greater leadership leads through friendship. When you lead through friendship, people follow you because they want to. You lead through motivation instead of mandating.
Greater leadership invests in people. Greater leadership is there for people in their time of need. Greater leadership goes on a journey with people. Greater leadership is not about what you want from people, it’s about what you want for people.
If you want to see people serve with you for the long haul, then focus on relationship. The amount of time people spend serving with you will be in direct correlation to the depth of the relationships you build with them.
Greater leadership loves people – ask God to renew your love for people.
Greater leadership serves others – ask God to give you the heart and attitude of a servant.
Greater leadership depends on God – before you serve, fall on your face before God and ask Him to fill you with His power and anointing. Acknowledge that without Him you can do nothing.
Greater leadership builds friendships – invest deeply in the people God has called you to serve with.
Do these things and you’ll make a greater impact. You’ll provide greater leadership for the kids and families God has called you to serve.
Do these things and God can use your leadership to turn the world upside down.