A wise old man once told me, “Experience is the best teacher, but it doesn’t have to be your experiences that you learn from.” Every person I know who is successful has learned from a lifetime of mistakes—theirs as well as the mistakes of others. My mom always told me, “Jim, don’t make the same mistake twice. There’s enough different ones you can make every time.” No truer statement has ever been uttered.
Having done children’s ministry in my 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and now my 60s, I’ve had a chance to make a lot of different mistakes and choices along the way. Would I do things differently if I could go back and do it again? Sure I would. We all would, because hindsight is always 20/20. Forty years ago I could not have taught you leadership. I hadn’t learned it yet. Forty years ago I had very few workers. I had a big vision, but didn’t know how to make a plan and lead others. I was a hard worker but not a smart worker. The good news is God blessed me in spite of myself. The dreams that were in my heart were not coming to pass. I was smart enough to get some help and to do things differently rather than keep doing what was not working and expecting a different outcome. I’m so glad that years ago I decided that I would become a lifetime learner. I am still learning, but to do so, I have to just say “no” to the know-it-all spirit. So with this in mind, let’s look at 10 things I wish Old Jim could teach Young Jim.
- Don’t be a one-man show. Build a team. When you train, empower and release others, it makes it possible for you to do what only you should be doing. There really is no success without successors, which is a byproduct of team building. Just like in sports the key to continued success is to build depth at every key position. This doesn’t happen by delegation alone but by duplicating yourself and the vision into those you lead. Duplication comes through coaching and hands-on training. Young Jim did it all himself. Old Jim allows the team to develop their skills through coaching and encouraging, as well as by doing. Everyone does better with a coach!
- Watch how you think. Your thinking controls your actions. It moves you forward or holds you back. I was a lot more opinionated when I was younger than I am now. It took me years before I would and could admit that I don’t know what I’m doing. That’s why it’s always smart to evaluate your thinking and choose to think God’s way. I love Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” I wish I did this all the time, but if you’re not evaluating how you think on a regular basis, bad stuff happens. It will always work to your favor to think like Jesus. Think in steps. That’s how God leads the righteous. Think like a parent and those you are serving. Think like a visitor. Old Jim has a lot more check-ups from the neck up. Take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ Jesus.
- Learn from others! Read! Join a local kidmin network. If one doesn’t exist in your area, start one. Find a mentor or a coach. (Have you checked out Infuse or kidmincoach.com?) Study those who are successful. Don’t just study what they do, but learn why they do what they do. I have come to realize effective leadership is a process not a pill. Learn the process and the why behind it. Look for a model that you can tweak to fit your church and ministry. Jim, is it wrong to borrow ideas? I sure hope not or I’d be in trouble. Learn how to copy, but at the same time learn how to make the copy your own. Ask questions, tons of them, to anyone who will let you. Also, never be afraid to try what you’re learning—experiment with it.