Advice for Young Leaders

Working in a church sometimes is a dicey thing. Being a leader in a church brings a lot of responsibility to your plate. If I was at coffee with a young leader (which I still am one) here’s the advice that I would give that will help him or her make the most of their leadership role.

Ultimately the best advice I could ever give is the advice you know. Love God first. Love your family second. Love your job third. Make your choices line up with those priorities.

But in case you want more than that advice…

1. Do your job…well

Ephesians talks about serving with excitement or enthusiasm as if working for the Lord and not for men. Whatever your job is, my first ministry role was Elementary Production, do it well. Bring excitement and passion to work with you daily and work your rear off for God.

What’s expected of you? Do that and more.

What’s your goal? Focus on those and hit them

What’s the vision of the church? Make that your vision.

2. Seek to fit in, not to stand out

This might seem counterintuitive to a leader, but rest assured at some point you will stand out. Make sure that your reputation becomes one that is about doing your job well and at some point your voice will have influence. There are some questions that you need to know about your church in order to fit in well.

  • What’s the culture like?
  • What is valued highly at this place?
  • What is on my supervisor’s heart and my pastor’s heart?
  • How can I help what’s happening now rather than start something new?

The longer that I’m in leadership, the more I want to add my voice to conversations that are happening at my church and really over my head. This passage from Proverbs helps me remember what my responsibility is:

Do not claim honor in the presence of the king,
And do not stand in the place of great men;
For it is better that it be said to you, “Come up here,”
Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince,
Whom your eyes have seen.

Proverbs 25:6-7

The action words for me in this verse are “Do Not”. Very tough words for a leader, but necessary to our long term success. You will get your time, but there is a lot of “do not” before you get there.

3. Don’t mix up results and people

One thing that you will always battle is shooting for winning results and caring for people. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, but you have to determine where you will land. Please understand this equation.

Every number is a person, but a person is not a number.

Don’t let results determine how you care for people. Let scripture and God’s Spirit determine how you care for people. God takes care of the growth (1 Corinthians 3). We plant and water, but God grows. My grandpa is a farmer, he plants, cultivates, and waters every year. Sometimes birds take down his work, other times he gets more growth than ever before. He always plants, cultivates, and water his crops regardless of the growth.

When we worry about growth, we forget about our responsibility to plant and water. Don’t mix up your responsibilities and God’s responsibilities.

There is quite a bit of advice left to give, but what one piece of advice would you give to a young leader? 

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J.C. Thompson is the 5th & 6th Grade Director at Brookwood Church in Simpsonville, SC, one of Outreach magazine’s Top 100 Largest Churches in America.