The Know-It-All

A word to young leaders* everywhere:

You don’t have it all figured out.

If a 19 year old, single college student comes up to me and starts telling me how I, a husband and a father, need to care for my 2 year old son, it’s going to feel weird.  Why?

Not because he’s young.  Or because I don’t respect him.  Or even because he doesn’t know who I am.

It’s because he’s not a husband or a father.

We young leaders need to make sure we don’t have all of the answers to every question and scenario that’s thrown our way.  It’s wise to sometimes say, “I don’t know…because I’ve never done it like that.”

John Maxwell says that there are two great teachers in life: pain and experience.

And since we’ve had less experience than so many other leaders, let’s back off on knowing it all.

I’m not saying that we don’t have innovative, company and ministry-altering ideas.  But we’ve got to respect the years of life and ministry that older leaders have on us.  Writing them off, speaking down to them, treating them with little respect, and acting like we, the younger leader, know it all

  • is damaging to their reputation.
  • is damaging to their organization.
  • is damaging to our reputation if we are gaining at the expense of someone else.
  • completely discredits the value of experience.
  • cripples you by chaining you to your limited ideas and insights.

Maybe those in leadership above us, or who outrank us based on experience, are stuck in the we-can’t-do-it-that-way-because-we’ve-never-done-it-that-way mindset.  But somehow, someway, we’ve got to find a way to learn from their years of experience.

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,

“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”

(1 Peter 5:5)

* I include myself in the young leaders category, so this post is as much written to me as it is by me.

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Ben Reed is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow, a multi-site church in the Nashville, TN, area. He holds an Mdiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ben is also an avid coffee drinker and CrossFitter, but not at the same time. Catch up with Ben at In his book, "Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint," he helps leaders through the process of putting a small group ministry together and creating a place where people belong so they can become.