Youth workers are in a perpetual state of middle management—you will never “arrive.” In fact, I’d say that if you can’t be a good number two, you wouldn’t be a good youth worker. We have to live in that constant tension of strong leadership and absolute humility. Here are a few thoughts about leading from beneath I’m feeling in my church right now:
Leading up is increasingly rare.
Too many youth workers are finding it acceptable to just take care of their little slice of the ministry (called Youth Ministry Island) and leave big church to fend for itself. They hide behind leadership missives like “laser-focusing on their area” and having to say “no” to some things in order to be healthy. And while those are true, letting your church run aground while you’re onboard is a terrible misstep.
Leaders lead from wherever they are.
I’ve worked with people who are waiting for the magical knighthood where they can now finally lead. If you are waiting for someone to tell you that you are a leader … it will be a super frustrating season of ministry for you. Lead! Push! Drive! Go! Genuine leaders, not poseurs who wait for status or position, lead from the middle, the behind, the front—wherever they find themselves at that moment. Leading up will cause tension, but healthy tension brings about better decision-making.
Leading up helps those above see a missing perspective.
Here’s why you need to lead from the middle: Your senior pastor isn’t seeing the full picture. He or she has blind spots in areas that your perspective lets you see perfectly. How dare you let them fail while predicting the net failure quietly from the silent middle! I am fully aware of the problem of senior leaders who don’t listen to their people—they exist in every church and I’m guilty of it, too.
A few parting thoughts about leading from the middle:
- It may be interpreted as insubordination at first. In fact, it probably will be.
- Some people will wish you would take a rowboat back to Youth Ministry Island and never come back.
- If you bring up problems, you better have some ideas that may work as solutions.
- Your church will be healthier when you lead up.
Blessings as you lead from the middle today!