Thursday, March 17, 2016

#7 - Learning to Lead (The Year of 52)

Even if you have innate leadership skills, there is always a place to start and always room for improvement. My learning and growing and training began in 1980 when Mark Rowland, my youth pastor at Anderson Hills Church, invited me to lead a Sunday School for 8th Graders. Looking back and I think I may have been Mark's last ditch choice because who would choose to volunteer for a Sunday School class of 8th Graders!!

I remember very little other than I was faithful to be there every Sunday. I don't remember the students. I don't remember any topic. But I did learn my first lesson on leadership: "show up." Leaders show up. 

The year was then 1981. Before the start of my Senior year I partnered with my friend Kathy K to lead a Bible Study for 8th graders. Her parents graciously offered their house as the meeting place. I remember a few more things from this experience. I've got some of the lessons we made those trusting teens endure. God forgive us!!

For some reason, the group grew. In fact it did more than grow, it flourished. We grew so large that we had to divide into two groups. Kathy and I invited two others to lead one group with each of us. Through prayer and the faithfulness of showing up, some of these teens became life-long friends. I was privileged to marry two of them and baptize a couple of their children many years later.

Here I learned some more foundational leadership lessons. Choose the right people as leaders. Without the right team, the future is uncertain. Every time I have lessened the expectations for leaders, I've regretted it. 

Encourage young leaders but be careful to not advance them too quickly. I watched a young leader or two crash and burn because I encouraged them but didn't form and shape them in God's Word. I don't mean to make that sound like it's all about me. What I know is that leaders do have a responsibility to take careful steps with young potential leaders.

Then there was the lesson of taking risks, the risk Mark Rowland took in supporting us to lead this group. I'm honored to be a colleague of Mark's today, but he was not always so certain of my leadership. But he took a risk to support what I sensed.

I've learned to not stand in the way of God's Spirit leading someone, even when I'm not certain it's God leading. Just recently when the former Pastor of The Park Church, where I now serve, said God was leading him to plant a new church, I commented: "I'm don't sit in the seat of telling someone they have or have not heard from God." This attitude and approach had its genesis in these early 80's days. 

I still have a lot to learn. A key character trait of a leader is they are learners. As soon as leaders stop learning, they stop being leaders. We've never arrived.

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