Thursday, February 09, 2012

Lessons in Leadership from a Children's Ministry Volunteer

A few weeks ago I was shopping in Barnes and Noble with my family. I was walking hand-in-hand with Colin while Marcy and Hanna were elsewhere. As we walked by the aisles, Colin noticed one of his teachers from the Reign Forest, our Children's Ministry. He said, "Hey Dad, that's Mr. Jim" (Names have not been changed so as to give props where props are due) I asked him if he wanted to go say hi, and he got real shy. But when I asked him if he would go if I went with him, he said yes. I called out to Mr. Jim as we approached him. He turned and his face lit up when he saw us. He walked over to us and - this was the part that got me - got down on both knees in the store and talked with Colin. I might as well have been invisible as they carried on a conversation about what we were doing and what we were shopping for. In my short time as a parent, I don't think I've been that impressed with anyone who has had contact with one of my kids. I learned a few lessons in leadership that day:

Take The Time
Mr. Jim didn't have to give my kid the time of day. He could have simply smiled, maybe even waved, and then gone about his business. But he put away the book he was looking at, and walked over to Colin to talk to him. Are the people you lead getting the time and attention the deserve? Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking my 'work' is more important than the people. People are keeping me from getting my real work done. But as a leader and a pastor, people ARE my work. Anyone who holds any sort of leadership position needs to recognize this fact: People are your work, so take the time they need and deserve.

Get On Your Knees
Mr. Jim very easily could have had a conversation with Colin as he towered over him, but instead he got down on his knees so he could look him in the eye at his level. As leaders and as ministers we need to make sure we are so arrogant to think that we are better or more important than those we lead and minister to. We may know more and may have spent more money on our education, but we are no different. So we need to be willing to get on the same level as our people where there is a perceived difference. The Church has a big fancy word for this: incarnation. Jesus took on flesh so He could get on our level and see the word from our perspective. When Mr. Jim got on his knees, he became a 5 1/2 year old boy so he could connect with another one. Until we spend time in their world, we won't understand it.

Avoid Distractions
When Mr. Jim was talking to Colin, I probably could have walked away and no one would have noticed. That's how focused Mr. Jim was on my son. When we are spending time with those we are leading, are we 100% there, or are we too distracted by other things going on around us. When you are meeting with someone and your phone buzzes letting you know you have a text, do you read it and answer it right away? If so, what does that communicate to that person sitting across from you? Are you listening to that other person, I mean really listening, or are you thinking about what you will say in response? If you're meeting at a coffee shop, are you focused on the other person or by all the activity around you? As leaders we must be willing to put on blinders to give our people the attention they need a deserve. (Side note: This really applies to families, too. Maybe it goes without saying. Probably not.)

What do you think? Were there any other lessons I missed?

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