Monday, August 09, 2010


Not So Fast

MMI carries what amounts to an elongated "ad" for a new program to build "leaders" at a young age. It's a mixed bag:
Pastors don’t need to give up on adults, but if we’re good stewards, we need to be putting a lot of eggs in the kid basket. Even better, we need to target our very young leaders. The most strategic time for developing effective and ethical leaders is a 4-year threshold we call the 10-13 Window. Unfortunately, very few church staff are leadership savvy. They confuse it with discipleship and service. And preteen/middle school ministries always tend to be low on the church totem pole.
He is absolutely right that we put young people low on the totem pole and that is a mistake. But that crack about confusing leadership with discipleship and service reveals to me a misunderstanding of leadership and especially Christian leadership. There is little question that there are some special skills to leading on a grand scale, but to be honest, its a gifting/mentor thing not a program thing. But just two quick comments on why this post brought me up short. Consider:
No matter how much we value egalitarian and democratic processes, history is not made by the masses. Three dominant factors change society: discoveries, disasters, and leaders, but the most significant by far is leaders—whether good or bad.
He is oh so wrong there - change is about events. A very experienced and wise leader once told me that "Leadership is seeing a parade and standing in front of it." Whatever change one "leads," certainly on a large scale, is happening regardless of the leader - the leader can organize it, move it along, shape it around the edges, but the a leader cannot create change from whole cloth.

That in part means that leadership is in fact a service function. The leader SERVES the movement which is already underway. The leader may in fact be the first to identify the movement, but they do not create it. Unless a leader is service oriented all he/she will ever do is nag their head against the wall.

My second point is this - for a leader to be truly effective, and this guy is right it is a set of social skills, he/she must be of extraordinary character. Therefore discipleship, while it is not all of leadership is the foundation thereof of its most important component. Only in discipleship can one develop sufficient humility to not let leadership "go to ones head." And that, frankly is why leadership skill training is generally not given to the very young. Humility is not natural to the young.

I think this guy has identified some interesting issues. We tend to make leaders of those that are not skilled at leadership because of their devoted service - and that is a problem for the church. But I will tell you this I will take an ill-equipped servant in leadership over a leader without humility and sense of service any day of the week.

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